Silent by design

A few things bothered me about that design dept video I posted Sunday.

The secrecy seemed unnecessary. And why did they wait so long to make it? It was more than 1 year ago that CBC management decided to close down the department, and since then they have been working with the CMG on other possible solutions.

So why would the CMG wait until the last minute to drum up public support?

I was also little puzzled by the softshoe approach the CMG has been taking on all this. Only yesterday they were Photoshopping the jolly roger over the pizza. But now, on the subject of the design department, it’s all vague shoulder shrugging “We deeply regret that the CMG and the CBC were not able to reach an agreement” blah blah.

Maybe they got old, I thought.

But I’m learning now that this was all part of the arrangement.

To hear the CBC tell it, they gave the CMG a year to prepare union members for the closing of the design department. The layoffs were coming May 31st, 2007, end of story. As part of this agreement and in exchange for this one-year grace period, the CMG promised not to publicly challenge or criticize senior management’s decision to close the design department. Ever.

Never ever.

Which is why management is not too happy about the video, Lise Lareau’s piece on, and the CMG’s attempts to shore up political support on the issue, all done out of desperation as the last day looms closer.

Now, I’m all for calming down and letting cooler heads prevail. I want to get with the program, believe me.

But shouldn’t the CMG have been doing all this a year ago, instