The Garret Tree
Friday, September 30, 2005
  CBC 121: Globe sends kudos to Shelagh, CBCunlocked

Saturday's Globe and Mail takes a look at the web war against the CBC lockout in Rest stops on the web highway

Both Shelagh Rogers and CBCunlocked come in for praise


I'd like to make two points before this miserable CBC lockout ends -- and may it end right this minute...

First: Shelagh Rogers has a weblog. It's at, which brings us to another cross-country tour.... It's fun

...the breaking-news website that the CBC journalists put up at is frankly more interesting than the real CBC news website ever was. The stories there are fresh, relevant and haven't all been covered by a dozen other outlets already. Even the design is better. (You might say less corporate.)... has always been the most anemic of the corporation's services, and before the lockout it was looking paler and paler next to other Canadian media websites.

If there's a single lemon that could be turned into lemonade after this mess is finished, it could be distilling what makes CBC Unlocked work and bringing it home

Of course, many, by no means all, of the people who put together unlocked work for that anemic As do those who work for which also comes in for praise.

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  CBC 119: Economist asks is CBC doomed?

Updated 21:12 Friday
The Economist this week takes a look at the CBC lockout.
They posted a tease on their website this afternoon.(the rest of is behind the paywall)

But my reliable sources did supply me with copy. It's told in The Economist's usual style, although its coverage is much more in depth than when it covered a CBC strike in 1981.*

The lead:
Shortly before the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation locked out 5,300 of its 9,000 employees on August 15th, Michele Sparling, the management's chief negotiator, declared: “This is the hill we will die on.” Seven weeks later, those words look ominous. Many of CBC's most familiar faces are on the picket line. Managers have had to fill the schedules with many inept stand-ins. Some in the media industry reckon that after the dispute ends, Canada's public-service broadcaster may be badly diminished or even doomed.

Other excerpts
CBC's defenders cherish it for its Canadian content and serious programmes. They see it as an essential bulwark against American culture...A poll by Ipsos-Reid last year found that half of respondents (and a plurality among those who vote Conservative) wanted parliament not to cut CBC'S funding. But another poll found that only 10% of respondents feel “deeply inconvenienced” by the dispute (and 27% slightly so)...
The betting is that the dispute may end by October 5th, when ice hockey starts up after its own year-long lockout over player wage demands. Canadians found they could live without hockey. Journalists can hardly claim to be more indispensable.

*And as for The Economist and its style. Back in 1981 I had left the CBC and was working in London. The Economist then was part of the British Prestel videotex experiment (the first pioneering steps in new media).

I still haven't forgotten the Economist news brief on Prestel from one day in July or August of that year. It went (as best as I can remember it)
"There's good news and bad news from Canada this week. The bad news is that the post office is on strike. The good news is that their television network, the CBC, is on strike."
Hah hah.
Maybe the same person wrote both stories? ;-)

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  CBC 120: Another Photoshop creation

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil
Posted on Flukemedia, in honour of the negotiations news blackout, by Pary Bell, once and perhaps future (depending on a settlement) kids producer.
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  Journalism: The next generation speaks---and you better listen

Just found this excellent blog from journalism students in Quebec in a link on a comment on Antonia Zerbisias's latest posting on the CBC.

It's called The Pod. Not much there as yet but if it continues (as school assignnments pile up etc.) it will show us what the next generation of J students are thinking about the media. And as the study I posted about earlier today shows, in the age of blogs, the next generation aren't going to be afraid to say what they think and they aren't like most of the aging CBCphobes, anonymous.

And as for working as casuals
Sikander Hashmi writes:
I've got news for Mr. Rabinovitch.

We don't dream of spending six months or a year at the CBC. We dream long-term. We don't like uncertainty. We want stability so that we can pursue our passion while earning a decent living, enabling us to raise families and live a stable life.

If someone else offers that, we'll probably go for it.

End result: Rabinovitch will be left mostly with those who have no choice, which won't be a happy bunch. Unhappy kids working for a unloving mom is not a recipe for a good product.

In one of my original posts I said that before the lockout the CBC was losing talented young people to Teachers College, MBA courses and the family business.

Now the message that the triumvirate and the grand vizier have been sending for the past seven weeks has hit home. You want a decent job, don't apply to the CBC.

Check Sikander Hashmi's blog profile, age 23, second year student, running a blog and an editor on two websites, and And his two colleague have equally interesting profiles.

That's the kind of potential they're driving away from CBC.

Footnote: And as a former Ry J-prof, I would like to see equally hard-hitting stuff from the other J-schools.

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  CBC 118: Ford has a better idea

The Globe and Mail Report on Business today looks at why the negotiations between Ford and the Canadian Auto Workers went so well.

In five intensive days, without a single table-banging incident or raised voice,[Ford negotiator] Stacey Allerton Firth quietly became the newest Canadian industrial relations idol.....
“She paid attention, she didn't miss an issue, she didn't misread an issue,” [CAW head Buzz] Hargrove said...
Ms. Allerton Firth said over a vegetarian lunch that she simply treated the negotiators on the other side of the table the way she likes to be treated...
Issues were talked out rather than fought out, in an atmosphere of mutual respect, she said. And there was no negotiation by exhaustion...

And the key point:
... the Ford team received training in communications and problem-solving because they wanted to know “how you talk about tough issues in a way that invites dialogue,” Ms. Allerton Firth said.
“If you need the help of the other party in solving business issues, they need to understand what they are. You have to share a lot of information.”
Her team was also trained in “active listening skills” to better understand the union's concerns."

Where did Ford send its neogtiating team for training? One thing is certain, it probably wasn't the Niagara Institute. And the taxpayers' money would have been better spent on a local call from Toronto to Oakville to ask "Where are you guys going?"

Update: I received this e-mail from a locked out producer:

Interesting point you make about Niagara in relation to the Ford-CAW story, Robin.

The funny thing is, I went to Niagara and we had a session about resolving conflict that was all about dialogue, problem solving, and trying to find common ground. The basic tenet was, find out what the other side really needs, and maybe it's the means that are the problem, not the ends.

That said, it's apparent that this message is sadly absent from the management side of the bargaining table. CMG has said if it's flexibility you want, we'll give it to you (as we do now). But CBC is bent on the means -- contract workers -- not the ends -- flexibility.

I think the Big 3 settlements are a great counter-point to what's going on here. These are two entities that have shown animosity and entrenchment in the past, and the Big 3 are all hurting financially. Yet all three came to quick, solid agreements with the CAW that meted out a little pain for both sides, but enough long-term security that the business won't collapse and jobs will continue.

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  Next generation prefers 'net to radio: study
The net is winning over radio with 13 to 24 year olds a study reported on the FMQB site says:
A new study from Yahoo! and OMD Worldwide finds that globally, youths far prefer to get their music fix from the Internet than the radio. The study, entitled "Truly, Madly, Deeply Engaged: Global Youth, Media and Technology," looks at 13-24 year olds in 11 countries and their media habits. The researchers conclude that today's youth expect their media experiences to be highly personalized and tailored to their individual tastes.

The news release on the study on Business Wire has some interesting notes.

Excerpts from the lengthy release:

There are also more details on Media Daily, which covers the advertising angle.

And there's a new word to learn: "Media meshing is a behavioral phenomenon that occurs when people begin an experience in one medium, such as watching television, then shift to another, such as surfing the Internet, and maybe even a third, such as listening to music. The explanation for this behavior is the constant search for complementary information, different perspectives, and even emotional fulfillment."

So how is CBC going to serve that generation? We're asking the question outside. Are they asking it inside? Or are they following a 1990s speciality channel strategy?

As for "constant search for complementary information, different perspectives, and even emotional fulfillment"--sounds like these young people are going to be great at all aspects of what CBC could do. But I bet they won't stand for casualization, there ain't much fulfillment in being a constant casual.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005
  CBC 117: No change for casuals:CBC

CBC management just sent out their latest e-mail.

It answers the question that eveyrone was asking last night, "What about casuals?"

The CBC's answer:
Fact: Currently, there is no limitation on the hiring of freelance fixed term, temporary or casual employees. The percentage of employees on short-term employment arrangements (temporary and casual) fluctuates with replacement needs (maternity backfill, sick leave replacement, etc) and with major projects like Federal elections and Canada Day coverage. The conditions under which short-term employees may be hired have not changed significantly, and the overall percentage has remained relatively constant due to the nature of these hires. This will not change

Complete message on management negotiations site.

That seems to mean, as I proposed in my post earlier today, that CBC management is arguing with the CMG over contract or permanent status for what the CBC considers longer term employees. At this point, they don't want to do anything about the revolving door of casualization. They don't want to handle the fact that there have been people who deserve to be staff who have been casuals for years. The fact that they put this in their communique shows that they don't have a problem with the revolving door. They don't get it.

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  CBC 116: Hockey blog check Sept. 29

The focus of fan anger seems to be Vancouver. And the fact the second game for the Hockey Night in Canada opener may not be broadcast--at least on CBC.

Hockey blog of the day is: Vancouver Canucks Hockey Blog.


In typical CBC fashion, the Canucks - Oilers game will not be broadcast on Hockey Night in Canada(Of course the Toronto game will be broadcast, albeit without broadcasters). Now before you panic, I will guarantee that this game will be on TV somehow. At minimum the Canucks will put this game on PPV, and for those without PPV access, there is a decent chance that the game could be moved to Sportsnet or TSN. I'll keep you posted on this.

As for the rest of the season on HNIC, I would say that if the labour issues are not resolved by next Saturday the dispute will likely go on for quite a while. If the loss of HNIC can't pressure the CBC to make a deal nothing else will.

Unlike the CFL, the NHL will not stand for games being broadcast games without commentators, so we could be watching our Sarturday night hockey on another network.

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  CBC 115: What do you mean by contract?

Contract (Merriam Webster online legal dictionary)
Etymology: Latin contractus from contrahere to draw together, enter into (a relationship or agreement), from com- with, together + trahere to draw
1 : an agreement between two or more parties that creates in each party a duty to do or not do something and a right to performance of the other's duty or a remedy for the breach of the other's duty;"

From my trusty, battered, dead tree Oxford Concise:
1.Agreement between parties, states etc. business agreement for supply of goods or performance of work at a specified price; agreement enforceable by law.

I have to wonder at this point if everyone involved in this has a different definition of the word "contract."

The question on the mailing list and in e-mails to me last was:"What about casuals?"

It's clear now that the CBC management offer does nothing for casuals and other temps. Yet, management seems to believe this is compromise, a step forward. They are sticking to their five per cent figure. In fact in this morning's Globe and Mail they give a figure to reporters Guy Dixon and Daniel Leblanc:
Currently, the CBC has about 180 fixed-contract workers, not including other temporary and short-term positions.

There are likely more than 180 casuals and temps working in the Toronto Broadcast Centre alone in any given 24-hour period, not counting the other plants right across the country. Add to that the real "freelancers" likely working from home.

Then read this in the transcript of Richard Stursberg's meeting with the lockedout folks in Vancouver , as questioned by Mark Forsythe (transcribed by Paul Grant and posted by Tod Maffin):
MF: We're already at 30 per cent temporary and contract combined.

RS: No you're not and… but that's a different issue.

MF: But why is it a different issue?

RS: But your union has not raised the temporary thing. That's
not an issue for your union. The only issue they've raised is
contracts. And right now we're at about five per cent. The average
life of a person on contract is 11 years of service inside the CBC.
Anyhow, my only point is, I think that, like, I don't understand why
this has taken on, to your point, I don't understand why this has
turned into such a big thing. Apparently

So are we dealing with two, three or a dozen definitions of "contract"?
If someone works as casual, even if there is no signed contract, the contract is implied. Seven or so hours work for so much money in exchange for writing copy or editing tape or whatever.

If Stursberg is correct on the 11 year figure, it seems that management is thinking only in terms of high profile on air or producing talent when it comes to the word contract.

Time to agree on a definition of what the word contract means.

Time to deal with the issue of casualization.

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  MTV Canada will be hiring "scores of new people"

The Globe and Mail reports this morning that CTV and MTV have made a deal to team up and have created a new business term: "multi-platfornication." (Perhaps a G&M dig at a bad typo?)* CTV plans to turn its low-rated TalkTV speciality channel into a new MTV north.

Key point:
stamping the MTV brand onto conventional, digital and specialty network programming, involves hiring scores of new people to create Canadian-made, MTV-style segments, as well as tapping into on-line, wireless and video-on-demand products and promotions.

That means once again people will move on, there will not only be jobs at this new venture (whenever that will be) but gaps to fill elsewhere.

*The Canada News Wire release does say "multiplatform."

Note also from the CNW release:
This new digital television service, along with the new MTV analogue channel, will provide alternate high quality entertainment options to all Canadians, and represent a great boost to local production and culture.

If that really is the intention, then that means CTV is taking on another area where CBC (mostly radio) was dominant. Looking for new music talent. Every one of the musicians who have appeared at the Simcoe Park concerts in Toronto have thanked CBC for helping them along the way. Will some 15-year-old with a garage band today be thanking CTV/MTV in a half dozen years?

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005
  CBC 114: Hockey blog check Sept. 28

Hockey fans in Calgary are not happy there won't be a double header to open Hockey Night in Canada.
See CalgaryPuck forums
tell the CBC how you feel about them not-broadcasting the second game in the first double header and possibly beyond!!
The more responses the better the chance they might listen to the people.....We the taxpayers fund them....they need to do what we say!!

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  CBC 113: Half empty or half full?

Earlier today (Wednesday) the CBC made its first major offer since the lockout. That offer came after months of CBC management stonewalling the Canadian Media Guild. Last week, the Guild made an offer, an offer that was somewhat controversial among the membership, but it may have gotten something rolling. (Or maybe among the federal mediators in Ottawa there's a big person in black leather whose job it is to knock heads together [just kidding])

The CMG says
:"Unfortunately, it falls well short of establishing a platform for agreement."

The sticking point is still contract/casual/temp status. The CMG says: "the Corporation is proposing to increase the number of contract employees by 225% over the life of the contract."

I agree with the CMG position that money offer is totally inadequate.

The half full point is that there are now two new proposals on the table after months of little progress on the major issues. The negotiators may be able to use these as starting points to move toward an acceptable middle ground.

The half empty point is that they don't have much time.
There are more unconfirmed rumours tonight that there have been more defections.
And around the Toronto Broadcast Centre today, it was a roller coaster, with good news, bad news, good news, bad news. Today I heard people for the first time seriously talking about job hunting, whether it's something temporary like bartending or actually looking for a new full time job.

And remember what that news manager said in early September. After three more weeks (at that time), the bleeding by the CBC news service would become life threatening. This is now the middle of the fourth week. I am hearing from a reliable source who told me that Paul Martin and the PMO were very pleased with the way CTV handled the broadcast of the installation of Michaëlle Jean as Governor General.

CTV NewsNet has covered Katrina and Rita while we were walking what one of my fellow bloggers calls "the circle of death." Mike Duffy is up and taking the spot once held exclusively by Don Newman.

This afternoon after I left the Toronto Broadcast Centre I ran into two friends, within 45 minutes of each other. One CBC but on disability not locked out said "I never want to go back," saying the lockout will not help the atmosphere and the stress would be too much once we get back. The second friend (graphic design,not TV) hasn't been working much in the last three months and so he has been watching a lot of TV. He stopped watching the reruns on Newsworld quite a while ago. "This week I'm not missing CBC at all," he says.

Late add: Defection confirmed. Andrew Meeson was named chief copy editor at a couple of weeks before the lockout. He is starting at the Toronto Star on Thursday. Note my post on the problems CBC has had getting copy editors because it can't pay them a competitive wage. Now, even if there is a quick return to work, that hunt has to start over.

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  CBC 112: Stop CBC lockouts: Liberal caucus

Canadian Press is reporting that the Liberal caucus wants to take hard look at the current and the past two CBC lockouts.

CP quote:

Some Liberal MPs are saying never again as negotiations between CBC management and its locked-out employees grind forward....
MP Denis Coderre, a former Liberal cabinet minister, was more direct.
"Three times in a row, three lockouts in five years? I'm sorry. I don't accept that," he said.
"We should stop that lockout once and for all. ... At the end of the day I know one thing: there's a lot of people that don't have the public service that they should deserve."

Full text of CP story on (who were fastest to get it up!)

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  CBC 111: Management tables offer; have they "blinked"?

CBC management has tabled a new offer.

Summary on the CBC negotiations page.

Full text pdf of CBC management offer.

For the record: CMG offer from Sept. 22 (pdf)

Update: Management e-mail says: "To that end, we believe our offer is a significant compromise..."

Have they "just blinked"? (During the Cuban missile crisis US Secretary of State Dean Rusk said, "We went eyeball to eyeball, and the other fellow just blinked." after Nikita Kruschev agreed to withdraw missiles from Cuba.)

CMG response will be interesting and awaited across the country.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005
  Subject-filtered headline RSS feeds

A day after PubSub launched its 1000 most influential sites/feeds list, the company today (Tuesday) announced it has a deal with Forbes to provide subject filtered news feeds. Most RSS news feeds send out the headlines just as provided by the news service.

Another indication of the future.

That kind of deal is likely to become common for news feeds and that will provide viewers/readers with a chance to concentrate on what they want to receive. It also raises once again the question that has been around for a decade about the reader possibly isolating him/herself from the important news of the day, news that does not match the filter.

Yet another reason to take a hard look at what we do, once we get inside.

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Monday, September 26, 2005
  CBC 110: How the mighty ( have fallen

A web feed monitoring service called PubSub today launched a new list that says it measures the top 1000 "most influental websites" in the world. does not appear anywhere in that top 1000. How the mighty have fallen.
The top 1000 ranking is based on numbers for the past 30 days and it counts mentions on RSS feeds. So it is one public measure of how is doing during the lockout,

Now there are a couple of things you have to know about PubSub. It appears that it largely measures full text RSS feeds and following the Google model, those full text feeds have to contain links. So it measures feeds that link to a site and the number links from a site contained in the feed. Footnotes on their pages say they are constantly refining their linkranking measuring tools.

But other Canadian media are ranked in that top 1000.

The world's most influental site, according to PubSub is the BBC, followed by the New York Times and the Washington Post. Some other samples. ABC Australia comes in at 62, NASA at 253, Microsoft support at 311 and the London Observer at 437.

The marketing news site ClickZ reported about this service a couple of hours before the launch:
PubSub is today expected to unleash a new site ranking tool, called LinkRanks, that measures the "strength, persistence, and vitality" of links pointing to and from a given Web site...

Additionally, PubSub has begun an effort to compile lists of influential Weblogs by category, which could be of use to media buyers and planners eager to buy advertising in blogs....

By fiddling with LinkRanks' parameters -- now built into the PubSub engine -- PR types can determine the approximate reach and influence of a particular Web page based on the sites that link to that page, either on a daily basis or over a period of weeks. They can also use it to focus their brand listening on the most influential group of blogs or publications.

You'll find's stats here.

The most interesting to me is the chart on the right side of the page which shows the number of sites linking to's minimal coverage has steadily dropped since the lockout begun.

CBCunlocked is not doing well in these rankings, not registering yet, although it is a little early, they just started and don't have an RSS feed. The good news is that the chart shows that number of people with RSS feeds linking to CBCunlocked it is growing, almost mirroring the drop at

If you look at the ranking for little ol' me,, even I am doing better than!!! (at least on this list) On Sunday I was in the top 11% of their sites, ranking number 6,957.

Tod Maffin's CBCunplugged blog registers among the world's most influential sites. He was in the top one per cent on Sunday at 489. Since PubSub stats are cumulative, it will be interesting to see if Tod makes next month's top 1000. If you look at the green line on his chart, it might just happen.

John Gushue, at Dot Dot Dot another lockoutee, beat me on Sunday and also blew away, making it into the top seven per cent with a ranking of 4,502.

As for Tea Makers, it shows that you can rank when you have a lot of people linking to you, even if you don't have many outlinks. On Sunday, Tea Makers ranked 20,648, among the top 32%, again, our insider manager is doing better than

Some other sites:

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  CBC 109: "Hell to pay?"

I wasn't too impressed with the first Question Period this afternoon.

Now it may be that the Opposition parties were holding back because negotiators for both sides are working across the river in an office in Hull.

I was at Simcoe Park when NDP leader Jack Layton told the crowd, "If the lockout is still on when the Commons returns, there will be hell to pay."

The first set of questions on the CBC, softballs from NDP member Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay) came, by my watch, watching CPAC, at 1447 ET, 32 minutes into Question Period. Jack Layton's session opening questions were on U.S. stonewalling on softwood lumber. The Conservatives concentrated on crime, guns and drugs, with softwood as priority two.

Four tougher questions on the lockout came late in Question Period from two Bloc Quebecois MPs.

Labour Minister Joe Fontana punted on the questions, referring to the ongoing negotiations.

If the position of CBC questions in the Commons lineup are any indication, the lockout is far down on everyone's priority list.

And Jack, don't forget that there are a lot of CBC employees in your riding. Wonder who the Bloc Quebecois nominee will be in Toronto Danforth? :-)

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  CBC 108: Gee, now they get "flexibility"

From the CBC news release this afternoon, courtesy none other than Jason MacDonald:
CBC/Radio-Canada's bargaining team has a clear mandate, as well as the flexibility and authority, to get an agreement with the CMG. The Corporation hopes the Minister's initiative provides the impetus needed to move toward reaching an agreement that not only reflects the business realities and requirements of the broadcasting world, but at the same time respects the career aspirations of its employees.

Playing Kreminology here, does the term "career aspirations" mean they are really going to be flexible?

Stay clicked.

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  Millions and millions of Ipods

A projection by Deutsche Bank, reported by Forbes and repeated on MacMinute calls for Apple to sell 31 million Ipods in calendar 2005 and 43 million in calendar 2006.

Forbes also says:
Longer term, Deutsche Bank says Apple is "the best-positioned" PC vendor to capitalize on the convergence between digital media and computing. "Today, Apple is driving the digital music evolution. Tomorrow, Apple could become the partner of choice for digital video distribution and playback."

Of course, the Mac has been the leader in that area for years, so let's not revisit the old Mac-PC debate.

But if Deustche Bank is right, what is the question for the lockoutees? Once we get back in, is CBC management going to have the imagination, creativity and guts to take advantage of all this?

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Sunday, September 25, 2005
  CBC 107: The autumn of freelance discontent

A new blog has emerged in recent days, Advocating for all CBC Freelancers, which is bringing out into the open the simmering discontent with the Canadian Media Guild amongst those who chose to freelance.

It is clear from this blog, and from others listed on the blog (which is aggregating freelance complaints from blogs across the country) that CMG is going to have a problem, now and in the future.

Here is a key point the blogger makes:

Freelancers have to supply all their own equipment, pay 100% of their CPP contribution (including the employer’s half), save for their own retirement and have no health benefits and no paid sick leave. They are not eligible for Unemployment Insurance. The CMG is a unique union in that, within it, freelancers have the right to collective bargaining. Freelancers in most organizations do not unless they form their own organization. The question remains, how much collective bargaining is the CMG doing on behalf of freelancers? Having the right to something is different than having it.

Freelancers absorb the cost of their own equipment. We have to save for our own pension. We have to take the risk of getting sick and having no paid sick leave, health coverage or long-term disability. We take the risk of not being able to fill down time between assignments. Freelancers need to be paid a premium, in addition to the basic fee for the work, to cover these costs and risks. In this were not the case, freelancers would be simply cheap labour or suckers who are willing to supply equipment and pay expenses that are traditionally borne by the employer. These costs are buried in the price of every other product we buy. Why should CBC expect me to create a product for anything less?

Having at one point my career having chosen to be a freelancer (rather than a casual aiming at a full time job) I am in full agreement with this.

Let's face one fact. We all know that the CMG position that 30 per cent of positions at CBC are casual or freelance is the correct one, that the management's idea that it is five per cent is pure propaganda.

A week or so ago, I was having a chat with some of my neighbours who work in the movie industry. They didn't understand the problem with the lockout and the dispute.

Why? Because although they are freelancers, whether they are members of ACTRA or IATSE, or another movie union, they get benefits and they get RSP contributions. The basic agreements with Independent Producers Association calls for the employer to pay half the cost of benefits and RSP contributions, the freelancer the rest. Just like full time employees.

This took me back to the mid-80s, when I was working, on contract, for CBC Project Iris, the Corp's first venture into new media. I was also writing scripts for Radio Drama at the time. So on one CBC contract, the new media project, I got no benefits, no pension and had to pay the full CPP. While on a second CBC contract, Radio Drama, under the Writers Guild of Canada (I am no longer a member, I dropped that when I became full time staff) I was getting RSP contributions and was also contributing to the ACTRA Fraternal Benefit Society's health insurance plan.

If the CMG is able to hold the line on the disposable work force, that means that 30 per cent of people working at the CBC are still going to be freelance or casual. Some of those, as I keep saying on my blog, will be able to get benefit support from a working partner with a staff job, usually in another industry. But many will not.

It is time that the ACTRA/IATSE movie model had serious consideration. First, so that freelancers are not left in a precarious position of no extended health benefits and no RSP contributions. As well, making the CBC contribute RSP and benefits for freelancers and casuals removes the incentive CBC management may have to treat freelancers as cheap, no-benefit, labour.

It's just my personal opinion, but I believe that the CMG should make a deal with ACTRA Fraternal so that freelancers represented by CMG can get RSPs and benefits. It may not happen in this round, but it should happen soon.

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  CBC 106: Canadians' contract with the CBC

While the CBC and the CMG are still negotiating the workers' contract, Todd Babiak in the Edmonton Journal this morning asks what about Canadians' contract with the Corp and should that be renegotiated.

One of the best, most thoughtful and reasoned pieces on the lockout so far, at least in my view.

Also worth reading: Nancy Westaway on the CBC's "dirty little secret" on how casuals are treated. It sounds familiar (and I would note from personal experience, it's not just CBC, CTV treats people exactly the same way)

In the Toronto Star (registration required):Was it all a casual thing? where Westaway compares the CBC to a Don Juan, love and leave 'em cad.

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Links to this post shut out in Online Journalism Awards

For the first time in a couple of years, has been shut out in the list of finalists in the prestigious Online Journalism Awards, announced late Saturday in California.

It's unclear whether or not the lockout had anything to do with this. But the rules say the site and the pages that have been nominated have to be active throughout the judging and for one year after the awards. Parts of the site have been shut down since the lockout. senior and executive producers usually give a list of possible nominees to managers in mid-summer. Because of the lockout the final list of nominees, usually circulated on Groupwise, was not available.

A CBC manager, Sue Gardner, Senior Director of was one of this year's judges.

The Globe and Mail did make the finals, for oustanding use of multiple media for
AIDS in Africa: A Turning Point.” (and following the rules mentioned above, the excellent site is not behind the Globe's pay wall. Take a look.)

TV news has also been nominated for awards during the lockout. But, of course, all that takes is sending in a tape for judging. The judges don't have to come to watch the current crippled CBC News on television.

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Saturday, September 24, 2005
  CBC 105: What if we'd blogged the ice storm?

Brief note before I head out. (picked up from Bill Doskoch)
THe Houston Chronicle has two blogs on Hurricane Rita, one raw by the public, one by its staff.
You'll find the AP story here.

Blogging wasn't around during the ice storm. Imagine what the coverage would have been like on a story across a huge area of eastern Ontario and Quebec if we could have done that?

Everything has changed. And with a possible end to the lockout in sight, the question now is what are we going to do in the future? The Toronto Unlocked broadcasts were more lively, more interesting, better radio than even their top rated regular Metro Morning show. The blogs and the podcasts are, for a key part of the audience, a winner. So what are we going to do, and this message isn't just aimed at management but the senior and executive producers as well.

Point one (more to come) Fire all those consultants. That will save huge amounts of money. Expand the innovation project across the whole CBC. So far, in news, it has been limited to ideas costing less than $1,000 and produced some great stuff. Take risks. Small units unhampered by bureaucracy and politics. (I can hope) Give them a strict budget and say come up with something great. It can be done. And prepare for a few failures and to say they were experiments and move on (that's why I said strict budgets, so we can risk and fail on some things).

If we go back to the old ways the slide will continue.

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Friday, September 23, 2005
  My best friend's wedding
I am at a wedding this weekend. The blog will resume late Sunday.
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  CBC 104: Money, money, money, money

The Canadian Media Guild Thursday made a modest proposal on wage increases in its latest offer to CBC.

The CMG has proposed a 60 month contract to expire March 31, 2009, with 3.5% increases every year, retroactive back to April 1, 2004, plus a $1,000 signing bonus for everyone who had worked 60 days of more in the 12 months prior to the lockout.

On the picket line Thursday, the news in the Guild newsletter extra,it seems, brought up the old split between the CEP and CMG. Many technicians, formerly members of CEP, told me "It's not enough." Many of the journalists had a reporter's reaction, not an employee's reaction: "The taxpayer will never go for it."

I heard the same reporters' sentiments at a party on Thursday night--until I mentioned what reporters and editors are paid on the Toronto newspapers and by the national wire service Canadian Press. I literally saw a jaw drop when I told them our print colleagues, with the same experience, with comparable jobs, get five to ten to fifteen thousand dollars a year more than we do.

That's why I want to point people to one of my early blogs, We have a problem

The technicians know very well that the money they are paid--at least in the big cities of Toronto and Vancouver--has been falling further and further behind their colleagues in the private sector for the past 15 years.

As I said in my original post, I make between $10,000 and $12,000 less than photo editors doing comparable jobs on the newspapers (represented by CEP) and Canadian Press (represented by my union CMG).

The impression that CBC employees are paid very well comes today from other cities and small towns where the money, paid on a national scale, is much better than those in comparable jobs. And it is a legacy of the past, more than 20 years ago, before Mulroney's cutbacks in 1984 when the money in the big cities was comparable or better. That is no longer so in those cities.

On the original blog you will find links to the contract pages for those newspapers.
Compare the contracts. For those in Toronto and Vancouver, you will see how little you are getting in comparison to those print people you see on the job every day.

In the past 15 years there was a bit of a trade off, less money in exchange for job security.

It is clear that the CBC wants to gut job security. That makes comparable salaries an issue, now and in the future. It is likely there will be some taxpayers' resistance to even the CMG's modest proposal, but for the long term health of the CBC, the money has to keep up with the marketplace.

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  CBC 103: Beware the blogs!

CBC senior management was blindsided by the blogs begun after the lockout.

They ain't seen nothing yet. In fact, if there is still a lockout by October 8, blogs could decide everything.

No, not our small little lockoutee blogs. I mean the hockey blogs.

For the past week to ten days or so I have been "dipping in and out" as they say among the hockey blogs.

What can I report?

Everyone is waited with baited breath for the regular season to begin (although everyone is still unhappy with both sides in last year's hockey lockout, the NHL and the NHLPA).

Most of the bloggers and the comments are highly skeptical that management can pull off a decent Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. The consensus, at least among hockey fans (I am not sure if football fans would agree) is that having seen the CFL broadcasts, the bloggers believe CBC management cannot create a hockey broadcast to meet the standards that even the "ordinary" Hockey Night in Canada fan expects. (Nor can most feeds from American networks is a point that is repeated).

And for the sounds of silence, so to speak, a couple of the blogs had similar comments. Even in noisy bar, when Coach's Corner comes on, the chatter is subdued and the sound turned up so everyone can hear Don and Ron. On one such blog, one commenter claimed to be a sports producer for another Canadian network, and he said that in their newsroom, everything stops there as well for Cherry and Maclean.

So as the modern media experts are saying, ignore blogosphere at your peril. The first indications of fan reaction to the management produced Hockey Night in Canada will not be on the call-in shows, or the Monday morning papers.

It will be in blogosphere about six or seven minutes into the first period.

Beware the blogs!

(Note: There are too many blogs to link to any individually. I searched in Technorati, Google and Feedster using "Hockey Night in Canada" and "National Hockey League.")

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  CBC 102: Board meeting "lively" not stormy

After reports last night that CBC board member Peter Herndorf had "stormed out" of this week's meeting I sent an e-mail asking if it was true.

This is the reply I just received:
The board discussions were certainly lively, but no one on the Board stormed out of the meeting. The Board members continue to try to influence both sides to reach a settlement as soon as possible.
Peter A. Herrndorf

I am told by other reliable sources that the meetings went on long much longer than originally expected and that neither President Robert Rabinovitch or IR chief George Smith looked very happy during breaks and at the conclusion of the meeting.

I'll post more information if I can reliably confirm it.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005
  CBC 101: Call that a bonus?
Chatter from inside tonight that the managers in the Toronto Broadcast Centre and other buildings are going to have to wait and wait and wait for all those promised bonuses--until (or if) there's a settlement.

You see, all the administrative staff who would do that are locked out. I'm told that the computers are doing their regular runs and the managers are getting their regular pay cheques.

While my source didn't tell me how it was being done, the managers are compiling their hours. Maybe the managers are filling in time sheets like the rest of us?

That means administrative staff will have to create all the computer runs, paperwork and cheque cutting for that, when they get back in. I am sure they are going to put their best efforts into that job, make it a top priority.

And there's another problem. We've all heard this: everything in there is so empty and gloomy. But you know who else is locked out, the people who normally schedule shifts? A second inside source says several middle and lower managers "are at their wit's end, in part because their schedules are chaotic."

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  CBC 100: Rita and Rabinovitch

The hot waters of the Gulf of Mexico have made Hurricane Rita a category five. The last such hurricane a century ago wiped Galveston off the map. I'm wondering if a day or so from now there will be anything left of the small cinder block beach front hotel I stayed at in Galveston a couple of years ago (not too mention all those mouth watering sea front sea food restaurants).

So now that you have the complete backing of the CBC board Robert Rabinovtich, what are you going to do about covering it for CBC? Another BBC report or fly down yourself and do wind-driven standup?

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  CBC 99: On contract, on RMS Titanic

Among the heroes on board the sinking RMS Titanic were the muscians who played on the deck of stricken liner until they could no longer hold their instruments.

There's a little known fact about those musicians. While the officers and crew of Titanic, from Capt. Edward Smith to the lowliest teenage cabin boy were "on staff," the musicians were on contract. And that, unfortunately, made a big difference to their families.

(I was browsing my book shelf Wednesday afternoon and for some reason pulled out Walter Lord's The Night Lives On, his 1986 follow-up to A Night to Remember, his 1955 bestseller about the sinking of the Titanic. What you read here is based on that account)

According to Lord, there were actually two bands on board the Titanic, the Wallace Hartley quintet, which played the teatime and after dinner concerts, and a trio at the first class Cafe Parisien. It is likely, according to Lord, that they played together for the first time on the fatal night when Titanic struck the iceberg.

In early 1912, months before the Titanic sank, the British shipping lines, over the objections of the Amalgamated Musicians Union, decided to begin what today would be called "contracting out" with shipboard musicians.

Prior to 1912, muscians were signed as crew, as staff. They received union scale: £6 10s a month plus a uniform allowance of 10s.

Beginning in 1912, the shipping lines contracted out the musicians to a Liverpool agency called C.W. and F. N. Black, which got the exclusive right to hire musicians for British shipping. Wages were cut to £4 a month with no uniform allowance. They still had to sign ship's articles, putting them under the command of a captain for which they received one shilling a month.

When the musicians union objected to Bruce Ismay, CEO of the White Star line, he said, well then if they didn't want to sign ship's articles, they would have to ship as paying second class passengers.

But on both the Olympic and the Titanic they didn't get second class cabins, they had to bunk in the cramped crew quarters.

All the musicians perished when the Titanic sank.

Both surviving crew and the families of the crew dead were entitled, under British law, to "Workmans Compensation" benefits from the White Star Line.

White Star refused to compensate the musicians' families. The line argued that the musicians were second class passengers and the employees of the Black agency. Black said it had no responsiblity and sent the families to their insurance company. The insurance company said the musicians were independent contractors, not employees of the Black agency and therefore not covered by the insurance policy. The result, no compensation at all for the families of the "heroes" of the Titanic.

Blacks even billed the stricken families for expenses, including the uniforms, formerly covered by the shipping lines when the musicians were staff employees.

Eventually the families took White Star to court. The judge reluctantly ruled that the musicians were, as far as White Star was concerned, passengers and as far as the Black agency and its insurance company were concerned, independent contractors.

The musicians union then appealed to the charitable instincts of White Star. The company had no charity in its heart and refused to help.

The trustees of the public relief fund had a different attitude, they ruled that the musicians were members of the crew and entitled to full compensation from that fund.

As for Wallace Hartley, his body was recovered off Newfoundland and returned to his home town of Colne, Lancashire. As a hearse carried the coffin from Liverpool to Colne, hundreds turned out to pay their respects. All business in Colne stopped for the funeral, attended by an estimated 30,000 people. As the coffin was lowered into the ground, a bugler played "The Last Post" an honour normally reserved for those who had served in the military.

Two of the musicians were buried in Halifax.
John Frederick Preston Clarke, a bass violinist (#202) was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Halifax.
John Law Hume, the first violion, (#193) was buried at Fairview Cemetery, Halifax.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005
  Microbrew journalism?

My morning blog sweep came up with an interesting hit everyone should read called Microbrew Journalism out of Philadelphia.

These are not good times. The New York Times announced layoffs this week. And, so according to this post, are the Philadelphia papers.

Here is the key quote:

The continued shrinking of the two big Philadelphia dailies highlights a shift in American journalism. The two big dailies offer less and less to read. I buy the Inquirer at Broad and Erie and scan the obituaries and local news on my 20 minute subway ride to Center City. On Thursdays, I read the food section. I don't bother to buy the Inquirer on weekends. I have come to rely on the wealth of news on the internet. On a typical day, I browse online through the New York Times, New York Post, Washington Post, PoliticsPA, Los Angeles Times, Drudge, Jewish World Review and the CBC. I get all the liberal and conservative comment I want. Why waste trees?
For more and more people, the internet, internet radio and cable TV are the main sources of news.

At least when we're working we have three out of three.

Aaron Finestone, the blogger, is according to his profile a lawyer and what he calls "A Reasoned Republican."

What Finestone doesn't mention is that a few years ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer was considered one of the best, if not the best, writers' newspaper in the United States. The star graduate of the Inquirer in those days was Mark Bowden, author of the superb literary journalism Black Hawk Down. The downsizing of the Inquirer is another blow to quality reporting.

For an institution that is supposed--according to the right wing CBCphobes-- to hate the United States of America, I am constantly amazed how many Americans actually love CBC coverage. (I had a man come up to me on a London street--he saw the jewel/pizza/logo on my luggage tag on my backpack--a couple of years ago to say he lived in LA and loved The National which he saw on the now late lamented Newsworld International.)

Compare that to the nasty Lorne Gutner, CBC bashing again in the National Post (the site is down at the moment so I had to pull it from our friend Loyalist)

....since I am a member of the public and the CBC doesn't represent me. And I don't miss the arrogant notion that the CBC is where Canadians tell their stories to one another or that the network has some special place in our national debates.

Everything the CBC does could be done as well by other television and radio services. Everything the CBC does is being done now by other television and radio services, except hockey. And if the CBC didn't exist, private television services would quickly pick up the hockey slack, too. In fact, a private broadcaster would likely pick up most of the CBC's on- and off-air hockey staff, and fans wouldn't be any the wiser.

Two flaws in Gunter's argument. The first is the very basis of unreasoned conservatism. They believe they are the only ones who pay taxes. No one else, not even me (and no one knows what my politics are, just because I work for CBC don't assume I'm left-wing).

And just because the CBC "doesn't" represent Gutner, doesn't mean it doesn't represent a signficant number of people in Canada.

And the one sentence in his blog that is pure crap: Everything the CBC does could be done as well by other television and radio services.

Tell that to all the musicians who have come to support the locked out workers and say they only place they have a voice is CBC. Tell that to the people in all the small communities whose private stations ignore them while beaming into the big city markets. Tell that to the people in the North where there are no private stations.
Tell that to the authors who may, if they're extremely hot, might get on Canada AM. When I as doing my first book tours in the 1980s, private radio still had to have news and current affairs. In each town I hit station after station. No longer, it is few and far between. Deregulation you know, easy profits for no effort. Book publishers no longer give even the minimal publicity to mid-list authors (the reason I orginally started this blog) and then blame the author, not themselves when the book fails. At least here in Canada publishers know if they sent books to The Current, Sounds Like Canada, Writers and Company, and, if they target it right to Newsworld shows, the book will get a couple of minutes.

I am beginning to like the term microbrew journalism. In a way, it is what we're doing during the lockout. The only challenge is finding a way to make a living at it if this goes on and on and on....

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  CBC 98: Collateral damage

Don't, repeat, don't, skip Kate Taylor's column in the Globe and Mail this morning. Unfortunately it's not about broacasting so it likely won't appear on advocacy sites. But it is absolutely crucial to what is happening, so read it if you can.

What Taylor is writing about is how changes in the rates Canada Post charges magazines are going to be a blow to both the big commercial magazines and the smaller ones. Most Canadian magazines survive by subscription, not news stand sales. And it is now going to cost a lot more money to mail a magazine in Canada.

Who is the collateral damage in all this? Not the staff editors, of course. It's going to be the freelancer writers who actually produce what you read in the magazine. This means freelance rates (which are 20 years behind the cost of inflation already) won't go up or could even be cut back.

Most freelancers don't concentrate on one market. Or at least they try. These days both the CBC and the big media conglomerates demand, as we have to keep repeating, all rights in perpertuity until the galaxy implodes, which means freelancers can't always resell what they create. (The late Pierre Berton once advised, in the 1950s I believe, that writers sell every story 12 times. Today Berton would only be able to sell most stories just once; he would likely want a staff job at CBC to support his family and be on the picket line)

The freelance market in Canada is tiny compared to the US or UK, that is why it is a lot harder to survive as a single freelancer in this country (which is why I keep saying those "fulltime freelancers" should be honest and tell how much household income comes from their partners).

As for wriitng books, there is more collateral damage. I won't go into dull details, but an obscure change in US tax rules for warehousing a decade a ago destroyed the publishers' backlist. Which is why you see so many cheap piles of remainders in the bookstores. The problem for authors is that the multinational publishers adopted the remaindering policy they created in the US for Canada and elsewhere. Years ago, small but steady sales from the backlist could, depending on the book, be a significant income for an author. No more.

This is what the triumvirate (Rabinovitch, Stursberg and Chalmers) and the Grand Vizier (Smith) want to do, all new employees as casual or contract, in a country where to be a freelancer is barely surviving not thriving. It is not a way of creating flexibility for the CBC, it is a way of driving people out of the business altogether. It is short sighted stupidity.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005
  CBC 97: Breaking their oath of office

According to the Canadian Media Guild, the CBC Board of Directors, at the direction of President Robert Rabinovitch has refused to meet with CMG President Lise Lareau:

Lise Lareau, president of the Canadian Media Guild, will not be
allowed to speak before the CBC board during their meeting on
Wednesday, according to a letter sent today by CBC president Robert

Nevertheless, Lareau is in Montreal at the hotel where the meeting
will take place and has told board members she is available to speak
with them individually. She is urging them to intervene to ensure a
fair deal and an end to the lockout as soon as possible.

Now check the Oath of Office that a director must take to be on the board of the CBC, as outlined in the Broadcasting Act.
37. Every director shall, before entering on the director's duties, take and subscribe, before the Clerk of the Privy Council, an oath or solemn affirmation, which shall be filed in the office of the Clerk, in the following form:

I, ...................., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully, truly and impartially, to the best of my judgment, skill and ability, execute and perform the office of ..................... (Add, in the case where an oath is taken, "So help me God".)

My emphasis on impartially. So does the oath of office of a CBC director mean anything?

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  CBC 96: Ratification rules

There is a debate on Tod Maffin's blog whether or not it is customary to open the doors after an agreement but before ratification.

Both Tod and I were under the impression that the doors can be opened before ratification. Fred Mattocks, however, e-mailed Tod and told him: "Suggest you do some research on this Tod. In most labour disputes, ratification is a prerequisite for return to work."

The advantage of having two relatives, one management, one union, each with 20 years experience in negotiations is that I can check with them.

The key points

So while there have been cases where doors have been opened prior to ratification, it is a lot rarer than people think.

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  CBC 95: Hero Pedro's daring mission

Pedro the Locked out Gnome has returned from a daring reconnaissance mission--inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre.
Details on his blog.
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  CBC 94: How many managers does it take to a run a blog?
When Ouimet was running Tea Makers alone, there were fairly frequent posts, some of which did give us interesting inside viewpoints. Then Ouimet invited others to join. There are now five managers running Tea Makers and there have been no posts since Friday.

This sounds awfully like the CBC; one manager gets things done, five managers get nothing done.

Most of the flexible, creative locked out bloggers are, of course, posting frequently.

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Monday, September 19, 2005
  CBC 93: The ratification rag

Tod Maffin reported tonight what has been rumoured on the picket line for some days, that if there is a settlement, management won't follow the usual practice, if a union recommends ratification, of opening the doors and letting people back to work. Instead they are going to wait for the actual ratification vote.

There are two theories about this move.

The first might be called "The Prince of Darkness" scenario, after what CBC Drone is calling IR boss George Smith, the ultimate hardliner, who is determined to inflict as much damage as possible on the Canadian Media Guild and that refusing to open the doors would just be another form of punishment for the peasants who refuse to obey the dictates of their betters.

But there is now a second scenario apparently circulating among some middle managers inside the TBC who are afraid that the damage to the CBC is become irreversible. This picks up on the idea that keeps popping up (it's not just me that's saying it) that senior management expected the production side of the CMG to fold within the planned three or so weeks.

What is happening now is a sort of an extension of the weak CMG theory that has circulated inside for some years. The idea was that the CMG would dilute the more radical tech union and make agreement easy. Now apparently management's spies are reporting an increasing and alarming radicalization among some CMG members. There is fear that if there is a weak agreement, that it would actually be rejected by the membership and, if we're let back in, who knows what would happen then.*

My source to the inside puts it this way: Management spies are reporting that some Guild members are now angry over lost pay and the humiliation of lockout. There's a growing preference among some for noisier, and less decorous demos and even a harder line in negotiations. There is lots of talk on the line that is seeping back inside that the new militancy is unlikely to evaporate quickly after a settlement. The commraderie of the line--mentioned by all visitors to the Toronto dispute ground---could spawn a new generation of union activists. That's a dismal scenario for management to contemplate.

I am getting the same feeling. But I am also getting the impression that this not the traditional union solidarity, since as other bloggers have reported, many CMG members are wary and cynical of the "sister and brother" talk. What George Smith and the triumvirate have underestimated in my view, is that thing I call vocation, whether it is a commitment to public broadcasting as an ideal or simply a commitment to good quality journalism. Despite some grumbling in this crucial week, I have only seen a minor and expected dip in morale on the line.

What is significant is that despite the early rumours of talent raids and defections, there have, so far, been no major defections in the CMG ranks. And I have talked to some of those people and they all tell me they're "hanging in."

Most people I have talked to see the fight as the battle to preserve public broadcasting and quality journalism in this country. That's why so far instead of a weak group of aging job-for-life boomers pressing the CMG to settle, you have across the generations a message to stand firm.

That means that George Smith's bricks and mortar industrial relations scenario has failed completely and that calls into question his ability to do the job.

The third week: I reported earlier that a news manager had expressed fears that CBC News could survive just three more weeks of lockout before the bleeding became life threatening. This is the now the third week since the manager said that.
And as for the bleeding, word from inside the TBC that the rosy figures from the first couple of weeks of the lockout are long gone. Word is the Terry Fox special attracted only 222,000; while the National on the main net at 10 pm, which averaged 750,000-800,000 pre lockout, has plunged down to less than 300,000 on some evenings...while CTV is getting better numbers each night.

*Rejecting a contract: I began writing my first book when I was laid off from CBC in the 1984 cutbacks. As well as working on the CBC's first new media project, I had been writing radio plays and so was a member of ACTRA. When I began working on the book, I supported myself by working as a professional extra (while many actors did not want to work as extras other ACTRA membes such as writers and musicians did). During the ACTRA negotiations with the Independent Producers Association in the late 80s, ACTRA sold out the extras. To their surprise, the contract was overwhelmingly rejected by the membership and they had to go back to the table, where an agreement was reached that did meet the concerns of the ACTRA members who worked as extras and was quickly ratified.

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  If you prick me, do I not podcast?

A small radio show in the United States says it has fired its home base radio station and turned to podcasting.

There is only one side of this dispute so far, mainly a news release from the show's hosts, Bob Cefail and Laura Betterly, which has the headline: Podcasters fire radio station.

According to the news release, Cefail and Betterly have a show called "The Profit Doctors" which they broadcast through WTAN in Clearwater, Florida.

On September 16, apparently, the station cut off the show's access to their 800 number, with 10 minutes to air. When the station could provide no other way for guests to phone in, Cefail and Betterly walked out and later sent a letter to WTAN, "firing" the station.

The release says
The Profit Doctors solemnly avow that they will be operational on another terrestrial station as soon as possible and will continue to podcast their show to the thousands of people world wide who want to hear what they have to say.

From the websites listed on the news release it appears that their main topic is how to improve marketing in the modern digitial media age.

The Profit Doctors show, on its website, seems to aim at people who want to get "free publicity" for their products.

Their main company In Touch Media group offers seminars and other information for people who want to improve their marketing.

Public sector, private sector, podcasting sector: the times they are a changing.....

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  CBC 92: You heard it here first....integration

The distinquished UK press critic Peter Preston has another interesting piece in The Observer, aimed at the UK print media about integrating with the internet, called "Press must integrate with the internet or perish."
He says " Online and newsprint are brothers now, umbilically linked."

And then he goes to talk about guess what--newsroom integration.
But integration? One newsroom serves all? So far, these are problems awaiting solution. The Guardian, like the huge BBC online effort, has two substantial staffs doing one thing or the other, not both. Problems of integration initially solved by extra resources.

And that is much the same story around the world. Papers that are supposedly integrated - like the New York Times now - still have segregation on the editorial floor. Other, smaller operations mix digital, print, TV and broadcast in a bran tub that gives time for everything but finding original stories.

Well it's too bad Mr. Preston can't visit the CBC at the moment, (perhaps Tony should invite him in a couple of weeks or months depending...)

Let's say this for our locked-in middle managers (not the blind blinkered SMC) they have been tackling the problem for the past few years and, largely, succeeding.

And since the lockout, as all of us on the outside now know, we are more intergrated than ever. (Perhaps we should say "Podcast or perish" instead of publish or perish??)

But Preston has one strange comment in his column:
Sometimes, perversely, as in areas of Canada, the law insists on keeping print and digital newsgathering for the same organisation miles apart.

I've never heard of that. Has anyone? (Let me know and I'll post it)

And he also quotes Jon Donley, the New Orleans Times-Picayune's editor on their heroic efforts to get first an online edition and later a print edition out after the ravages of Katrina

"Reporters are seeing they can get their story in and have news [on the web] at the same time as the TV news. But this has thrown out all the rules. I don't think there's anybody at the paper who doesn't see us as a close ally..."

Isn't that what we've been doing for the past few years?

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  CBC 91: The board, producers versus plutocrats

Word ths morning that the CBC Board of Directors is moving its meeting from Yellowknife to Montreal. They'll get together on Tuesday and Wednesday, although, at this point, where exactly the meeting will be held is still "undisclosed." (perhaps, to avoid cameras and pickets, a bus travelling up and down on the Decarie?)

Also the word the board is divided, with the three producers Peter Herndorff, Trina McQueen and new chair Guy Fournier, likely outvoted by the patronage plutocrats who are supporting Robert Rabinvotich. In past votes one other board member has apparently supported Herndorff and McQueen, so with Fournier on board votes are now expected to still have a majority in favour of the Senior Management Committee.

But there's also chatter, (rumour, wishful thinking or strategic leak from the PMO?) that Rabinovitch has had word from on high to "wrap it up." If that is true, look for an indication at the bargaining table early in the week. It may be that the cabinet doesn't want to face embarrassing questions when the House of Commons resumes. If not, be prepared for the long haul....

Update 1750 Monday Sept 19. CMG asks to meet with board

The Canadian Media Guild is asking to meet with the board at its undisclosed location in Montreal.
In a news release, requesting the meeting, Lise Lareau says:

"It is time for the board to weigh in and provide a sober second thought
to the aggressive and destructive strategy adopted by CBC's senior management team," says CMG national president Lise Lareau.
"Unfortunately, we believe members of the board have received limited information from senior management and have even been told not to speak to the union. I also received a letter from the lawyers for CBC management warning me to stay away from board members.

And just who does the board represent? While in theory they represent the public, that includes the CBC audience and the CBC employees. So one question that should be asked is who authorized the letter to the CMG, the board? or the senior management committee?

Update 2 2000 Sept. 19

There are apparently conflicting reports on where Trina McQueen stands. One tells me that McQueen is not on the side of the CMG, at least on the lockout issue, while a second says that her position is determined issue by issue, her production background determining some, her management background others. Since I am not close to the board I can only report what chatter I hear. But it shows the situation we are when we have to speculate about the voting intentions of the CBC board.

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  Exposing the bias

The right wing anonymous case who calls himself Loyalist must have a hate-love relationship with the CBC. He doesn't like the Corp, but he is as methodical and regular as John Gushue, Tod Maffin and dare I say so myself, in updating the situation. In fact in the "know your enemy" department, it's worth reading his Dissonance and Disrepect blog.

He's even been seen leaving comments on TeaMakers. Check this post and the comment posted at 10:24 am Sunday.

But in his CBClockout Watch Day 35 post today, Loyalist clearly exposes his bias. He tells his small c conservative readers about my post that the Auditor General may be investigating the Corp, but totally ignores the post that Cliff Chadderton is boycotting the CBC and calling for an end to the lockout.

Update 0845 Monday Sept. 19: Loyalist has now updated his blog and linked to the Chadderton report.

He concludes his current post by saying "don't expect a settlement anytime soon, and expect me to keep doing these tiresome but necessary daily updates" which leaves you wondering why he bothers, maybe secretly he likes us, he really likes us. Naaaaaaah

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Sunday, September 18, 2005
  CBC 90: Where will the CBC board meet?

There's unconfirmed chatter this afternoon that the CBC board of directors meeting, scheduled this week for Yellowknife, is moving to that famous tourist spot favoured by the high ranking, the "undisclosed location."

There is a lockout in Yellowknife. There are apparently discussions about having the meeting in Montreal, since there is no lockout there, but there is also some trepidation that the location will leak and attract a sympathy picket from our colleagues in Quebec. It will be the first time that the new chair designate of the Corp, Guy Fournier will meet with the board.

The Canadian Media Guild has also asked to meet with the board.

Stay clicked.

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  CBC 89: Is the Auditor General taking aim at CBC?

This may not be a relaxing Sunday for the senior management at the CBC.

There is chatter out of Ottawa this morning that the Auditor General is taking the first steps to take a look at the inner workings of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. And the lockout, apparently, is only a small factor in all this. It is five years since the Auditor General last took an indepth look at Crown Corporations and it is that time in the cycle once again.

Meanwhile, CBC Drone has posted the first of the reports on the Niagara Institute, claiming a manager was fired after the Corp's beancounters had a look at the bills. You'll find Drone's post Monkey games and the Prince of Darkness (1) here.

Since I don't have access to Drone's Whistleblower sources, I will let the readers decide on that post.

Back to the Auditor General, one source has pointed out a key section in the 2000 report slamming weak boards of directors who let management do pretty much what they want.

And, of course, the Auditor General has a lot more power than what is now said to be at least two "major metropolitan newspapers" investigating CBC management and finances. (Antonia Zerbisias of the Toronto Star confirmed in her blog that she is investigating the Niagara Institute situation)

Auditor General report 2000 exerpt:-

Original copy is here on the Auditor General's site, but my source highlighted this:

We found a need for special attention in three areas that are central to the way Crown corporations are governed:

* Boards of directors of Crown corporations need to be strengthened. They reflect Canada's diversity but lack other key skills and capabilities that are needed to function effectively and to carry out their important responsibilities under the Financial Administration Act for the affairs of the corporation. Corporations need to better define their requirements for skills and capabilities and communicate them to the government; the government needs to act on those requirements. Boards of directors also need to be more engaged in the selection of their chair as well as the corporation's chief executive officer (CEO). Without meaningful board involvement in the selection of the chief executive officer, his or her accountability to the board is weakened and corporate governance as a whole suffers.
* Audit committees in Crown corporations play a crucial role in financial reporting, risk management, and internal control. They are the "engine" of the board of directors. Yet half of the audit committees we examined were operating below an effective level. Serious weaknesses in an audit committee can undermine the overall strength of the board.
The government has a limited capacity for reviewing and challenging Crown corporation corporate plans as a basis for approving them. Corporate plans set out the strategic direction of a Crown corporation and are intended to be the cornerstone of the Crown corporation control and accountability framework under the Financial Administration Act. The government needs to strengthen its capacity to review and challenge these plans since, once approved, they are the basis for holding Crown corporations accountable for conforming to government policy and for their overall performance. Furthermore, there is a need for a more systematic and regular review of the relevance of Crown corporation mandates.
18.2 Weaknesses in all of these areas impede the successful implementation of Part X of the Financial Administration Act and the quality of Crown corporation governance. They have been raised many times before, in Auditor General reports and other external studies and reports, but the weaknesses remain."

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  Ottawa Citizen hacked

When I went to The Ottawa Citizen site Sunday morning to find the original copy of the interview with Clff Chadderton, it appeared that the site had been hacked, with the front page replaced with a story about "cow poop."

(Click on image for larger view)

Update: When I checked just after noon ET Sunday, the hacked site was still up. I received an e-mail that the hack was still there at 1330 ET Sunday. When I checked before going out at about 1415 ET, the site had been restored.
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  CBC 88: Boycott CBC during lockout Chadderton tells vets
Cliff Chadderton, best known as the founder of the War Amps and chair of the National Association of Veterans Associations, is advising veterans not to give interviews with the CBC during the lockout.

In a release on the Canada News Wire
, the plain speaking Chadderton tells his own side of the story. That's what has made Chadderton such an effective spokesman for vets over the years, he stands up for what he believes in.
In a news story published in the Ottawa Citizen today, Chadderton stated that he blames CBC bosses for the impasse. He stated that "as long as the lockout continues, I am not in a position to give interviews." Chadderton suggested that the CBC was: "denying people like myself access to a public institution."
He stated that the lockout was "not your ordinary labour-management situation" and suggested: "I don't see any end in sight unless the Government steps in."
Chadderton said it is not right to make statements during the lockout because the CBC is a "national institution:"
Chadderton stated that the CBC had a legislative responsibility to provide access to public institutions such as the National Council. The lockout had therefore closed off its role as a means of conveying an important message to its listeners, thus denying The War Amps and other organizations belonging to the NCVA an opportunity to convey their views to Canadians.
The Citizen article stated, "Mr. Chadderton, a Second World war veteran, is hardly an uncritical CBC cheerleader. He is well-known for leading a campaign challenging the series The Valour and the Horror. But he says the CBC is a vital unifying national force and its absence creates a major void."

I have dealt with Mr. Chadderton occasionally over the years, both during my day jobs in TV News and as an author and son of a POW and always found him forthcoming.

When I wrote my posts calling for an audit of Peter Worthington's columns (Follow up here), I was slammed in right wing blogs for not replying to Worthington's contention that The Valour and the Horror was proof positive of CBC bias. To be honest, at the time I wrote about CBC's coverage today of the military, I felt The Valour and the Horror was ancient history (I had to check, it was broadcast in 1992 and shelved by the CBC in 1995).

Chadderton monitors the CBC and other the media on a daily basis, and knows what the CBC does (or did) in 2005 in covering veterans and the military. In my view, he has moved on; Peter Worthington, the CBCphobes and the right wing bloggers in flogging The Valour and the Horror like the proverbially dead horse, have simply displayed their own bias and proven that they will not be satisified unless everything in the media reflects that bias. Which means while CBC News can be fair, as I said, no matter what we do, we can never please the far right.
(Note: The Ottawa Citizen site is down at this writing. I will link to the original story if it appears on the Citizen or an advocacy site.)

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Saturday, September 17, 2005
  APTN jobs in London

APTN London is now advertising. Note: The ad says these jobs require UK citizenship, residency or work permit but if you don't have that, why not try anyway?

Closing date is September 30.
PDF file of UK newspaper ad

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  CBC 87: Conservatives steady in poll, one month after lockout

The latest poll shows the Conservative Party is holding steady in Canadians' voting intentions. The Strategic Counsel/CTV/Globe and Mail poll shows that after one month without the CBC, Canadians have, so far, not flocked to the Conservatives, who are still at 28 % compared to the Liberals at 35%. (The Bloc is up slightly in Quebec where there is no lockout)

The poll was taken between September 7 and September 13, three weeks into the lockout, after Canadians had been deprived of what right wing bloggers and Senator Marjory Lebreton call "Liberal propoganda" on the CBC (they also say nobody watches, so maybe that's the factor). The survey, which polled 1,000 Canadians is accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

So if there was a Conservative jump since the lockout, it is within the margin of error. (Of course it's still early in Lebreton's terms)
Globe and Mail story here

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  CBC 86: Layton to PM, fire Rabinovitch

NDP leader Jack Layton made a brief appearance at the Gala du Cadenas concert at Toronto's Tranzac club Friday. The concert was put together by locked out SRC and Francophone workers at CBC in Toronto.

Layton took the stage between sets by the musicians to slam the lack of coverage of Francophone Canada outside Quebec and then called on Prime Minister Paul Martin to fire CBC President Robert Rabinvotich, a statement that brought loud cheers from the packed club.

Layton's call for Rabinovitch to go is echoed by Antonia Zerbisias in the Toronto Star who asks "Who gave CBC president and CEO Robert Rabinovitch and his appointees, Richard Stursberg, executive vice-president of CBC-TV, and Jane Chalmers, CBC Radio vice-president, the mandate to destroy our national public broadcasting system?"

And by James Ferabee in the Ottawa Citizen, who repeats the same tired old refrain that the CBC is biased against Conservatives, with too many staff and says that employees, not managment control the Corpse (and what planet does Ferabee live on?), and is unfair to George Bush (has he watched CNN or ABC lately?) then says: "The best solution is for the government to appoint two or three Canadians with vision to spend a year studying the challenges faced by the national broadcaster. Then, appoint a new slate of executives at CBC head office to make the necessary changes." The problem is that if three Canadians with real intelligence and vision studied the future of the CBC and then recommended new executives for the CBC, not a bad idea in my view, it would drive small-minded conservatives like Ferabee further up the wall.

Let me put it this way, I wouldn't mind Preston Manning on that committee, I may personally disagree with some of his stands, but he has always struck me as an intelligent and fair man, and, if balanced by two other Canadians with vision, the outcome wouldn't be all that bad.

As for Layton's call for Rabinovitch's ouster; it's a minority government, isn't it?

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Friday, September 16, 2005
  Out of the ashes of counterSpin

There is life after the CBC....
Just received this e-mail....

Dear Friend of counterSpin,

As you know, counterSpin has been off the air a little over a year now, but
I'm pleased to share with you some exciting news.

The hard-hitting coverage, independent analysis, and real debate you came to
expect from counterSpin is about to take on a whole new form -- as the
world's first global independent news network.

The project is called Independent World Television. We just launched our
brand new web site at:

The plan is to create a truly independent news channel - a non-profit,
international network with no funding from governments, corporations or

Our new site includes a short video outlining our vision and plan, and an
interactive poll for you to tell us what you think about the network. I'd be
honoured if you'd take a few moments to visit and take part, and if you'd
forward this message to friends and family.

As a former counterSpin viewer, I know you share our belief in the
importance of quality news and debate to democracy. Please help us make
Independent World Television a success!


Paul Jay
Creator & Executive Producer, CBC Newsworld's counterSpin
Chair, Independent World Television

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  CBS News is blogging itself

CBS News has created a blog about what it does, gather and report news, called Public Eye.

They say:

No major broadcast or cable network has ever tried anything like Public Eye. We are learning as we go. We’re asking our audience to be unabashed and prolific in participating, honest but generous when we blunder and not too reticent if we happen to do something well upon occasion.

It was launched, apparently with little fanfare, on September 12. Now other bloggers are picking up on it and the word is out.

One of the features is Outside Voices where "Each week we’ll invite someone from the outside to weigh in with their thoughts about CBS News and the media at large." This week it is journalism prof turned blogger named Jay Rosen.

They're also saying: "PE will select one CBS News employee we want you to get to know a little bit about. We’ll ask them 10 questions from us and one question from readers." The first person they chose is their LA bureau chief, not one of the on-air stars.

One task for CBS Public Eye is to respond immediately to other blogs and public criticism of the network's news, something I recommended in my blog, How to save the CBC.

Worth reading is their "About Public Eye" (mission statement for those who went to Niagara) page.

Public Eye’s fundamental mission is to bring transparency to the editorial operations of CBS News — transparency that is unprecedented for broadcast and online journalism.

And what, exactly, is transparency? It has several aspects, but most simply it is this: the journalists who make the important editorial decisions at CBS News and will now be asked to explain and answer questions about those decisions in a public forum.

Public Eye will be run by a team of independent and experienced journalists. They will take questions, criticisms and observations from our vast and articulate audience to the people of CBS News and try to come back with some answers, explanations and analyses. The Public Eye team will also report on CBS News, working sources, talking to the reporters, producers and executives who make the news, not just to the press office.

It's pretty clear that CBS is doing this for two reasons. First, of course, they were stung by the scandal over the forged Bush service record. And they discuss that openly in the A Short History entry. Second, CBS is trying to find its new niche in the 21st century marketplace by going heavily digital in every way it can. Blogging is just one step.

One can only look up at the rain soaked walls of the Toronto Broadcast Centre today and wonder what the hell are they thinking in there?

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  Meet Microsoft's "Teamakers"

A writer for Business Week online recounts his secret meeting in a Starbucks (where else?) with the mysterious Microsoft inside blogger, Mini-Microsoft, a sort of combination of the Teamakers and the rest of us (since it is uncertain whether mini is a staff microserf or a staff micromanager).

You'll find the article here.

A key quote:
Mini pulls no punches, calling Microsoft a "passionless, process-ridden, lumbering idiot," in a Sept. 4 posting. Yet the blog is also chock full of humor, intelligence, and earnest suggestions for fixing Microsoft.

Doesn't that sound familiar?
it has become a virtual watercooler for employees. Hundreds anonymously vent their frustrations there without fear of retribution. Mini has emerged as something of a folk hero. Visitors to the site and other bloggers describe Mini as the employee most likely to save Microsoft -- and the most likely to be fired.

And why does he (it is a he) do it?

So why risk a career to vent about his employer? "There was a recent post by a guy who said he used to bleed Microsoft blue. That's how I was too," says Mini, who does indeed have a Microsoft blue badge, the type given to full-time staff. "Microsoft has been wonderful to me. I really want to improve it. I really want to make a difference..."
Over the years, however, Mini says he found it increasingly difficult to affect any sort of meaningful change. As a regular employee, his was a lone voice in the wilderness. Ironically, anonymity has helped Mini become a clarion call for change.

Businessweek goes on to say:
Analyst Charlene Li of Forrester Research advises companies not to try to suppress their bloggers. "You can keep it hidden or get those voices out there and deal with the problem," she says.

A couple of comments.

How often have we felt that the CBC is a "passionless, process-ridden, lumbering idiot" and that at the same time, it has sometimes "been wonderful."

Microsoft employs thousands of casuals (the infamous microserfs) and apparently, as Businessweek says, that blue staff badge is highly sought. Perhaps the triumvirate of Rabinovitch, Stursberg and Chalmers somewhere attended a business seminar with Bill Gates (in Niagara perhaps?). But there is one difference, Microsoft is a private sector corporation, not a public broadcaster.

I'd just hate to see the blue screen of death on the TV screen.

You'll find the Mini-Microsoft blog here.

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  CBC 85: What happens to casuals when they have cancer

It's becoming quickly apparent that in some circles the dispute over the cut down, replacement worker, cobbled together broadcast of the Terry Fox anniversary special is now being spun into we, the locked out workers don't care about Terry Fox or cancer.

So to paraphrase Bill Clinton, it is about cancer, stupid, people with cancer. Like me.

I am now a locked-out CBC staff producer. When I had cancer in 1993 I was a casual at CTV.

So this is what happens when you have cancer and you are a casual.

In October 1993, I went to my doctor after I noticed that one of my testicles was feeling not smooth, but rather like sandpaper.

At the time I was a casual writer on the national desk at CTV. I had started in 1988 and was still getting the same pay per shift, $170 that I had received when I started. (CTV would not raise the writers' pay per shift until 2003, according to friends who continued as casual writers).

I was given a priority appointment for an ultrasound the next morning and by that afternoon the urologist had diagnosed it as early seminoma (testicular cancer). I told my family and close friends. And waited, not too long, I was scheduled for surgery in the first week of December, 1993.

That, of course, is when my income stopped. As a casual, of course, I had no medical benefits, but I did have the complete attention of our Canadian health care system, a system too many people with staff jobs and guaranteed benefits want to destroy.

Without the benefits I was in a ward which was also an holding cell, to speak, for an elderly man who had Alzheimer's and screamed all night.

The surgery went well, the cancer was confirmed. And I got myself back to work at the CTV newsroom as soon as I could. Then, after Christmas, a meeting the oncologist. The decision was because the seminoma was caught early, I did not need chemo but I did need a long bout of radiation treatment.

Radiation treatment can make you very tired.

I arranged the early afternoon appointments so I could go into work at CTV whenever I was on the schedule.

So through the winter of 1994, I left my then apartment at Yonge and St. Clair, took the subway and bus to Sunnybrook Hospital, had my radiation treatment and then took the hour long subway and bus ride to the CTV studios in Agincourt. Again, if I hadn't, I would have had no income. I worked my shift and although my friends know I am a bit of a tea addict, I got through those hours with even more tea than I normally do.

My friends at CTV were supportive. To the CTV corporation I was just another disposable writer.

I have been cancer free since the radiation treatment was complete in late March 1994.

I still go to see my oncologist once a year.

I left CTV and joined CBC, as a casual, in November 1994.

At CBC, of course, I have seen friends and colleagues also diagnosed with cancer and they have the full range of benefits, including short or long term disability leave and extended health care.

What is going to happen to casuals in the future if the triumvirate, Robert Rabinvotich, Richard Stursberg and Jane Chalmers get their way? Will we see them dragging themselves into the Toronto Broadcast Centre after their radiation or chemo treatments because they have no other way of paying the bills?

So as the spinners like Jason MacDonald spin what happened at Signal Hill over the last couple of days, let's remember that this is about people.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005
  CBC 84: CBC cancels, then spins Fox coverage

Updated Friday 0831 ET--John Gushue's report from St. John's
Second update Friday 1025 Lise Lareau in the guild newsletter

The CBC has cancelled its planned live coverage of events in St. John's NL, on the anniversary of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope.

In a news release on the Canada News Wire, the CBC said:

The CBC is disappointed to announce that, as a result of ongoing efforts by the Canadian Media Guild (CMG) to undermine the September 16 Terry Fox 25th Anniversary Special, the program will not carry coverage of events in St. John's, the city where Terry began
the Marathon of Hope in 1980. The program is being produced by Out to See Productions Inc., a Vancouver-based independent, outside production company. It has become clear that the CMG would require children participating in the events on Signal Hill to cross a picket line. As a result, in an effort to ensure that the Terry Fox anniversary events proceed without any disruption, the CBC, Out to See Productions and the Fox family made the difficult decision to cancel coverage from St. John's. The CBC is disappointed that the CMG would resort to using the Terry Fox 25th Anniversary Special, which benefits the Terry Fox Foundation, to make a political point in its labour negotiations
with the Corporation.

CBC says it will broadcast the rest of the show:

The CBC intends to fulfill its commitment to the Fox family and to the Terry Fox Foundation and will broadcast the rest of the commercial-free September 16 Terry Fox 25th Anniversary Special as planned.

Note what the CBC's chief spinmeister in the dispute, Jason MacDonald said: ""We're profoundly disappointed that the Canadian Media Guild would resort to using the Terry Fox 25th anniversary special . . . in an attempt to score political points in their labour negotiations with us."

Who locked us out?
Who is trying to score political points with a nasty news release?

And again, since this is an independent blog, I am not speaking for nor have I had contact with the CMG on this, I am asking was there any attempt by the CBC, out of respect for Terry Fox and what he means to this country, to negotiate any kind of truce or waiver for the special, especially since it was locked out CMG employees who had worked on it before the lockout? These kinds of waivers/truces have been negotiated in other labour disputes.

No the CBC went ahead and hired independent replacement workers, not only in Newfoundland, but across the country.

Now the CBC is back trying to blacken the reputation of its employees, a bad sign if we ever go back to work.

Note I said if.

John Gushue from St. John's tells it this way on his blog:

An independent production company, Out to Sea, withdrew its commissioned satellite truck from Signal Hill Thursday evening, after a CMG picket line prevented it from reaching the top of the hill where segments for Friday's broadcast were to have been shot.

As well, the crew hired in St. John's walked away from the production when they learned that it was to have been broadcast on CBC....

Bob Sharpe, president of the St. John's local of the CMG, told me this morning that the CBC's main objection is simply false.

"We wouldn't have forced children to cross picket lines," he said. "We would not have set up a hard picket line (today)....

Sharpe said the production "had a lot of cloak and dagger to it," in that locally hired crew did not know until the last moment "that the signal was going to CBC."

Site for St John's local of CMG

Lise Lareau has a complete account of the events in the Friday, September 16, Toronto Canadian Media Guild newsletter.

One key point Lise makes. If the CBC had wanted to do justice to the Terry Fox event it could have handed the program off to another network, as has happened in sports.

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  CBC 83: Martin, ministers won't cross CMG picket line at GG swearing-in
Bill Doskoch grabbed this story first, quoting Globe and Mail and says

PM says he doesn't cross picket lines, and wouldn't do so if CBC sets up one at GG-designate Michaelle Jean's forthcoming swearing-in.
"I don't cross picket lines," Mr. Martin, speaking to reporters at a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, said Thursday after rumours that the Canadian Media Guild is not ruling out setting up pickets outside the official ceremonies in Ottawa.

The Globe and Mail site updated the story at 1839 ET, (it is on a part of the public portion of the site) and the lead says:

Prime Minister Paul Martin says neither he nor his ministers will cross a CBC picket line set up outside of the Senate for governor-general designate Michaëlle Jean's swearing-in ceremony, which means the event may not proceed on Sept. 27 as planned.

This follows an earlier story by
Le Journal de Montreal that reported Thursday that Michaelle Jean has told friends she wouldn't cross a picket line of former colleagues.A live broadcast of the swearing-in is one of the things expected of the CBC under Corpse's mandate.

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  CBC 82: New manager joins Ouimet "cbcinside"

A new manager called "cbcinside" has accepted Ouimet's invitation to join the Teamakers blog.
But what a debut, a Freudian slip/typo saying I am NOT a manager instead of I am NOW a manager (see the second reference to what should be "now")
CBCinside's first post is here.
You will find more info on the slip in the comments.
Watch that space folks, things are getting interesting.

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  CBC 81: Call for boycott of CBC literary awards

In a blog posted this afternoon, This Magazine asks if artists should boycott this year's CBC literary awards.

The This Magazine blogger, Suzanne asks:

the idea of entering online during the ongoing labour dispute feels like crossing the picket line. What will it be writers -- ethics or a lottery-small chance of winning $6K?

She notes that there is now a new site for the Literary Awards, off the SRC server in Quebec, where, of course, there is no lockout.

The literary awards have always been a way for developing writers to make a mark, so what do they do? There is no lockout in Quebec and Moncton, so no virtual picket line to cross if the writer lives there--unless that writer wants to support lockedout writers across the rest of Canada.

There is the dilemma for Francophone artists outside that region. French services are cut off from French speaking communities across the country. Does a Francophone writer in Calgary or Vancouver enter Les Prix littéraires Radio-Canada?

What those writers should consider is their long term financial, literary and career goals. Even if they chose to freelance for the rest of their lives, a valid choice, then if they do decide to cross the virtual picketline, they will be be playing into the hands of bureaucrats who have little regard for creativity, bureaucrats who now and in the future want all rights from their work in all forms of media (including the data banks of the starship Enterprise) in perpetuity until the galaxy implodes and won't care if that writer, like some nineteenth century predecessor dies of consumption in a drafty attic.

The short term gain of being a winner under a cloud in this situation isn't worth it in the long run, is it?

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  CBC 80: Apres diner avec le PM

I am told that some of our still working Montreal colleagues were on one of those corporate retreats in rural Quebec recently when, unexpectedly, Prime Minister Paul Martin showed up at the same auberge for dinner. Afterward, Martin apparently came over to the CBC table and had a long chat with those who were there about the issues in the lockout from the ordinary worker's point of view. So it is likely be that he has had a briefing that hasn't been filtered through the top ranks at CBC corporate and the PMO.

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  CBC 79: The attack of the clones

CBC Drone has a thoughtful of analysis this morning of what's wrong with CBC management, The Corruption of Power

His main point is that the change wracked (wrecked?) by Robert Rabinvotich was a neo-con corporate agenda. Hence all those training sessions down in Niagara, the retreats, all those mandatory sessions to hear consultants reports.
Every department was conscripted into this business model...

Every department launched its own incredible series of management and leadership courses. Thousands of employees were sent to places like the Niagara Institute to determine their suitability for management, and to be brainwashed with neo con management theories -- that even then were out of date.

Other gatherings were held at CBC building all over the country, hotels, and country retreats. There were countless committees, studies, reports, $1000 dollars a day consultants, and one Mission Statement after the other.

It was management mania, and it went on for years
"Managers were now the stars," Drone says:

Soon a new management class emerged, and began enforcing this new management theology with a quasi-religious fervor that was both comical and deeply disturbing.

Those who tried to resist this exercise in corporate brainwashing were quickly marginalized, declared to be bad team players or negative influences.....Robbie's Great Leap Forward had morphed into a bizarre and oppressive cult of management.
The CBC had been turned on its head. It now existed to provide bragging rights for managers, rather than first class programming.

Let's put Drone, who is basically correct, in a wider perspective. There have been complaints about CBC bureaucracy for all 70 years of the Corpse's existence.
But there was a difference. Until Robert Rabinovitch, the top CBC bureaucracy was modelled on the mandarins that served Canada so well beginning at the time when William Lyon Mackenzie King got back into power in the after defeating Robert Borden in the Depression 1930s and reached its peak when he plucked C.D. Howe from the private sector to run Canada's war effort. Like all bureaucracies the Ottawa mandarinate, including the CBC branch, eventually became stale.

Perrin Beatty was a transition figure. The coming of first Rabinovitch and then Stursberg could be called the attack of the clones, changing the public bureaucratic model to an MBA-consultant-neocon model, which may (may) work if you're creating widgets but fails when you're creating programs.

I am a bit of a number cruncher, after all I taught Computer Assisted Reporting at Ryerson.

But in the end meeting after meeting, briefing after briefing seemed more like Stalinist or Maoist indoctrination sessions rather than briefings on the future of the Corporation. (And when the sessions were in a lecture hall on the 8th floor of the TBC, a couple of people told me they actually fall asleep.)

Drone is right. The triumvirate's model is based on the late 1990s models where CEOs were the stars, like the Pope, CEOs were supposed to be infallible. Then came the bust, the AOL Time Warner slide, the convergence fade, increasing corporate debt load etc. etc. That was followed the perp walk, where a few of those infallible (so far) American CEOs ended up in cuff in front of the cameras on their way to their local "Club Fed."

And now Drone has mentioned the whistleblowers. There is also increasing talk on the picket line in Toronto of a whistle blowing project that may soon have spectacular results.

Also I am told by reliable chatter that at least one "major metropolitan newspaper" has had its investigative team looking into the management of the CBC for at least the past three weeks. Like the whistleblowers, this team is said to be digging around outside the Niagara Institute. I know reliably that the MMN I-team is monitoring all the blogs. Since the MMN has good contacts in Ottawa, if the story comes together, expect material from the nation's capital as well.

(Hey Whistleblowers, if you're the same folks I have talk to on the line, want to let me in on the loop?)

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005
  CBC 78: CMG says "scabs" hired for Terry Fox broadcast

A company hired by the CBC to co-ordinate a broadcast Friday for the Terry Fox anniversary has been approaching retired CBC workers, according to the Canadian Media Guild.

Full report on John Gushue's Dot Dot Dot

This move may be nationwide. A producer in Manitoba said on a lockout mailing list that she got a call on from a production company asking if she could produce a two minute segment on Terry Fox and ship it to Toronto. The producer explained she was locked out and that would be considered "struck work." The company did not call back.

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  CBC 77: For best special effects in blogging, the nominees are....

And the winner is: Aigle of TBC Nights for her post "Subluminal"

Read it once.

In Windows hit Control A and read it again.

(With a Mac use your mouse to highlight the page)

(Thanks CBCworkerbee for the tip)

A great follow up to her ingenious ransom note post, Medea's Ultima.

The IT techs are more creative and flexible than the managers (but then we always knew that didn't we). Hell, she should be an executive producer in charge of new and wierd stuff at (that is, if she wants to do that sort of thing)

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  AP aims at youth with blogs, podcasts and new wire service

According to Wednesday's New York Times the Associated Press in the United States is launching a new news service aimed at younger readers that will include blogs and audio feeds (presumably podcasting of some sort).

You'll find the New York Times story here (for about the next two weeks until it disappears behind the paywall).

The Times article says:
On Monday, the 157-year-old wire service is to start its "younger audience service," offering articles and "experiences" in multimedia formats, with audio, video, blogs and wireless text aimed at reaching readers between 18 and 34 years old. The service, one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by The A.P., is called asap, pronounced letter by letter, meant to evoke the wire service's legendary speed.

So far 100 U.S. newspapers have signed up for the service, which comes out of AP's online service. Each paper will decide how to handle the feed.

You'll find the AP news release here on the staff running the service.

AP says:
The project, built on AP's journalism, is aimed at helping AP members reach the crucial young adult audience with bold and innovative online and print content. It is scheduled to launch next month.

If you read the bios of the editors, all but one are long term full time AP staff members, chosen from AP's flexible ranks to launch the new service. (and the exception is a former AP staffer returning after five years [presumably as staff] on an alternative weekly).

'Nuff said, right. Innovation comes from inside, from staff, not off the street.
Go AP! (and if the lockout is still on next month, the managers inside the TBC can probably read "asap" [no caps is correct] on Inews and learn a thing or two).

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  CBC 76: CBC privatized!

Gee no one noticed the IPO! Maybe that's why we're locked out.

Computer generated ad on Feedster.

Price Forecasts for: CBC. Will CBC stock close up or down tomorrow? See what other investors think.

So that's what happened to all those millions in wages they saved. It went to the merchant bank handling the IPO.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2005
  CBC 75: FREE OFFER: How to save the CBC

The lockout is now entering its 30th day. It is clear that this is no longer just a labour dispute. It is a battle to save public broadcasting in Canada and perhaps elsewhere on the planet.

Over the past few years the CBC has spent a lot of taxpayers money on consultants and studies to find out what the audience wants, why the audience is slipping away.

The answer may have appeared in the past few days, and in an indication of how the world is changing, it doesn't cost a cent. The link to the pdf file is at the bottom of this post.

Some of these ideas are in the “in the air” from the flexible lockoutees across the country. See Tod Maffin's own vision of a future for the CBC.

The good news is that some people inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre are also thinking along the same lines, according to Tod Maffin's e-mail interview with Ouimet:

..Rather than feeling threatened, a lot of people are excited about these podcasts and the "pirate" radio shows and the CBCunlocked site. Excited as in: "this is cool." I mean, all the creative people are out on the street, and we're all your fans. It only makes sense that we are interested in seeing what you do next.

So here's what I think we all should do next

First we have to discuss two points:

1. We ARE out of touch

The events of the past four weeks have shown we at the CBC are out of touch with a good many Canadians.

To "win back the audience," (if we even want to do that—this blog develop will question that concept) we must be able to speak with a majority of Canadians, including many fair small c conservatives, an audience which letters and blogs show the CBC has neglected.

The far right, who says we are out of touch, has vision that is much narrower than the majority of Canadians, even conservative Canadians. We must realize that we will never please the far right and move on.

Here is the problem: In many ways, we are speaking to Canadians, we are not speaking with Canadians.

Remember all those rookie lectures on radio, that radio is a conversation? Somewhere along the way some people at CBC have forgotten that.

We've all attended those mandatory seminars on how market share is shrinking. The problem with those reports is that they written by consultants (more on that later) and are talking about market share, not people.

But what brings it home is the post-lockout Decima poll.

The poll says:

Some of my colleagues (mainly from CBC Radio) genuinely expected an outcry from Canadians when the lockout killed most of the programming. It didn't happen.

But so is everybody else

Everyone is out of touch.
All network viewing is down, especially among the key demographic, the next generation. Private television and radio are also talking to Canadians, not with Canadians. In many cases they are shouting at Canadians.

We now have a narrow chance to change all that. Perhaps a month. If the right people listen.

2. Senior management's plan is so obsolete it is rusty

Current senior management at CBC has always talked about flexibility in terms of disposable people. In his op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail, CBC president Robert Rabinovitch spoke of replacing someone on a three year cycle. That shows he doesn't get it, that there is a basic flaw in senior management's thinking.

Things are moving too fast even for that. By the time you fire and hire, things will have already changed again. You can't wait. You need creative permanent staff who can turn on a dime, take a new idea and run with it right away. If you have to react by posting a job, convening a board and negotiating a short-term contract, your competitors, and not just your competitors in the Main Stream Media, will have already adapted.

(In his podcast on the future of the CBC Tod Maffin puts it in a slightly different context. He says hire smart people. He gives the example of Home Depot who hires and pays experienced people who know their products rather than cheap, minimum wage staff who don't).

A good example is an efficient, adaptable, well trained military force. One day they are fighting a forest fire, the next day they are fighting a war, on day three they are doing flood relief, day four organizing and marching in a parade for a visiting head of state and on day five on a peacekeeping mission. (Okay so I exaggerate the day-by-day stuff but you get the point). Imagine if any army, navy or air force hired and fired not only its privates and sailors but its non-commissioned officers (the backbone of any force), its lieutenants, majors, captains, colonels and commodores on the same basis that the CBC management wants to hire and fire its staff?

I have to keep coming back to the memo that came out of the Canadian Cable Television Association in 1996. It is a 1996 plan for the CBC, no matter who wrote it. (My first post is here, and the follow-up here)

It is an early-1990s specialty channel plan written by people who didn't notice the first Internet boom was beginning. It is a plan forged in Ottawa among bureaucrats, executives and lobbyists, a plan made to fit into some forgotten communications strategy, a strategy now likely stored (and protected from gathering dust) in an acid-free box in the National Archives. It's as out-of-date as a nearby box with a document outlining Sir John A. Macdonald's plan for a telegraph line to follow the CPR.

For those who don't get it in 2005, both inside and outside the CBC, the three specialty channel idea has magnetic appeal.

So what happens now?

All we need to know, at least for today, is in a small free PDF file (yes I keep teasing you). That may change next month, but if we want to save the CBC on Day 30, keep reading.

Seth Godin might be considered a blogging guru. (I'll link to him in a minute) After all his blog is number 90 on the Technorati list of top 100. (As of the moment I am writing this I am at 89,977.)

A short while ago, he released on short e-book on blogging, and so, being a blogger, I downloaded and read it. And read it again. And realized that here is that free gift that might just save the CBC.

So here are my interpretations of Godin's observations and recommendations, as they apply to our crisis.

The mainstream media is dying.


Godin says; “all printing presses are created equal. And everyone owns one...a good idea on a little blog has a very good chance of spreading. In fact, an idea outside the mainstream media might have a better chance of spreading.”

He asks: “Remember Dan Rather?”

He says lousy blogs don't get read. There is too much choice these days. The reader is selfish. Good ideas spread, bad ideas just sit there.

Good bloggers are echoed

Godin says that Cory Doctorow is the Dan Rather of this age. A locked out chase producer may know who Cory Doctrow is. Has anyone in management ever heard of him? Although he is now a citizen of the world, Cory is Canadian!! I used to buy books from him when he was a sales clerk at Bakka, the science fiction bookstore in downtown Toronto. Now he is one of the three people who run the most popular blog on the planet, Boing Boing.

A couple of years ago a senior manager decided wouldn't do blogs. Why? Because a consultant told him Canadians didn't like blogs. (The decision has since been modified). And the number one blogger on the planet is Canadian! (Okay so I am pushing the envelope just a bit)

Now we know why CBC management doesn't get it.

Back to Godin. A good idea is echoed quickly, he says, picked up by blogs and discussed, revisited, linked and linked back.

Money Quote: “if these bloggers get lazy or stupid or selfish, their audience will flee. They will flee faster than they fled CBS.” Get it? (just substitute one letter)

Money Quote 2: Managers get this tattooed on what ever part of the body you feel is appropriate. “If you write something great and you do it over and over again, you will be unstoppable.” Isn't that what our multi-million dollar news study said? People want stories.

Godin's third law: WITH and FOR not AT and TO.

Tattoo this somewhere else appropriate.

“When you write to your audience or at your audience, you've made it really clear you think they are the other and you think they are yours.”

I hate to say it, but that sums up what is wrong with a lot of the story and assignment meetings I have attended. Although there lots of good ideas in those meetings, too often, especially in television, the great ideas, the slightly off the wall ideas, are rejected.

Why? So that the CBC can go on talking at Canadians, not with Canadians. This is why radio has more loyalty than TV. Radio reaches out more than TV does.

Money Quote 3.

“Nobody gets to be Dan Rather, ever again. But the audience desperately wants you to be a leader, to stand up for something, to speak up, to insert new ideas and challenging thoughts into their conversations...the days of the media for everyone are long gone. We miss you Walter Cronkite...So if you weird me or disrespect me, I'm out of here.”

Now Godin is talking to bloggers about blogging. But who are those examples? Broadcasters.

And yeah, I have been reading too many blogs (not just the anonymous vipers) in the past four weeks to not realize yeah, in some ways we have “disrespected” some in Canada. We probably didn't mean to. We work very hard at making things work, but sometimes the process takes over and becomes more important than the story.
(Gee isn't that something else the news study said?)

Small is beautiful

The CBC is big. Godin says small works in the 21st century. I'll let you read that section of his E-book. But his last piece of advice in that section is “Get small. Think big.” ( Read that whole section in the e-book. I'll tell you how I think the CBC can do that in a minute)

Why management failed

We've spent millions of taxpayers dollars on consultants, focus groups and studies.

And the CBC is in the biggest mess in its 70-year history.

Godin says and this applies to the CBC: “Companies said they were listening but they were really using focus groups to justify what they were going to do in the first place.” (He says when it came to cars, Detroit stacked its focus groups with what management wanted to hear)

He says: “TV is down, radio is down but customers telling their friends is up.”

Money Quote 4: Tattoo this somewhere as well. “The most important talking is story telling. Not top-down dictation, but stories that resonate, stories that are authentic, stories that spread.”

Godin is offering the world for free what the CBC spent millions to find out in the news study.

It is what the CBC does best when it is at its best.

“Talking directly to your unhappy customers is up too.” Yeah. And the CBC doesn't do that either. The Observer and Peter Preston responded to my complaint in less than 24 hours. The CBC Ombudsman takes months. That doesn't mean the CBC bows to interest groups or nut cases. But over all the Corpse hasn't been listening.

Godin's conclusion:

“If your organization isn't watching what is being said about you in blogosphere,you're in big trouble. Instead of learning, you're clueless. Instead of being able to fix problems before they snowball, you're waiting for an avalanche. And instead of amplifying the news, you're going to fade to black.” (Gee another broadcaster's analogy).

If you care about your brand and your career and impact you need a blog....

(If Robert Rabinovitch or Richard Stursberg or Jane Chalmers, the triumvirate, got it, they'd be be blogging. NO, if they really got they wouldn't have locked us out in the first place and triggered the blog war. The only person inside who gets it is Ouimet. But then there are the leakers who feed info to bloggers like me and others. They're beginning to get it.)

A lot of people who didn't like the CBC were blogging and as I said it wasn't just the those anonymous vipers from the far right, but across the whole spectrum of Canada. Did we pay attention? No.

Godin's big finish

Over time, take your readers on a journey. Teach them what they'd like to them to know and the rest will take care of itself.

(Hmmm didn't someone say that around a campfire in front of cave about eight thousand years ago??)

Robin's solution for the CBC

The CBC is a public broadcaster. It has to have that conversation with Canadians. Let the privates talk to and at Canadians and pick up what money they can doing it..

A lot of good people at CBC news have never understood the logic about getting out of local news (except that the privates are lobbying Ottawa because they don't want the competition).

It is the local reporters who know what is happening, know what stories may have national impact. That's why radio works and TV is faltering. You can't tell a story properly by parachuting in a national reporter at the last minute. Often it is the local reporter, the great story teller, who is plucked from the regions to tell the national stories. Where are those reporters going to come from if there is a centralized (dare I say elite) CBC? The local private stations, of course. (That is if, in the future, they still want to work for CBC. What if they have a choice of a permanent staff job at a local station and uncertain contractual status at the elite CBC news channel?)

Forget the three specialty channel concept. It's obsolete, a decade out of date and it was pretty worthless even then.

Get back local and really local. Have as many bureaus as possible across the country, radio and TV and Internet. (There was a plan like that once, it was killed. It should be resurrected) Take on the local privates where they don't want to compete: in real stories about real people, instead of the latest traffic accident conveniently close to the station, or fire or shooting or celebrity visitor.

The CBC should be like the old beat reporter, the old beat cop, who knows the neighborhood. Talk with everyone in the neighborhood from far right to far left, from the senior citizen to the kindergarten kid. Not all the stories may make the afternoon radio drive show or World Report or the National. But the story would make it if CBC expanded the local websites. The chain newspapers in Canada don't get it, no matter how good they are in print (and some of them are quite good) they're stupid and lazy on the web, they're shovelware or behind paywalls. People want a conversation. Only CBC can provide it.

Get reporters and story tellers. Why is it in a news organization like the CBC, the assignment desk is always scrambling to find reporters? Are we news gatherers or news processors? If that means more training do it. If that means expanding so there are more print stories for people who aren't that right for on-air, do it, that's where the audience is anyway.

Blog. Blog, blog and blog. What has the last month proved? Blogging works, podcasting works.

I respectfully disagree with Tod when he says put The House on TV. CBC should blog The House, and not just on Saturdays, but every day. (ABC News online's most successful feature is The Note blog that takes the reader inside Washington. It is now also a podcast called the Afternote)

If the lineup editor of The National cuts a story back to VO, blog it. It could get a bigger audience than The National itself. If a reporter is in the middle of nowhere and has an interesting day while working on a doc, blog that too.

One last word from Godin: "Being better has nothing to do with following conventions."

Okay, as promised here is the link to his e-book

Here is his blog.

and here is the link to his site.

I hope someone up there (I mean the seventh floor) is listening, really listening.

Note 1: I don't allow comments, but I do publish e-mails. So reaction is invited.
Note 2: I don't know the actual cost of the news study. I just know everyone on the fourth floor assumed it was millions.

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  CBC 74: Will Fred and Krista be sacrificial lambs?

Chatter emerging from inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre seems to indicate that there may be an uncertain future for Fred Mattocks and Krista Harris, as a result of the infamous memo about how to treat picketers.

The key phrase was:
there should be no other managers or other non-CMG staff visiting the line, nor should there be any attempts to "improve the mood" on the line, by providing food or drink, for example. It's very important, if there is a lock-out, that we bring a quick resolution to the work stoppage. A quick resolution will be helped by picketers focussing on the reality of their situation. Making things more comfortable for the picketers does not support this goal.

CBC, of course, later backed down on those recommendations.

Some inside speculation is asking: if Mattocks and Harris are the focus of employee hostility, how can they function in their roles as operations managers once there is a return to work? The speculation is asking: Will they be asked to fall on their swords to ensure some harmony?

There are also those inside who are asking: "Were they [Fred and Krista] just following orders?" After all, the memo was a summary of a conference call where other managers took part. From this side it appears those insiders want responsiblity for the memo placed on the bigger desks; that there is even more substance to the speculation that senior management did expect a quick and easy victory, that senior management expected picketers would be quickly demoralized if their lives were made as miserable as possible.

Since I wrote my Master's Thesis on Command Responsibility, the answer is that the president of the corporation, Robert Rabinovitch, and Richard Stursberg and Jane Chalmers as those directly in charge of English television and radio, are ultimately responsible for the lockout itself and any resulting actions.

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Monday, September 12, 2005
  CBC 73: Pessimism inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre

Senior management had another briefing inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre today. There are few details available at this time of what actually was said in the session but I am told by two sources that after the briefing the gloomy mood inside the TBC was pessimistic. The inside scuttlebutt is calling for the lockout to last at least another three to four weeks, perhaps longer.

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  CBC 72: Disaster planning: Truce or consequences
(This post could be called "serious chatter." My sources inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre cannot confirm this. However since this report is being discussed on the picket line, it is worth posting, but solely as another intelligence report and as an indication of the mood in Toronto)

There are reports circulating in Toronto that senior management, after failing to deal with Hurricane Katrina, are discussing a tentative major disaster coverage plan that would be implemented in the case of an event like another natural disaster or a major attack. This may be rumour, a trial balloon or a leak of an actual plan.
As noted these reports cannot be confirmed.

The information is that the plan calls for management, in the event of such an event, to open the door but under "Posted Conditions," in effect using the disaster as a chance to break the union. The idea is apparently that, at least for news personnel, their professionalism would oblige them to cross the picket line and return to work and, if the union members did not, give management a "high ground" in the battle for public opinion.

CMG officials I spoke to felt such a move was unlikely, but if it did happen, it would be vigorously opposed.

Analysis: It would be best for all concerned-- if this idea is actually being discussed in the TBC--that it not go beyond the discussion stage.

First, it would breach the "firefighters" analogy that I have been using, where firefighters involved in job action voluntarily return to work in the event of a major event, in effect, calling a temporary truce. As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, it would take not long , if both sides were willing, to negotiate some sort of temporary return in the event of a disaster.*

Second, posting conditions in a disaster, if it happened, would also further the damage long term employee relations at the CBC, cause even more hostility toward management and be another black eye for the already troubled network.

*I spoke briefly to a member of the United Steelworkers from Sudbury who visited the line last Friday. He was orginally a member of the Mine, Mill and Smelterworkers Union, which has merged with Steel. In 1975, I was covering the Mine Mill strike at Falconbridge. The strike was still ongoing when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau instituted wage and price controls, which began at midnight on the evening of the announcement. Both sides went to the table and reached an agreement in a few hours, just beating the deadline. So if there is a will, there is a way.

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  Media job fair in Toronto Sept 29-30
(Copy of news release just e-mailed to me)

The Innoversity Creative Summit has attracted key hiring managers
to a Media Career Job Fair on September 29-30, Holiday Inn Hotel,
King St., Toronto.

Innoversity emphasizes the benefit and need for diversity in
Canadian media and acts as a bridge between those who run the
media and those who want to become part of it. The Creative
Summit offers excellent opportunities for networking and the job fair
is a part of its annual gathering, now in its fourth year.

The people who hire workers in Canada's broadcast and newspaper
industry will participate in the first ever Media Career Fair at this
year's Innoversity Creative Summit, September 29-30, at the Holiday
Inn Hotel on King Street in Toronto.

Thirteen hiring managers from television, radio and newspapers will
host booths providing information about jobs and careers in their
organizations. Media executives will be on hand to discuss job
opportunities and provide career guidance throughout the Creative
Summit. Attendees will also be able to book 15 minutes of private
time with a broadcast executive.

Media executives who want to ensure that their workplaces are more
diverse, and that their organizations have access to the best talent in
the country, requested the expanded emphasis on careers at this
years' summit. Astral, CanWest Global, CHUM, CORUS, CTV, FLOW-FM,
FRONT TV, KODAK, OMNI, The Weather Network, Standard Radio,
Telefilm, and Vision TV are just a few of the organizations taking part.
The Innoversity Career Fair is sponsored by CanWest Global.

Innoversity initiatives are already credited with reducing barriers
between the broadcast media and independent creative
professionals from under-represented backgrounds. The summit
welcomes media professionals, creative entrepreneurs and students
from all cultural backgrounds.

"To an outsider, the media industry can appear to be closed and
even mind-boggling", says Cynthia Reyes, co-founder and Acting
Chair of Innoversity. "Our goal is to help the Canadian media to de-
mystify career opportunities in TV, Radio, Film, Print and New Media
industries, and connect talented people to a wide range of

Reyes points to two recent studies that highlight the under-
representation of Aboriginals, Visible Minorities and People with
Disabilities in most roles in the media. The Innoversity Career Fair
responds to those findings and recommendations, made by the
Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and Women in Film
and Television Toronto, (WIFT-T) whose recent study also
highlighted the many areas in which women are still
under-represented in the film and broadcast industry.

Cynthia Reyes and Hamlin Grange founded the not-for-profit
Innoversity Creative Summit in 2000. Before their starting their
consulting company, DiversiPro Inc., Grange worked as a journalist
at the Toronto Star, Global TV, TVO and the CBC, while Reyes
worked as an executive producer, journalism trainer, and as both a
program and management consultant at the CBC.

Innoversity is a not-for profit organization with a board of directors
and a steering committee from the media and community.

Cynthia Reyes
260 Carlaw Ave, S. 202B
Toronto M4M 3L1
Tel: 416-461-6895
Fax: 416-461-8970
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  CBC 71: CBC lockout becomes issue in Ford talks with CAW

CAW President Buzz Hargrove took a break this afternoon from the talks with Ford of Canada to visit the picket line in front of the Toronto Broadcast Centre.

Hargrove told the large crowd, assembled for a concert by the Bare Naked Ladies an hour later, that CAW had learned that Ford of Canada was planning a "Welcome Back Hockey" ad campaign on the CBC in the coming weeks. Hargrove said the negotiators at the talks with Ford, which he said were going well, have asked Ford to shelve the campaign while 5,500 members of the Canadian Media Guild are locked out. If Ford didn't agree to the CAW request, Hargrove said the union would "take action." He gave no details.

Update: Ford and the CAW did reach agreement early Monday evening. Reuters report.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005
  Al Jazeera English service recruitment ads

Al Jazeera's English language service has published a big job ad in UK papers. As readers can see from the list, the jobs would appeal both to the locked out as well as to some locked in managers, who may be seeking new challenges. The ads are calling for:

Jobs were posted on September 9, closing date is September 19.
Locations are Doha, London, Washington and Kuala Lumpur.

Pdf copy of Al Jazeera newspaper ad

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  CBC 70: Is Stursberg our Robespierre?
(After I posted information on Friday about the 1996 “Future of the CBC” memo, I received a number of e-mails telling me that Richard Stursberg had consistently denied the importance of the memo. Without access to research databases I was unable to confirm that beyond the Globe and Mail story I had access to. However, late Friday, a source sent me a research package. Thanks)

Richard Stursberg...has the intellectual sharpness and political astuteness to transform the CBC. He would likely be a Robespierre. Heads would roll. The CBC would carry no more advertising. Its regional operations would be shut down. And the English TV network would be transformed into three channels: 1) Entertainment & Arts; 2) Documentaries; 3) Newsworld. That would be a start.

That was written by Matthew Fraser, then a media columnist for the National Post on October 27, 1998, at a time when Richard Stursberg was making his second run at a top executive job at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

At the time Matthew Fraser was referring to the 1996 memo from a meeting of the Canadian Cable Television Association called “The Future of the CBC” that like the proverbially bad penny keeps showing up whenever Stursberg is involved in controversy.


The leaked Future of the CBC memo caused a storm when it first appeared in May 1996. According to Antonia Zerbisias, writing in the Toronto Star on June 6, 1996, the memo almost derailed labour negotiations with SRC Quebec and could have triggered a strike, until the managers then negotiating with the union convinced them that they too were in the dark about the memo.

What caused the problem was that at the time, Stursberg was rumoured to be in line for the then proposed new position of CBC “Chief Operating Officer.”

In an interview with Zerbisias, Stursberg said:
"Those were some notes that were put together on the back of an envelope. They were never sent to anybody. They never were discussed.
"It's been blown totally out of proportion."

And that is what Stursberg had told Tony Atherton of the Ottawa Citizen a month earlier on May 9, 1996.
"I made a series of notes to myself ... about what the bits and pieces of the elements of (another) option might be.... These notes that I have were my personal notes. Some of this I agree with, and some of it I am not sure I entirely agree with,'' said Stursberg. "They were not intended to be a particular proposition. They were intended really as a basis for having a discussion and, frankly, nothing came of it.''

Atherton, however, quoted his own sources as saying
Stursberg arranged a small gathering of representatives from private broadcasting, specialty channels, telephone companies and independent producers. At the meeting, says the source, he presented a three-page document, titled The Future of the CBC, outlining provocative changes to the public broadcaster, and sought endorsement of the proposals.

Stursberg told Atherton: “that arranging the meeting was a personal initiative that had nothing to do with his work at the cable association. Its purpose, he said, was to see whether there was interest in forming a consensus on what the future of the CBC should be.”

So it appears that the Future of the CBC memo (original on Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, pdf) is authentic and is likely the minutes of that meeting arranged by Richard Stursberg. Does it reflect his views? Since I was not in the meeting, I can't report what happened there but it is worth noting that a chairperson as intelligent, astute and strong-willed as Richard Stursberg can usually manage the direction of any meeting.

More from Stursberg:

A selection of information and quotes.

In the National Post on March 14, 2005 in response to CBC critics

The issue is purely economic: Canadian private broadcasters' economic model is based on importing cheap U.S. programming, inserting Canadian commercials and simulcasting it for profit. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's hardly the way to increase the exposure of Canadian programs. The simple fact is that only the CBC can be the cornerstone of a solution to the crisis in English-Canadian drama on television. That's because only the CBC has the mandate and the shelf space to broadcast large amounts of high-quality, high-impact, popular and distinctively Canadian entertainment programming at a time when most people are able to watch: in the heart of prime time.
And later in the same column:

While there are more and more channels out there, in some ways there's less and less real choice: The flip side of media fragmentation is media convergence and concentration of ownership. In this kind of environment, it's vital to ensure that there is a public space for information, analysis and debate.
He concludes by saying:
Economists use the term "market failure" to describe the phenomenon by which activities that contribute to society are not provided by the commercial marketplace. That's an apt description of the Canadian television landscape. It explains why, according to surveys, nine out of 10 respondents believe CBC Television is an essential service.

Robert Rabinovitch to Antonia Zerbisias on why he hired Richard Stursberg (and not Slawko Klymkiw) (Toronto Star July 22, 2004)
"I don't pretend that I'm an expert on programming - but I know a thing or two about television," he told me yesterday.
"This is fundamentally a managerial challenge."
"The biggest thing is creating a environment where creativity can work," said Rabinovitch. "I hired a creative thinker. I didn't hire a programmer. We have those here and we'll get others as we need them."

Richard Stursberg to Katherine Monk of the Vancouver Sun September 23, 2003, on his plans, while head of Telefilm, to make Canadian movies more commercial.

"We're still going to make movies for the intellectual 50-year-old who listens to CBC. We're not losing anything”
Money Quote: Richard Stursberg to Rod McQueen of the Financial Post on Monday October 30, 2000, after he lost his job at Cancom when it was taken over by Shaw:
It's quite liberating for the first time in 25 or 30 years to suddenly not have a job to go to. It allows you to think about and talk about stuff in a way that you feel much less constrained."

Is the 1996 memo relevant in 2005?

The opening point of the memo, as I said on Friday, is telling:

The new CBC must be able to deal with a multi-channel universe and have the flexibility to respond to market conditions.
If I was a prosecutor, that is the phrase I would use in any summation to a jury; “flexibility to respond to market conditions,” is the very phrase senior management keeps using in its argument for the casualization of the CBC.

Despite the earlier denials, everything that has happened in the past year seems to indicate that the Senior Management Committee is roughly following that 1996 three-page Future of the CBC memo.

On one hand, management says the fragmentation of the media is the reason for the lock out. How then does the CBC provide, as Stursberg argued in the National Post just last spring, “public space for information, analysis and debate” if the producers are wondering how long their jobs will last?

Almost all the information I received refers to Stursberg as a strong advocate of convergence, he once praised the Time Warner AOL deal (before the AOL managers found they couldn't run TV, movies and magazines and power reverted to the creators) and before becoming head of Telefilm, called for its privatization.

So what has gone wrong?

In my view, despite his long track record in the media (never as a producer always as a bureaucrat or executive) Stursberg, it seems, is still stuck in 1996 and using a 1990s corporate and convergence model.

It is interesting to note that in May 1996, the same month that the memo leaked in Ottawa, there was one designer, two writers (including myself) and technical genius named Eric Sellers who did everything starting to put together Newsworld Online. (Our first supervising producer would come on a couple of weeks later).

Stursberg and Rabinovitch have always looked from the top down.

I doubt that they know, as blogging guru Seth Godin notes, that on September 24, 2004 a Google check showed 24 matches for podcast. When Godin wrote his hot hot (and free) how to blog guide, there were more than 17 million references to podcast. (As of 1214 ET Saturday September 10, Google returned 52,900,000 references for podcast)

So I am going to return to what I said in Sailing into Uncertainty, where I reported the impression that the Senior Management Committee had no vision and were so uncertain of the world ahead that they wanted to hire and fire just to cover their own mistakes.

The first scenario that comes to mind is from what I mentioned earlier, The Guns of August,when in August 1914, there were the last cavalry charges against rows of machine guns.

But I also can't help thinking of Bruce Ismay, the CEO of the White Star line, telling Captain Edward Smith of the Titanic to make full speed for New York so the ship could break the Atlantic crossing record.

If there is a vision, it is as out-of-date as a general ordering cavalry to charge machine guns; it as misguided as those who thought the Titanic was unsinkable and could go right ahead at full steam into an ice field.

Note to programming managers locked inside. Rabinovitch said: "We have those here and we'll get others as we need them." Are you next for a 90-day contact?

And finally, why did Matthew Fraser chose Robespierre as the analogy for Richard Stursberg?

Robespierre, of course, believed that he and only he had in his hands the vision for the moral future of France. He was prepared to sacrifice anyone who got in his way. In the end, Robespierre threatened everyone around him and he too was arrested and he too went to the guillotine.

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  CBC 69: Dates to watch
Updated: 1640 ET September 10

Key dates to watch:

*Hockey Night in Canada is scheduled to return on October 8, which I and others originally reported. Plans for call for coverage of two games. However, October 15 keeps appearing in the media and other sources as a second possible start date. Could it be that plans for October 8 are still uncertain, especially the second game?
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  CBC 68: How to insult a province

(Note: I said earlier in this blog that if anyone from the CBC wishes to respond officially to any posting they are welcome to do so. I am repeating that now. The address is on the right hand column. After all, I do get unofficial responses. Any official response, as long as it comes from a address and can be verified will be posted)

Senior management at the CBC has managed to insult a large number of people in the province of Prince Edward Island.

And the prime author of all this appears to be Fred Mattocks, TV executive director of production and resources, the likely co-author of the infamous "Fred and Krista" make their lives miserable on the picket line memo.

This is what happened according to an e-mail I received from PEI reporter Pat Martel and information posted on the PEI lockout blog Lockedoutx2.

Earlier this week, PEI Premier Pat Binns ordered flags across the province to be lowered to half mast out of respect for Gary Robichaud. The former NDP leader died after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Despite his illness, Robichaud took time two weeks ago to visit the picket line and offer his support for public broadcasting.

Lockedout PEI CBC staff contacted their regional manager who is in currently in Toronto to get the flag lowered outside CBC Charlottetown.

Martel says: "The manager agreed it was an appropriate gesture. An hour later he called back to say the request had gone to the top and Heritage Canada was now involved, but the manager was still working on it."

At that point, Martel says, they decided to lower the flag themselves, formed a circle and lowered the Maple Leaf.

Martel goes on to say that the remaining resident CBC manager emerged from the PEI plant: "waving an email from upper management, Fred Mattocks. He said there was protocol--and that we had no right to lower the flag. We were given five minutes to raise the flag--or security would do it. We refused, so the guard raised the flag. Fortunately the incident was photographed, and the story given to the local paper."

Nancy Russell in her PEI blog adds: "He [Mattocks] said it was a federal building and therefore not bound by any provincial decree".

Wonder if Mattocks checked with the PMO before he made that ruling? Paul Martin may be calling Robert Rabinovitch to say the CBC president should call Premier Binns and the Robichaud family and apologize.

More on Mattocks.

Most of the people who on August 14 worked for had no love for Fred Mattocks even before he was revealed as the author of the make their lives miserable memo.

That comes from a B.S. (before Stursberg that is, not the cow stuff) statement that Mattocks made to the annnual training seminar for staff called "WebEd."

At a opening plenary, a producer asked the many assembled managers on the stage of the Toronto Convention Centre when staff, many of whom have experience in the field, would get out of the office and be able to do some reporting along with the other two "media lines."

Mattocks snapped back with one sharp word: "Never." And then, after a couple of moments of reflection, went on to say something about how unnecessary it was with TV and radio reporters already in the field.

A few months later on October 2, 2003 two Canadian soliders will killed by a land mine outside Kabul, Afghanistan. It was a busy day, as anyone can imagine, but during a lull I took a moment to check the to see if there was new photography column on their photo and video page.

What I saw was a video interview from just the day before by a member of the Post's online staff with Sgt. Robert Alan Short, 42, of Fredericton, one of the casualties.

On such a day it took a few minutes to catch the attention of that day's producer for The National, but soon the CBC Washington bureau was in touch with the Post. The Post story quickly moved to the front page of the online edition and the video was also picked up by Global, CTV and CHUM and still screen captures moved by AP.

Two months later, I was in Boston at the narrative journalism conference where I spoke to a senior producer for the He told me that what the Canadian media paid the online service for the rights to use the video paid for their VJ's trip to Afghanistan with some left over.

When Richard Stursberg, the convergence guy, became Executive VP, he was in a meeting of senior managers when a group of them apparently began their usual put downs of the online service and staff. Stursberg, according to people who were present, told them (not so politely I understand) that they were wrong, said he had plans to make more prominent in the CBC universe and that if online wanted assign people to the field, they could.

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Friday, September 09, 2005
  CBC 67: Photoshop picket line

I received the photo below from one of our locked-out technical guys in beautiful British Columbia. It's a transmission tower. And since the only way in is by helicopter, the picket sign has been added by PhotoShop or a similar program. Now that has been made clear, and it's all ethical, enjoy the view!

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  CBC 66: Is this Stursberg's vision for a shrunken CBC?

After my post yesterday Sailing into Uncertainty, which reported the overall impression that there is no vision at the highest levels of the CBC, one of my sources sent me an urgent e-mail saying there may be a vision of a shrunken CBC and that this vision may be behind all the current "management disruption" at the CBC.

In July 2004, soon after Richard Stursberg was the surprise choice for Executive Vice President over Slawko Klymkiw, executive director of network programming, the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting circulated a leaked, internal, unsigned 1996 document from the Canadian Cable Television Association that outlined a barebones CBC. At the time of the memo in 1996, Richard Stursberg was head of the cable TV association.

You will find the document Future of CBC here (pdf file).

The opening phrase of the document says (my emphasis added)
The new CBC must be able to deal with a multi-channel universe and have the flexiblity to respond to market conditions.

The document calls for the CBC to shrink, to "serve specific tastes and interests." It wanted three and only three basic channels

It then goes on to say
The majority of production--with the exception of news--should be contracted out to the private sector. Regional production centres and facilities would be wound up.

It says that some of that private production should be "regionally balanced" without saying how that could be done.

And then, as you would expect from a cable lobby group it says:
The CBC should-when technology permits-move off over-the-air broadcasting and be delivered exclusively through cable and DTH [Direct to Home satellite]

Yeah I am sure the people in New Orleans depended on their local cable company when the water was rising.

Its conclusion was echoing what many have talked about over the past few years, turning CBC television into a video version of CBC Radio (but the memo fails to note that almost all production with CBC Radio has, until recently, been internal).

Gayle MacDonald of the Globe and Mail questioned Stursberg about the document. He told her, in a report published on July 24, 2004:
"As I recall, these were some notes of a conversation that had taken place between a number of people who were chatting."

Unfortunately, the former Telefilm Canada executive director could not recall who else was in the room (other than to say "some private broadcasters") to help formulate the three-page document that caused much hand-wringing and consternation when it was leaked to the media in 1996. "I can't even remember, this is such a small thing," said the 55-year-old Ottawa mandarin. "Imagine this. You're sitting in a room with a bunch of people and some subject comes up -- what should we do about the [CBC] deficit? People say, 'We should do this or that.' Someone writes down all the ideas."

Stursberg then told MacDonald:
Stursberg said he firmly disagrees with any of the suggestions made in the memo, adding: "I didn't agree with some of the measures in the first place. I do not believe we should be out of advertising, out of regional, that we should come off the air and be made into a big specialty channel. I believe none of that.

"It was a free-form discussion just about various ideas people had been thinking about the CBC. That's what it was. Nothing more. It's not a report by me. The thing was blown out of proportion eight years ago, and it's not terribly interesting."

And now we see that actions speak louder than words.

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  CBC 65: "honest broadcasts" (via Googlebot)
Did a last minute Technorati search and found a Japanese language post about the "CBC strike."

For the fun of it I ran it through the Google translation 'bot. A bit convoluted (actually very convoluted) as you would expect when a computer translates from Japanese to English. The poster is a Japanese student who has just arrived in Vancouver.

But here is one phrase I liked that the Googlebot rendered:
...CBC, when it cannot do most honest broadcasts.....broadcasts the BBC that way and, even then the time when it is left over has let flow the former documentary....

Out of the mouths of 'bots....

You'll find the original post here.

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  CBC 64: "Workerbee" calls for binding arbitration
My fellow blogger CBCWorkerbee has called for binding arbitration in the dispute with the CBC. Two comments posted on the site also agree with the poor tired person (who did 16 hours on the line at a stretch on Thursday)

CBCworkerbee puts it ths way, his father explaining (without mentioning the profession) a labour dispute he was involved in:
No," he said. "With us it could only ever go to binding arbitration." He explained to me that in a civilized country, in a civilized age, we should go about our business in a civilized fashion.

and then goes on to:
Brace yourselves: The reason they never came up with an agreement is because THEY KNOW THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO. If they were forced into binding arbitration neither side could resort to a strike or lockout. Management could not count on forcing us into a lockout situation in an effort to break the union. Both sides would be rather more motivated to come up with a deal in the time that they had. Lest an arbitrator do it for them.

A couple of days ago, Brit blogger Michael Bywater compared journalists to firefighters and, after reading that, based on my experience as a police reporter, I also called for arbitration or binding arbirtration.

Both sides can voluntarily agree to arbitration.

But the triumvirate (Rabinovitch, Stursberg and Chalmers) plus their enforcer George Smith apparently think they're winning, (winning what???) so, as CBCworkerbee says, they know they don't have to compromise.

I am sure the cabinet can send this to arbitration or binding arbitration, if the Prime Minister and the guys and gals around that table would stop dithering.

But there is, at this time, no political pressure to save the CBC, so they will dither, dither, dither.

The bloggers have now given the Senior Management Committee two chances to save the Canadian Broadcasting Corpoation.

The first was a Katrina related, face-saving truce.

Now we have two independent calls for arbitration. If there was an arbitration agreement we could go back to work and save the CBC while the now three sides work things out.

Reject arbitration and that is strike two. Three strikes and.....

Note to CBCWorkerbee: In another blog you said:

I'm one of those sad, annoying people that Robin Rowland was talking about in his Fort Confusion post who feels that working for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is bit of a vocation. (Not sure Robin quite meant it as a compliment, though...)

What I said was:
there is a core of CBC employees for whom working there is a vocation, a calling. It these people who sometimes irritate the public and even their fellows at CBC.)

Actually Workerbee, most people did take it as a compliment and sent me e-mail to thanking me for reminding them that in this time of trouble, they do have a vocation.

When I am now emphasizing the word sometimes, I am referring to those people who sent nasty e-mail to John Doyle at the Globe and Mail saying things like only the CBC does good journalism; those who post similar nasty comments on blogs; those who sent e-mails to bloggers in the early days vehemently opposing the podcasting and other plans.

I was also thinking of the planning meeting we had in Toronto at Metro Hall for alternative broadcast and sites. There were some people there who honestly and genuinely thought the Canadian public would rise in revolt at the loss of CBC Radio. It hasn't happened.

Some of these same people thought we should do absolutely nothing.

It is now clear that what is happening now is right, we are for free, the lifeline for the CBC. That too is vocation (since most of the people working these projects exceed the mandated off picket line hours)

Put it this way (and I am using extremes here), both Desmond Tutu and Pat Robertson have vocations. The CBC vocation, to a lesser extent, follows that spectrum.

By the way, I just thought of this as I typed the last line. How about Desmond Tutu as the arbitrator?

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Thursday, September 08, 2005
  CBC 63: Sailing into uncertainty
(This is an update to my intelligence reports on the CBC lockout. Like earlier reports it is based both on information from reliable sources and some chatter)

The mood of the lockedout and the lockedin changed this week, at least in Toronto, and from the blogs and e-mails I am getting, I think elsewhere, as well.

It's as if in some strange pastiche of Mutiny on the Bounty and Men Against the Sea, the captain has ordered the crew overboard into the ship's boats and the crew is now watching helplessly from those boats as the captain and the senior officers sit in the sun on the deck, getting up occasionally to trim a sail, while the ship CBC itself is drifting, heading toward the lee shore of some desert island where the sea winds will blow it on the rocks.

The first few days of the lockout were marked by depression, the next days by angry and frustration at management, at the union, at each other. Then we became sort of resigned to all it, rolled up our sleeves and got to work, doing those long walks on hard concrete, creating the podcasts, the blogs, the alternative sites, the official union sites and newsletters.

Then came the three week deadline that the management playbook had called for and the union didn't fold. Katrina smashed its way through the Mississippi delta, an event that could have allowed senior management a face-saving compromise, a truce, a temporary callback to due an emergency but nothing happened.

Then came Labour Day, the traditional end of the summer holiday and the time, if not for launching a new season, for gearing up to launch the new shows and revamp the continuing shows in the coming days.

More indications that there was an assumption on the TBC Seventh Floor and in Ottawa headquarters of some sort of resolution with the three week time period: One manager who had talked to people he knew had been saying "three weeks." Now that manager is saying "end of November." Some senior people in radio apparently had been quietly planning and getting ideas for a quick launch sometime after Labour Day.

Last week, my sources tell me, executive vice president Richard Stursberg was giving pep talks to anyone who would listen, especially the tired managerial newscrews on the fourth floor, saying that they were winning, that the audience figures were holding steady.

So if Senior Management Committee thought they were winning, they felt no need compromise even though their original playbook called for the three week scenario.

But the problem is, according to what I have been told, the triumvirate at the top, Robert Rabinovitch, Richard Stursberg and Jane Chalmers have a limited vision, they are concentrating, to use the internal CBC term, on the "old media lines," radio and the main broadcast network. Apparently internal figures show that the main TV network is, so far, not doing badly, and there is the belief that, no matter what, the loyal core audience will return to CBC Radio.

The orphans in all this are CBC Newsworld and

Newsworld, I understand, is hurting and hurting badly, both from the constant reruns of Antiques Roadshow and The Nature of Things and by the enhanced coverage of Katrina by CTV NewsNet as well as the usual competition Newsworld would face from CNN at a time like this.

Here is the problem. Newsworld provides a significant proportion of the television news budget and TV news staff and on-air material. If the ratings for Newsworld continue to tank, then the advertising revenue will also drop. Then that will create a significant hole in the news service budget (who knows what Rabinovitch is doing with the millions he is saving each week in salaries.)

The longer lockout goes on, the more Newsworld bleeds, the more whole "integrated" CBC news service, as a whole, sickens. That increases the likelihood of a crippled news service, TV, radio and No matter when there is a return to work, CTV NewsNet will now drain the advertising dollars away from Newsworld. That enhanced competition (which was coming anyway) now won't go away even if we go back in the door on Monday.

I have no information about, but as I posted last weekend, it is likely that the audience went elsewhere to sites where they could find up-to-date and value-added information.

When he became president of the CBC, Robert Rabinovitch created his own version of "Management by Objectives." He made no secret that his role was, because this was quoted again and again in those yearly objective forms we had to fill out: "To prove to Treasury Board that the CBC is a well-managed company."

Well, Treasury Board, this man has just butchered the revenue projections for a significant arm of the company. Does that constitute good management?

I have always wondered why Rabinovitch concentrated so much in Treasury Board in his objective statement. Even if the money comes from Treasury Board, he reports, even if it is at arm's length,to Canadian Heritage and to Parliament,

One insider has told people that, starting now, there is just a three week window left to repair the damage to CBC TV News. After that, CBC TV news will have an uphill battle to recover.

Saddam and Stursberg

Couldn't resist the alliteration again.
I am not sure what is happening in the rest of the country but there are five security companies guarding the Toronto Broadcast Centre, the paramilitary guys in khaki with black t-shirts, the guys in the khaki or grey polo shirts, some guys in white shirts with orange badges that have to walk around making sure we don't cross the yellow lines and others who show up occasionally.

Now Saddam Hussein had multiple security services so they all could keep an eye on each other. The situation at the Toronto Broadcast Centre is apparently much simpler. The CBC can't get enough guards from one company, so they mix and match where they can.

On the line

Some notes from the picket line.

People are beginning to make contingency plans. How long can I last? What do I do then? How can I get a job in a saturated market of CBC lockoutees?

There are constant rumours this week about top CBC news reporters defecting but nothing definite has emerged.

Strangely all the rumours for the past week or so and even now seem to be about Global. And this was before CTV's Robert Hurst used the Star's Antonia Zerbisias to say "Don't call me, I'll call you."

My sources at CTV, however, indicate that the network may be just biding its time. There has been, I am told, little or no temp hiring by CTV from CBC, largely because that network seems to think they have secrets and plans within plans that must be kept from those locked out from the Corpse. It may be that once CTV has its plans in place, once the fall launches are done, then things will change.

The three year cycle:
This sad, sad scenario began this week with technical folks who were on strike, then locked out and are now locked out again. It is, however, spreading to the rest of the picket line. The idea is this "This is going to happen every three years from now on. So I need this job for now, but why should I stick around and go through this shit in 2008 and 2011?"

No love for the triumvirate: No matter when the lockout ends, the triumvirate of Rabinovitch, Stursberg and Chalmers will have to face the fact that they are despised by the majority of their employees. Remember all those hatchet wielding CEOS who cut jobs in the private sector in the late 90s and early 2000s? They all took their private sector bonuses and went elsewhere. Who is going to pick up the pieces at CBC?

Conspiracy theory of the week: I've heard this from a number of different people. Not likely at all, but it shows the mood on the picket line. The theory is this: Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien had no love for the CBC (and a loathing for SRC) so he chose Robert Rabinovitch as president so that the CBC would be destroyed internally. Then the government could shut it down without any political consequences.

Why do they want to hire and fire?

After the failure last week of senior management's playbook which was based on a three week lockout, there are increasing calls among both lockedout and lockedin employees for a house cleaning at the top of CBC management. If questioning of the CBC leadership continues to grow, spreading to the rest of the media, it will provide plenty of ammunition for question Period when the House of Commons resumes.

There have been lots of blogs recently, too many to link to, about the lack of vision at the top of the CBC. Some in the media are also saying that the problem is the lack of a coherent vision at the top. I agree and believe that it is this lack of vision that is at the root of the demand for casualization.

It is increasingly clear that the triumvirate wants "flexibility," because they don't know what they're doing.

Let's tie to that to the private sector. Why has there been less labour disruption in the private broadcast sector? Some are union shops. Why are there, according to both the CMG and CEP, proportionately fewer contract and casual jobs at Global, CTV and CHUM than at CBC?

Because the corporations who run those networks are benign organizations?

No. These private corporate bosses know what they want. So they hire the people who will help them with these profit-making objectives. Most of those people are permanent staff, there are some casual and contract staff.

The late Izzy Asper never made any secret of what his objective for Global was. He told anyone who asked: "To sell soap." CHUM is also selling soap, designer soap, to a hip urban audience with lots of money to buy the products advertised on their stations.

I haven't seen the corporate objective for Bell Globemedia but I've been around long enough to put into corporate speak something like this: "To create a rich media environment and deliver that content through our system in such a way that will enhance the profits from our communications arms of landlines, the internet and satellites."

The triumvirate at CBC doesn't know what they are doing. They don't even know what their staff is doing now. So they want the flexibility to change their minds.

If they don't know what they want, they don't know how to manage their staff, they don't know who to hire. So if they make a mistake, then they want to be the generals blaming the privates for failures in strategy, fire as many people as possible, hire a bunch of new ones and hope that this time something works out.

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  CBC 62: Screen Actors Guild to boycott CBC at TIFF

What Canadian Media Guild members were told on the picket line Wednesday by The Newpaper Guild president Linda Foley is now official.

The Screen Actors Guild is calling on its members to boycott any request for interviews or appearances by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation during the Toronto International Film Festival.

The SAG news release is up on their site here

SAG is being diplomatic with a hint hint first paragraph in the release:

Screen Actors Guild (SAG) today announced it is urging all of its professional actors to support members of the Canadian Media Guild, who have been locked out by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for almost four weeks. Management’s lockout of more than 5,000 media workers began on August 15 after the break off of talks between the union and employers. The Guild is making its announcement on the eve of the start of the Toronto International Film Festival

Then gets specific toward the end:

The Guild is urging its members, particularly its high profile members, to seriously consider this situation and wherever possible avoid granting interviews with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation until this matter is resolved.

If the boycott holds it may have minimal impact on English television, but intelligence reports on the picket line Wednesday indicate that SRC, the French arm of the CBC is sending crews and reporters from Montreal to cover the Festival. So they too may end up empty handed. (Note to CBCunlocked and Toronto Unlocked make sure when you're chasing interviews to tell who you are so you won't be collateral damage.)

Can't help noticing this, there are three guilds in this story. Maybe there should be a Guild Hall like the ones in the UK :-)

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  Words: "Displaced Americans" "Displaced Persons"

Words and history

Sometime in the last 24 hours, under pressure from those who objected to the term "refugees" used to describe people driven from their homes by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding aftermath, U.S. officialdom has come with the term "displaced Americans." (Although term has been in blogosphere for at least a week and aired in a Chicago Tribune blog, by Eric Zorn on September 5, "Refugees vs Evacuees.")

(Update:Zorn continues the debate at EZ goes CD on "refugee")

Zorn does say there is an international NGO/UN/everyone else term; "The precise term of art here is evidently "internally displaced persons," or IDPs, but news stories and conversations don't use precise terms of art."

CNN reported this morning that the word to use "displaced Americans" came officially from the Pentagon. CNN and AP are now using the term; as in this AP report in The Guardian

Meanwhile, Bush objected to references to displaced Americans as "refugees."

"The people we're talking about are not refugees," he said. "They are Americans and they need the help and love and compassion of our fellow citizens." The president raised the subject during a meeting with service organizations that are helping with the relief effort.

As I listened to CNN in the past few minutes and reporters kept talking about "displaced Americans," I wondered if anyone had bothered to check the history books.

After the Second World War, the official term was "displaced persons" (the wider usage since the people "displaced" were everywhere on the planet).

"Displaced person" was soon shortened to "DP" and "DP" very quickly became a derogatory term. I remember as a small child growing in up in Kitimat, a town in nothern British Columbia with a significant population from Europe who had survived the Second World War, that the term "dirty DP" was used far too often. One of my memories from the time I was about six is seeing a sign scrawled large in mud (long before there were spray cans) "DP Go Home" across the wall of a neighbour's house. I also have a vague memory of seeing one of those black and white "training films" in school where kids were taught to be nice to refugee children and not to use the nasty term "DP." I also have memories of the derogatory term "DP" showing up in some Hollywood movies of the era but can't be sure.

So are the people driven from their homes by Katrina going to be called "DAs" once some in the community where they are now staying decide they are no longer welcome?

Just something to think about.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005
  CBC 61:"I'm from CBCunlocked"

Did my first photo assignment for CBCunlocked this afternoon, a joint news conference by families whose relatives were killed in the Air India bombing and the September 11 attack, called "Memorials are not enough." Watch for the report and pix in Thursday's radio and online editions.

I walked into the building, the PR woman asked me what media I was with. "I'm from CBCunlocked," I replied. Without blinking an eye she sent me upstairs to the pre-newser reception.

That's what I am also hearing from other folks who are out in the field working on stories. People are glad to see us back on the streets--and I don't mean Front and John (or the front of buildings elsewhere across the country).

Senior management may have locked us out, CBCunlocked may be taking a few baby steps, but we are on our way.....

Read the latest news at CBCunlocked Where Canadians connect et en francais SRCadenasée: là où les Canadiens se branchent

It was a busy day, two photo assignments for CBCunlocked and my usual snap the picket line duties, so I will continue my intelligence blogging on Thursday.

Fellow bloggers: There is a CBCunlocked Technorati tag. Please use it to draw folks to CBCunlocked.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005
  CBC 60: A call for reinforcements

I was on the picket line today when a couple of Newsworld producers issued a call for reinforcements.

Like Pedro the lockout gnome.

So I have recruited the Casual (teenage) Mutant Ninja Turtle who has agreed to take on picket duties.

Other recruits welcome.

(Note please don't send me the recruits or their pix.
The site is now up and running. Go to Pedro's blog. Or you can talk to Petro at (noSpam)
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  CBC 59: I seem to have triggered something

British journalist, academic and blogger, Michael Bywater, the man who sent me a "rocket" (to use the old journalism term from the last century) about my post on The Observer column on the lockout, has now blogged his own take on the matter in a post called, Dirty Trench-coat, Burning sense of public duty?

An interesting read. Not sure if all of it travels across the North Atlantic. My parents were both British so I get most of it ;-).

Bywater interprets former Guardian editor Peter Preston's response to my blog by saying the former Guardian editor:

is using the Fireman Argument against CBC journalists. That's to say, that journalism is such an important part of the polity that journalists should shrink from industrial action.

Now I am not sure how the Brits do it with essential services, but let's say for a moment that journalism was declared an essential service. That means here any disputes would often be settled by arbitration or binding arbitration.

Arbitration might have defeated the Senior Management Committee's demand for total capitulation on casualization (Then again, maybe not, the history of the last few years in this country shows the provincial governments have often balked at arbitration, because it interferes with their plans to cut budgets,wages and benefits.)

On my first journalism job, many years ago, when I was the police reporter for The Sudbury Star, the local police association was in very tough negotiations with the local Police Commission and things weren't going well at all. In those days, even on a cheapskate Thomson paper, part of the police reporter's job description was to hang out at the cop shop (It doesn't happen any more, consultants would call it "waste" and "poor productivity." But if I hadn't hung around the cop shop I wouldn't have gotten half the stories I did.)

I talked to cops I respected (the good, hard working honest, dedicated cops) who were agonizing over working to rule and even, as one said "God forbid," withdrawing services.

I remember talking to a detective in his prowl car as he talked as much to himself as to me (off the record) about what he would do if the worst came to the worst.

As it turned out, fate intervened, and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau brought in wage and price controls. That meant how much money the cops were going to get was no longer a factor. The Police Association head, a smart, fair and overworked uniformed patrol constable, was able to get an agreement with the help of (if I remember correctly) a mediator.

I will make one point here. I called for a 120-day truce in my post Fort Confusion.

Bywater also says:

Preston clearly still believes in the "higher purpose" of journalism: the public duty of the Press as the Fourth Estate, without which the other three estates – Monarch and Parliament, Church and Army – would go about their daily business of exploiting and lying to the people.

Most of my colleagues, I believe, follow that higher purpose. So do, I know for a fact (I have read all of Tony Burman's memos on Inews) do most of our middle managers. It is the Senior Management Committee, whom I would argue, are part of the First Estate, which Bywater calls "Monarch and Parliament" and what we in Canada used to call Mandarins, who have no higher purpose beyond themselves and their own careers.

I posted my call for the 120-day truce two days before The Observer published. That call for the truce, if I do say so myself, followed that "higher purpose."

When the fire fighters in Britain went on strike, they did respond to major fires. With the CBC it is not a case of firefighters leaving a picket line, walking a few metres and jumping on a pumper or an aerial (ladder truck for my American readers).

The whole network has to gear up, and reporters and crews have to get on planes and head south.

It could have been done, the e-mails I have received indicate that the reporters and producers and technical people were, if there was a truce, willing, ready and able to cover Katrina. Senior management, apparently, was not moved.

The same agony I saw on that cop's face all those years ago, I saw all last week among my colleagues.

Perhaps the Brits are right. Bywater calls it "the abominable, no-winners lockout (or strike, if you're management) at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation." And perhaps in the big picture, the greater scheme of things, it doesn't really matter if it is a strike or lockout, if as Bywater says "If it [the CBC]dies, they [the public] won't really notice; just click onto one of the other 3,791 channels and carry on. The same might be said of the BBC."

But they will notice. Britain is a "tight little island" that would fit over and over into Canada. If the CBC dies, who will serve small towns on the prairies, the dying ex-logging towns on Vancouver Island, the surviving outports in Newfoundland and the diamond mines of the Northwest Territories? As artist after artist have said, only the CBC can tell the stories of Canadian musicians, artists, authors and playwrights. Unlike the UK, here the private sector refuses to do that, unless of course the artist is a super celeb. And if the CBC dies, where will the next generation of super celebs come from? Only a couple can come from Canadian Idol, the rest claw their way up.

I seem to have triggered a debate in the UK that our objections to BBC feeds have not, I hope it continues.

Update: A blogger across the lake in Rochester, NY, has also posted on Preston's article in The Observer. In the London Calling blog, Doug Bickie, who uses the handle Hdougie, says The BBC's future, don't look to Canada?. Hdougie is semi-anonymous. He does allow comments, but there is no e-mail contact.

And Bywater uses footnotes in his blog. Yike!

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  CBC 58: CBC strategy: Unite and conquer

This is a follow-up to the "intelligence analysis", Fort Confusion, I filed last week. As with the first report it is based on a combination of solid verifiable information and "chatter." This is the first of a couple of intelligence reports that together will show the emerging pattern as the CBC lockout enters its fourth week.

Additional information received over the past few days indicates that the CBC management strategy both in labour negotiations for the past year and a half and in triggering the lockout is a case of what could be called "Unite and conquer," the opposite of what any competent strategist or tactician would recommend. It could also be said that senior CBC management is not maintaining the forest because it wanted to cut down a few trees.


In an earlier post I reported that the Canadian Media Guild's strike mandate expired on September 8. It would have expired--if management had not ordered the lockout. Under a Canadian Industrial Relations Board ruling when the CBC locked out its Quebec employees, a lockout voids the best before date on a strike vote.

Unite and conquer

After the Fort Confusion post I received a number of e-mails from Guild members and there were posts on other blogs asking why integrating two contracts with the same employer would be so difficult? At the same time my sources inside in the Toronto Broadcast Centre reported the opposite, that there is is great difficulty in merging the two contracts.

The answer came from those involved when CBC employees chose the Canadian Media Guild over the Communications Energy and Paperworkers in the CIRB ordered vote and in the resulting merger of the two unions.

If the CBC wanted a fair and reasonable merger of the two contracts (perhaps with the usual give and take in negotiations) then it would be easy.

CBC senior management does not want a fair and reasonable merger of the contracts.

It is here that their strategy becomes clear.

It was not just a case of diluting the perceived militancy of the CEP technicians.

To be accurate, let's call it "Unite, so we can divide and conquer."

One of my sources puts it this way: "The CBC decided to merge the bargaining units in the belief that it would create a unit which was impossibly diverse and lacking in any internal cohesion so that it could assert bargaining demands that would never have been achieved under the previous arrangement."

An anonymous post on Tod Maffin's blog puts it in a slightly different way, calling it the "business case." The poster, perhaps a locked-in manager, says "The real reason for the merger was to re-establish Segregated Clausing."

That idea is this, dilute not only the perceived militancy but the support for people in other units. Thus if one clause in the contract affects only a small group, then in larger union, in theory, that small group doesn't have the clout in a strike vote or in ratifying a contract. According to this post, the CBC's aim is to chip away at the contract, "Merge and now you have new units with the need to have segregated small group clauses for the special needs of these small groups of workers."

Management's theory is that with a large number of small groups, it could "tear up the clauses again... A clause that once affected 50 per cent of Guild members is now only affecting 30 per cent of members - finally easy to eliminate in management's eyes."

The irony is that this strategy might even have succeeded, if the Senior Management Committee was competent. All was needed was patience.

Instead they locked the doors and threw everyone out on the street. Now we know each other. In Toronto, executive producers have walked around the building with cable pullers. I have met people who were just faces in the elevator and people whom I have never seen before even though I have worked in the Toronto Broadcast Centre for more than ten years. I have met people from audience services and set construction, people who write the contracts and people who monitor the audio going out of network master control.

We are all talking about integration. A TV writer working at Toronto Unlocked on CIUT; a TV reporter learning how to do an audio report for a podcast; a radio producer who wants to learn about photography.

At today's Simcoe Park concert, Jian Ghomeshi, before his group Moxy Fruvous began singing, pointed at the locked building, and he too, talked about everyone he has met and said: "We are integrated; we are now integrated," to applause from the crowd.

After all this, and if the CBC survives, is that executive producer going to vote to screw a cable puller he has walked the line with? We'll have to see if that ever comes, but given the past weeks of walking, it is not as likely as it would have been if the Senior Management Committee hadn't pulled the plug.

I did some checks and found out that "divide and conquer" was originally a Roman maxum, in Latin, divide et impera, divide and rule.

The opposite, the "united we stand" phrases all come from our friends south of the border.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, after signing the Declaration of Independence: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

The original "united we stand, divided we fall" comes from the American revolutionary "Liberty Song," written by John Dickinson in 1768.

By uniting we stand,
By dividing we fall;
In so righteous a cause
Let us hope to succeed,
For Heaven approves of
Each generous deed.

The answer to the Senior Management Committee's "unite and conquer strategy" comes from a phrase I found in Abraham Lincoln's famous "House Divided" speech before the Republican Convention on June 16, 1858. While Lincoln was trying to unite the Republicans, part of what he said applies to CBC employees across Canada.

Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud and pampered enemy.

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Monday, September 05, 2005
  CBC 57: Peter Preston's rapid response

Steven Pritchard the Reader's Editor at The Observer passed my note and the blog address to Peter Preston author of the Sunday article which I thought crossed the line.

Peter Preston quickly responded:

Thank you for passing on Mr Rowland's protest (and Michael Bywater's codicil). I was indeed in Vancouver myself on Monday, August 29, getting ready to return to the UK after a break and very interested indeed, naturally, in hurricane TV coverage. I spent some of Monday morning watching it on various channels - and wishing the CBC could have been a bit more competitive - then walked round to the CBC offices a couple of blocks away and spent some time reading the notices on the tented noticeboard and listening to people chat. I described that in my piece. I don't live in Kent or Kensington, either.

Is it a strike or a lock-out? Canadians I talked to took both points of view. The Canadian press I read, The Sun and Globe and Mail, seemed to think that, after 15 months of contract negotiation failure, the net effect was pretty identical - and I anyway used both formulations in my piece. And the point of what I was saying (which Mr Rowland seems to have missed) remains the same.

I think it's very difficult indeed for journalists to go on strike or put themselves, over time, in a situation where they may be locked out. I think that there's almost always a higher duty to report the news for the readers or viewers you serve - which is, precisely, a public service.

I find it hard to envisage how either side in the CBC affair could have allowed things to drag on so damagingly for so long. I lament the damage that that is obviously doing to public service broadcasting in Canada, and I wish that there'd been an evident move back to business when I was there (though that seems to have eased a bit since). Oh yes! and I'm just about as warm a defender of the BBC as you could imagine, felt very anxious about this summer's industrial action getting out of control, and wanted to make sure that Canada's difficulties were at least a small part of the equation here. PP

A couple of closing comments.

I have to say I impressed at the rapid response from The Observer, Mr. Pritchard and Mr. Preston. Having dealt (through channels helping answer a complaint)with the CBC Ombudsman and seen what Daniel Okrent did when he was Public Editor at the New York Times, I will say that if the CBC Ombudsman was able to respond as quickly, perhaps some members of the public might be less irritated with the CBC.

Since I am satisfied with the response, I am removing the link to the Reader's Editor from the original post.

I would hope, however, that Peter Preston,since he is a well known media watcher, would continue to monitor the situation at the CBC and revisit his analysis in a few weeks. I would also hope that he would use a wider selection of sources, since the coverage in many CanWest Global papers such as the Vancouver Sun can be suspect due to their corporate conflict of interest. If I do say so myself, I would also be interested in what he thinks of the role of the blogs in this dispute.

I also respectfully disagree that we "put themselves, over time, in a situation where they may be locked out..." It is clear to us that senior management had a plan all along to take on the Canadian Media Guild and the only option that they want is capitulation.

We well know that the CBC could be on "a spiral toward extinction" as I warned myself that the CBC is in danger of bleeding to death.

I just hope Peter Preston doesn't get to write the CBC's obituary in The Guardian or The Observer sometime in the future

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Sunday, September 04, 2005
  CBC 56: "A spiral toward extinction"
The London Sunday paper The Observer has rather snooty piece in its edition today, "A Canadian Farce the BBC Must Not Repeat" where a writer says the "CBC is in a spiral toward extinction."

It is written by someone called Peter Preston. Although it allegedly describes the picket line outside CBC Vancouver, there is no placeline and it sounds to me as if it was just whipped off while Mr. Preston, a business not an arts writer, was looking out over his green and pleasant garden in Kent or perhaps from the loft of his South Kensington flat before popping out for a good dinner and some better wine.

The analysis has pretty well been said before, although his focus is comparing the CBC situation to the future of the BBC. Preston seems to have gotten his all background from the National Post, which he calls Conrad Black's "finest creation," rather than bother to do a simple fact check even of Google News.

Preston is, of course, grossly inaccurate when it he calls it a strike. It is a lockout.

But this armchair critic crossed the line in my view when he says:

....CBC managers and unions seem to live within a cocoon of introversion that allows them to threaten and stall and hang tough without ultimate penalty. Who needs to be back to work while New Orleans sinks into the ooze? Someone else will cover it. And someone will always pick up our bill.

That is what made me again get out of the sun and back in blogosphere. Because of the stupidity and lack of vision at the Senior Management Committee, everyone I know, locked-out journalists and technicians and locked-in middle managers and others I spoke to on the line today are sick, depressed and furious that we are not covering Katrina.

I am sending a copy of this blog to the Observer's equivalent of the ombudsman.

You can see the response here.


I received a swift response from British academic blogger Michael Bywater from Cambridge:

FYI, Peter Preston isn't a business writer. He's one of this country's leading liberal/left journalists and was for many years editor of The Guardian, and arguably a very distinguished one. The comfy Kensington flat/Kent greensward is (though I see the rhetorical point you seek to make) a bit of a cliche and untrue.

Preston's journalistic credentials are as impeccable as they come in this age of debased journalism. And I think you'll find that the Conrad Black reference – and the sinking-into-the-ooze para -- was deep irony. Something we do a lot of in the British press, though sometimes it doesn't decode well beyond these shores. You could check Preston's stuff on Lexis and see for yourself, I suppose.

I don't have any views on the piece you are offended by, nor do I write for The Guardian (although I have done occasionally many years back). No axe to grind. I just thought that as a journalist, you'd appreciate some background here.

Kind regards

Michael Bywater

I had assumed when I was notified about The Observer article that Peter Preston was a business writer (it was on a business page) still hoping for an invitation to one of Tubby's and Barbara's now much diminished parties.

I don't have access to Lexis (I'm locked out) but I did check out Peter Preston with Google:

Wikipedia says he was the editor of The Guardian from 1975-1995. The same article says he was "mocked by The Spectator for his convulted writing style" and that he led a team of reporters who investigated corruption in the British Conservative party, including the "cash for questions" scandal.

Another bio says Preston was "was a war correspondent from the Indian-Pakistani war, from Bangladesh and from Cyprus....and one of the initiators and founders of the Press Complaints Commission, the British organisation for self-regulation in the press."

I even found one of his articles on the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting site, another piece examining the future of the BBC after the recent scandals.

In the end I decided that, despite any hints of irony, my complaint against Mr. Preston, which I have already filed with The Observer, must stand.

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  CBC 55: Utter total incompetence or how to piss off your biggest fans

(We interrupt my blog off weekend for a little news)

Management forgot to order the duct tape

Here is a report I received from a picket captain at the Toronto Broadcast Centre:

Dozens of people showed up at the TBC Saturday to see a taping of the Red Green Show. One couple had driven from southern Pennsylvania and there were three busloads of people from Iowa staying at the King Street Holiday Inn. Plus lots of Ontarians in their Possum Lodge duds.

Security knew nothing; nor did we, (the picket captains) except that it wasn't being done in the TBC. Mac Skelton confirmed over the internet that it was being done at Shoreline Studios, somewhere at Eastern / Lakeshore.

By then the Iowa folks had been told they must walk to the studios - imagine their delight.

After 6 p.m. when we grew tired of deflecting the ire of Red Green fans, the picket captains asked the 1800 - 0600 shift security head (Ben) to fetch a manager to deal with these folks. For $52 per hour, this is their job. He said he was not sure if there were any managers inside, and denied being able to contact anyone.

Robin adding to the report: one picketer told me: "Ben either has the IQ of a carrot, or the HR people have grown tired enough/lax enough not to bother having anyone on duty on Saturdays."

Red Green Show Home Page
New location for the Red Green Show.
Showline Harbourside Studios
Stage 11K
915 Lakeshore Blvd. East
Toronto, Ontario
M4M 3L5

That is a long walk from Front and John.

Robert Fulford wrote in Saturday's National Post
If only CBC managers had something promising in mind, some grand plan, their desire for more control might well deserve support. Who doesn't like the idea of a lean, supple broadcaster responding quickly to the need for change? But we have no idea what the CBC will do with its new power, assuming the union surrenders.

(thanks to John Gushue for that post)

Now we know they can't even send a fax to a hotel to give a bus driver directions. There is this old saying about someone who is so incompetent that they can't fully plan a visit to brewery (you know what I mean)

The three busloads of people were from Iowa, not Ohio as originally reported.

Tapings will be every Saturday and Wednesday from now until November 5.

Also word on the picket line that: CBC management has had to fork over $250,000 or $300,000 (per episode?) to Steve Smith in lieu of the studio space and crew CBC should have provided according to their contract. Slawko Klymkiw, former executive director of network programming, when consulted (before he left for the Canadian Film Centre) about the idea of paying this much, said, "Do it." This means more wasted money, including salaries for an idle crew if we're back before Nov 5.

(I will have an intelligence update early in the week. Keep the info coming in folks)

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Saturday, September 03, 2005
  Off for the rest of the weekend

Unless I get some major breaking news or a real hot tip, I am taking the rest of the weekend off and emerging into the sun from blogosphere.
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  CBC 54: What has happened to's ratings?

I saw one of the blogs from a fellow lockoutee at, Pary Bell from CBC Kids.

On Thursday he said
One of the things that i find quite baffling, and quite frustrating, is that pretty much all the attention that the lockout has garnered in the media and the blosphere has been entirely about CBC TV and CBC Radio. There has been little to no mention of the hundreds of CBC ONLINE employees that have been locked out, or of the product that is being produced in our absence.

I didn't see Pary's post until this morning.

So I did some checking. (pdf file) Nielsen has already released preliminary ratings for Katrina coverage by US news and weather websites.

They include

ABCNEWS Digital up 127%
MSNBC up 105%
WorldNow up 95%
Fox News up 84%
Weather Channel up 73%
AOL News up 71%
AccuWeather up 55%
CNN up 44%

The management of are obsessed with the audience figures. My guess, and it's only a guess, is that the figures will show a peak at the beginning of the Katrina crisis and then a sharp drop off when the audience realizes what it's actually getting and it goes elsewhere.

Just think what the figures would have been if had actually been working?

Note to the entertainment reporters, columnists and editors who I know are monitoring this blog. There has been no coverage of in this crisis with the exception of a couple of passing remarks. Okay, if the regular assignement is TV with a little radio thrown in that might not be your job. But where are your high-tech reporters and online columnists? And remember that the audience is a younger demographic than either the TV or radio audience and part of CBC's long term plan was to get the younger audience to migrate to the old media lines. Probably won't happen now.

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  CBC 53: Water, water everywhere

1134 ET Saturday September 3, 2005.

CNN is live from the New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport as refugees line up to leave the city.

CTV NewsNet is running a US network item with a reporter looking over a flooded street.

CBC Newsworld is showing a sailboat edging its way through an arctic ice flow. It takes a couple of channel surfs to find out it is an ancient Nature of Things.

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Friday, September 02, 2005
  CBC 52: Fort Confusion

(This post could be called an intelligence analysis. It is not traditional, two or more source background journalism. Rather it is based on multiple sources both inside and outside the Toronto Broadcast Centre, reliable and not-so-reliable. It may include disinformation, although I have tried to screen for this. I now know what the intelligence agencies mean by "chatter." Other relevant information may not be available at this time. It is my conclusion about the situation as it exists on the eve of the Labour Day weekend)

Update: Comments and my response added below the report.

It's not Fort Dork, it's Fort Confusion


There was a scenario for the labour situation at CBC crafted months ago by the Senior Management Committee. It was NOT a plan and now that the scenario hasn't come to the expected conclusion, the operation is in tatters. There is confusion about what to do next.

Unless both sides can craft an interim peace agreement, end the lockout by next week and get the news service up and running to cover the aftermath of the Katrina catastrophe, it is likely that the dispute will go on for months and the CBC will bleed to death.

What happens this weekend will be crucial. The third-hand coverage of Katrina by CBC and the high quality of coverage by CTV has caused immense damage. Regional managers who have been in the cocoon of the Toronto Broadcast Centre go home this weekend. They will return to Toronto next week, perhaps with a different perspective.

Intelligence Analysis

Although some managers inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre have been told that this would go on for months, this is not what others were told.

I thought there might be a detailed plan, but my information now indicates there is no such plan. There is what I believe could be called a playbook, again something created perhaps by CBC HR boss George Smith, perhaps by consultants, or perhaps by both.

The CBC believed that if the militant technicians in CEP merged with the more moderate Guild it would dilute any union militancy at the CBC. The Guild has always reached a compromise in previous negotiations and the Senior Management Committee believed that pressure would mean that members would force the Guild to accept management's demand for concessions on casualization.

The scenario called for pressure on the Guild to build beginning in the spring when the CBC applied for conciliation. If the the Guild would not agree to management on casualization, then a short, sharp lockout would work as "Fred and Krista" wrote: "A quick resolution will be helped by picketers focusing on the reality of their situation." So the scenario called for the lockout to begin in mid-August when ratings were at their lowest; it would teach the employees a lesson in time to reach an agreement and then get back in the buildings in time to make sure Hockey Night In Canada was back in business.

In this scenario, the Guild was expected to begin making concessions by early this, the third week.

Some security guards were told by their supervisors that the job was expected to last "about two or three weeks." CSM and other companies involved are now redeploying personnel. Some location supervisors who were taken from other jobs will return to them in the next few days. They were replaced at those locations by temporary employees, some of them summer students. There may also be summer students at CBC locations. These guards will now be returning to school. Look for new faces among the guards in the coming days.

John Doyle in the Globe and Mail reported that the entertainment shows were told early this week to gear up production for airing in early October. It may be, however, that Doyle's sources were told to do that too early, that the call to the entertainment shows was not based on solid information but on this playbook.

This week, management began an PR offensive with both the public and the union. The public was indifferent. In most cases the op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail by president Robert Rabinovoitch, together with a similar package mailed out to all employees had the opposite affect than management expected. With most, it went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

What some people interpret as CBC arrogance, on closer examination shows that there is a core of CBC employees for whom working there is a vocation, a calling. It these people who sometimes irritate the public and even their fellows at CBC. (And believe me there also are a lot of arrogant people in private broadcasting and even newspapers, I have met some of them).

For many others, including myself, the CBC was one of the few places in this country where good broadcast journalism was encouraged.

This is changing, CTV is beefing up coverage in way that was unimagined when I worked there in the 1990s, (even though the people at CTV at that time did an amazing job with the resources available. Most now are locked out CBC employees).

What went wrong

It is likely that the playbook was based on industrial relations theory as crafted by anti-union consultants. In this scenario, as has happened in brick and mortar industries, older workers tend to protect their jobs, their benefits and pensions at the expense of younger workers. In the end, even the NHLPA folded on this issue. (It still may happen, months from now. Or CBC could "post conditions" and invite people to return to work, but this is a huge gamble, they would have no idea who would return, who would not and what stars and potential stars would say "I don't need this," and go elsewhere).

Senior management at the CBC was out of touch with its workforce. What Robert Rabinovitch and George Smith never bothered to examine and what Richard Stursberg was too new on the scene to really understand was the commitment of the majority of CBC employees to their jobs, to public broadcasting and to quality journalism.

What infuriated the majority of the employees was senior management's condescending attitude toward the work that they have been doing for the past fifteen years since the first Martin deficit busting budget cuts. CBC employees have been flexible, they have adapted, they have innovated, they have come up with new ideas to keep the corporation going.

Despite what the public seems to think, CBC employees also know that over the past fifteen years they have been working harder for less money than other people in the broadcast industry.

None of this mattered to the Senior Management Committee.

The first indication that Rabinovitch had no idea what his employees actually did was his reported irritation at complaints about the compression of the working space so "surplus" could be rented out, no matter how it impacted the actual product that CBC aired.

The second was the continued emphasis on "flexibility," but management's definition of flexibility was nothing more than moving figures from spreadsheet to spreadsheet, not figuring out ways of getting broadcast quality video out of Afghanistan by e-mail.

The other problem is that it is likely that George Smith and other senior managers were working on a non-media, brick and mortar industrial relations strategy. After all employees of Canadian Pacific can't go out and build themselves a railway. Air Canada employees can't go out and in a few weeks start an airline after picking up a couple of 747s and A300s.

Since Smith, Rabinovitch and Stursberg have never actually ever produced anything, they had no idea what their employees could actually do. They likely had no idea of the tradition of the strike newspaper going back more than a century. I doubt if they expected the podcasts, the special broadcasts and the blogs. While those projects are slower than expected getting off the ground and will build slowly, they will be up, running and growing.

The big problem

The big problem, as both my sources tell me and from what I hear from my negotiation-expert relatives is the contract itself. The CBC wanted the two unions to merge to dilute militancy, but with that they also brought the problem of integrating two contracts, the old Guild and CEP contracts plus updating the contract to deal with new conditions.

When Premier Mike Harris decreed the amalgamation of Metro Toronto, it created a huge headache both for the city workers and the school boards. Negotiations to integrate and standardize those contracts went on for years and are still going on as problems are being ironed out.

Although the subcommittees have reached agreements in some areas, the stubborn insistence by the CBC that the Guild concede on the casualization issue has, for weeks, prevented talks on about 40 major areas including money.

That brings us back to the playbook. If the Guild had folded early in the week, then it was expected that there would be concessions on other issues and an agreement in time for Hockey Night in Canada.

There is now no possible way to reach an full contract agreement in time for the debut of Hockey Night In Canada.

Why this weekend is important

The Labour Day weekend is important for two reasons.


In the brick and mortar industrial relations model that George Smith is following, a major international catastrophe like Katrina would not be a major factor (unless there was a plant or a rail line in a disaster area).

But for a broadcast and cable network, whose core audience comes to it for news, the third-hand, BBC, recut voiceover coverage is itself a disaster.

This is third or fourth hand but a senior manager has told friends and neighbours, who told me, that NCAN editor-in-chief Tony Burman is livid that his beloved news service that he has worked so hard to build up in the past few years is not on the Katrina front line.

The managers putting together the newscasts for the past three weeks were both tired and depressed by the situation. Then came Katrina. Now three independent sources have told me separately that, with Katrina, that they are becoming exhausted. In normal times, when a disaster like Katrina struck, as occurred on September 11, 2001, CBC News would beef up staff, redeploy reporters and call in all available casuals. Now Katrina has to be handled by a small group of overworked, tired, and often inexperienced managers.

Regional managers are going home for the holiday weekend. They have been living in a cocoon for the past three weeks.

It was reported to me that some of these managers are puzzled at the Guild's "stubborn refusal" to see the reasonableness of the senior management position on casualization.

When they go home, it will be like when MPs leave Ottawa to talk to constituents, or perhaps, even like when a hostage with Stockholm Syndrome is released. They will talk to their families, to their friends and neighbors and perhaps to other CBC employees.

If the managers go home, and see that they could be separated from their families for months to come, and that the Guild position is not unreasonable, then they may return less than thrilled at a continued (what Ouimet called) secondment at gunpoint.

The Kosovo/Katrina factor. A call for a truce.

During the 1999 strike (and that was a strike) by CEP, it became obvious as it went into about the sixth week, that NATO was going to go to war in Kosovo. The people inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre had been putting out newscasts without pictures, although radio was able to do more.

As the military began its moves, the news staff were told that the CBC was also planning to go to cover the war.

Both sides immediately entered serious negotiations and there was a settlement in time for full CBC News and Current Affairs coverage of the war.

A quick settlement is unlikely at this time. The senior managers have been flexing their muscles since 1999, the last three disputes have been lockouts, not strikes.

There appears to be no understanding at the top of the CBC of the role of public broadcasting.

There was likely NO contingency plan for a major disaster like Katrina. (News managers always have contingency plans, but it is clear at this point the Senior Management Committee probably did not even consider something like a Katrina or another major bombing attack)

The famous plan that was waved by Robert Rabinovitch in the 10th Floor Artists' Lounge, mentioned by a couple of bloggers, I am now told by sources, was nothing more than a detailed play list of shows that would be aired months from now. This, to me, is confirmed by what I was told before the lockout by people in the CBC tape library, that each weekend for weeks there were large orders for tapes to be dubbed and sent to a storage facility, to be used in case of a lockout or strike.

One of the columnists said that when Canadians start seeing the Beachcombers, they will know the CBC is in trouble.

We're in trouble.

There has to be an interim truce.

Management has to drop the precondition of total surrender on the casualization issue, start talking, end the lockout,
get CBC back on the air and get reporters and crews on planes into the southern United States.

There cannot be negotiated settlement in time for Hockey Night in Canada, even if both sides are in agreement on a lot of issues and locked in the Royal York 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the first week in October. Remember it took Toronto sometimes years to resolve all the issues from amalgamation.

CBC management and the CMG have to find a way to create an interim agreement acceptable to both sides, and as has occurred with agreements on other smaller issues, append that agreement to the current contract. (Extra money would make it all the sweeter) while the major issues are negotiated, perhaps with the help of the new mediator everyone is searching for.

If management continues to stubbornly stick to their bricks and mortar industrial relations strategy, the CBC will slowly bleed to death over coming months.

Reaction on the blogs

From comments posted on CBCunplugged when it linked to this

Anonymous poster

An interesting analysis, but it overstates the difficulties in reaching an agreement. The actual differences between the old CEP and Guild contracts are very small. The majority of articles in the separate collective agreements share identical language - part of a process of moving towards a common base that began with the 1996 amalgamation. So getting a deal doesn't have to be difficult or lengthy...If the managers were smart (!) they'd drop their demand to contract out the majority of work, thereby emasculating the Guild negotiators who'd be forced to make a lot of concessions in the remaining areas once the raison d'etre for the dispute was removed. Of course, a smart managerial team would have done that just before the lock out deadline. We're not dealing with smart...Plenty of time to make hockey happen, assuming that the NHL hasn't already cut a deal with Rogers.

Ouimet takes the opposite view, but agrees with the other post that there are hotheads involved.

Real negotiations have not started yet. What is going on is talking about talking. Or rather, talking about the oft-metioned 40 (or is it 41?) issues in smaller groups so that they can get back together and start negotiations proper. when that happens they talk about what they talked about, and write it into the collective agreement - your "contract"...

And before they can come to a settlement, they have to see eye-to-eye on these issues and be pretty sure that they won't get screwed by the other side after the doors are unlocked.

So now you know what I know. The real question is: How long does it take 40 rooms of 24 hotheads to settle 40 arguments?

My guess is that it will be at least 2 weeks before we get an idea of when a settlement will come.

And by e-mail
What concerns and even scares me is that even if we get back inside next week or the week after, all the fundamental forces and problems that caused this insanity will still be around, i.e. Rabinovitch/Stursberg/Chalmers/Smith... Unless there is quick and clean sweep, I just can't see how the damage can be undone. Not to mention the trust that the infamous "Fred and Krista" memo alone obliterated in one clean swoop.

I dont' want to be too obvious metaphorically but we ourselves are in the midst of a man(ager)-made Katrina.

Reply from Robin

Ouimet notes that managers are worried that if the Canadian Media Guild came back in the doors, it could then pull the plug. A key date, therefore, is September 8, when, by law, the strike mandate given to the Guild in the last vote expires. (Interesting that a strike mandate expires, a lockout decision doesn't. But then that's the difference between democracy and dictatorship)

A truce is a truce. A final contract would have a "no strike or lockout" agreement. So could an interim agreement. It would have to be short to keep the negotiators focused. My suggestion is 120 days. That would bring us to sometime in January, with a possible federal election and the Olympics.

That would give advantages to all sides. If things were going badly, the CMG could hold another strike vote; management would be aware that it was winter and both the Prime Minister and the Opposition would know that so far in history only the CBC has blanketed the country during an election. (Of course if we're still out on this round by the election, Robert Hurst at CTV could just hire everyone he needed by setting up a [heated] tent and table on Front Street. Unfortunately it would likely be an election duration only deal)

Remember Samuel Johnson "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." About 120 days would cool the passions, get Don and Ron back on Coach's Corner, give the Senior Management Committee a chance to contemplate the reality of the 21st century media and the Canadian Media Guild wondering what it would be like to be back pounding the pavement in frigid February.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005
  CBC 51: Send me the original script
I'm hearing that apparently there's some puzzlement inside the Toronto Broadcast Centre.

This was the week the Canadian Media Guild was supposed to fold--at least according to the script.

And it appears from other blogs that is what people inside were hearing and are surprised it hasn't happened:

Tessa reports:

I hear from a couple of colleagues that a group encountered a senior manager on the line at the Toronto Broadcast Centre earlier this week.

Said manager: “You’ll be back in a week, maybe a week and a half.”

That sounds promising.

Then the manager went on the lament how difficult it’s been writing copy for the newscasts, suggesting that the task was menial and somehow beneath them.

So does Aiglew from IT

I politely talked for a bit with an APS shut-in who is a close co-worker in my group. He seemed to think that this would end soon after we conceded on the Permanent/Contract issue. The NightCrawlers are sometimes a wee bit out of touch but I kept saying "Nope, we’re not gonna cave".

"Yes, but it will happen".
"Nope, we’re not gonna cave".
"No, but, when hockey happens, you’d be called back."
"We’re not gonna cave"

Another walker who is in a related department came over. Since we all work together, never has that yellow line seemed so obvious. An instant of eye-contact… a pause.

"Nope, we’re not gonna cave".
"but….but… then what’ll happen?"

Well then, my friend, we’re all screwed. If the CBC goes down I’ll lose my job and my house. I, and all Canadians, will lose a living part of our culture

And then there was the leak of the memo, received by LockoutinWinnipeg that recommended that managers entering a building be not too nice to their fellows:

On the Friday conference call, we were asked whether managers were expected to visit the picket lines in their locations.

Some of us remember a day when spending a few minutes with picketers was encouraged. Those days were a very different situation than the one we're in now.

It is expected that designated Location Chiefs visit the picket line a couple of times of day to liase with CSM and with the picket captains and to gauge the mood on the line.

However, there should be no other managers or other non-CMG staff visiting the line, nor should there be any attempts to "improve the mood" on the line, by providing food or drink, for example. It's very important, if there is a lock-out, that we bring a quick resolution to the work stoppage. A quick resolution will be helped by picketers focussing on the reality of their situation. Making things more comfortable for the picketers does not support this goal.


Fred and Krista

I have a strong hunch that Fred and Krista were following someone else's script when they sent out that memo.

Ouimet did say in an earlier post that there was a script that laid out a scenario lasting months. (Ouimet's original post)

So to anyone inside the walls. I am not asking for the script Ouimet outlined, that would be conflict of interest (although I will take it if I can get it).

But I am betting that it is based on a non-confidential original template, probably written by a labour consulting firm, perhaps it has been published and I can even pick it up off Amazon or a website somewhere.

So let me know where I can get my hands on that original copy. Some of you managers inside were once journalists. Track it down. Send me an e-mail (give me information so that I can verify your identity.) Or if there's hard copy you can leave it behind a screen door somewhere. (If you're manager who's being flown home from Toronto for the holiday weekend, I can arrange pickup anywhere in Canada or just drop it at someone's door with a copy of this blog post.)
If we have to, let's play spy movie and arrange a dead drop.

Why do I suspect there is a consultant original template? Two close members of my family are both professional labour negotiators, one union, one management (neither has ever worked with a media industry) so I know such templates exist and circulate among high level corporate managers and that unions sometimes get their hands on them.

As the music blasts from Simcoe Park, get this. We're not following your script. But I would love to read it.

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  CBC 50: We've not only lost the audience, we've lost respect

This is my 50th post on the subject of the CBC lockout.

It is 6:35 p.m. Eastern Time.

At CTV, the staff of their National are watching the "Amnets."

If the CBC National was working, they too would be watching the "Amnets."

The managers who are likely going to throw together another 15 minute "melt" tonight are watching the American networks and chosing the pictures they will cut into that long voice over.

Katrina is the greatest natural disaster in the United States in a century, the greatest natural disaster since the San Francisco earthquake, and with the greater population and the track of destruction, likely the worst natural disaster in that nation's history.

The American networks are broadcasting the collapse of a city. The post-atomic-bombing science fiction novels I read as a kid are now a reality in New Orleans and coastal Mississippi.

Canadians, if they are even watching the CBC at this time, are getting the BBC.

The TV and radio reporters, producers, camera people and editors who covered the tsunami are walking around and around and around locked buildings across the country., where I work, won a special award from the South Asian Journalists Association for the special website we produced on the tsunami. (Go to the SAJA awards page and scroll down to the special new media category, won for "exceptional in-depth coverage."). The staff who created that website are also pounding the pavement. I was the photo editor on that project.

The men at the top the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who orchestrated this lockout, and who are perpetuating it in the face of this catastrophe are a disgrace. They have not only driven the audience away from the CBC, they are destroying, minute by minute, the respect that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and especially CBC News has built up around the world over more than sixty years. It began with pioneering radio coverage of a much smaller event, the Moose River Mine disaster. (I doubt, however, if any of the upper managers have ever heard about the Moose River Mine disaster and CBC Radio's coverage of the rescue. But if the lockout goes on long enough, they will probably find the tape and play it to fill time.)

Love the CBC or hate the CBC, one thing is becoming obvious, if nothing changes, all Canadians will remember Paul Martin as the prime minister who dithered while his party's appointees destroyed the CBC.

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  CBC 49: Hot location



As the sun sets over the western reaches of Toronto, a group of people leave the picket lines around the Toronto Broadcast Centre and cross John and Wellington to a small corner Starbucks.



The people, locked out producers and a well-known host, are chatting among themselves. At a table on the John St patio, sipping a large coffee, is an elderly actor who decades earlier, as a child star, was featured in a number of "let's put on a show" movies. He smiles as he hears

How can we put on that show? If radio can do it, we can do it.


We see the silouette of a worried executive as he looks down on the brightly-lit Starbucks and its crowded patio tables......

Yes the hottest location for brain storming in all of creative Canada this week is that Starbucks at John and Wellington. TV folks meet on the picket line and they're saying, if radio can do it, why can't we? If a group of locked out radio people can put together Toronto Unlocked, why can't we bring back something that resembles somewhat the regular TV shows?

How to do it is why they are brain storming. Go to audio and podcast? Go to videoblogging or video on demand? Or some sort of live theatre gig?

Who knows? It's all the brain storming stage right now. May never get off the ground. But watch this space.

And CTV, if you're interested in a movie of the week or a reality show about locked out CBC workers putting on a show, I know it's not likely, but if you are, drop an e-mail to this blog and I'll forward it to my agent in California. (Yes my agent is in California)
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  CBC 48: No Newsworld, no NewsNet

What's news junkie to do?
CTV NewsNet went to black with just audio about an hour ago, about 8:30 a.m. ET at least on Toronto Rogers Cable. Still no picture at this writing....
Locked out CBC Newsworld is running tired documentaries.
For Katrina and all the other news.....
Watch CNN I guess.

Update 10:20 a.m. CTV NewsNet just came back. Down for a little less than 2 hours.

(And I am sitting here waiting for the estimate of my roof repair).
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  CBC 47: Katrina notes. Why aren't we there?

Katrina note 1.

A failure to communicate

I turn on the TV this morning and see on ABC that the entire city of New Orleans is being evacuated. I've just seen a picture of an elegant southern mansion, with water just below the level of some old oil paintings and water lapping up a polished wood spiral staircase. Earlier there were pictures of refugees crowding in to the Houston Astrodome. The reporter is saying that some people will never return to New Orleans, another on a cable network says, no definitive source quoted, that people could be homeless for five years.

I switched to Newsworld. Some documentary. At the top of the clock, the BBC was back. I went back to ABC.

Last night "CBC News" returned. For 15 minutes at 9 p.m last night, the CBC covered Katrina, in a long, about four or five minute voice over "melt" from Washington by manager Judy Piercey.

And the supers? Who chose the supers? They're using white on red BBC style supers. Are they trying to pretend they're the BBC? Or can't they find the proper supers in the character generator?

Katrina is a major blow to the United States, it's destroyed much of the Gulf coastal region, sent oil prices to unimagined highs, and Bush said on ABC this morning he's going to solve all of it without raising taxes, which means the U.S. deficit will also go through the roof and that, together with the oil crunch, deal dangerous damage to the world's economy.

Why aren't we there? Why isn't Peter Mansbridge and the National in Mississippi? Why wasn't As It Happens talking to people in small towns in Louisiana for both the Canadian and its huge American audience?

Because the Guns of August have moved to the disasters of September. The tame the union plan must take precedence over everything, including the CBC's legal obligations under the mandate to serve the people of this country. I am sick.

Katrina Note 2. Radio is essential

I have noted on this blog in the past that a lot of U.S. radio is syndicated. But in the podcasting universe, and has we move toward more podcasts, it is worth remambering in that in a disaster, radio is essential to human survival and some US stations followed a long tradition and did great service during Katrina. But, of course, as that post also notes, there are now fewer of them to do it. (Originally linked from Micropersuasian)

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I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.

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Name: Robin Rowland
Location: Toronto, Canada

I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal. The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months) My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often) The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)

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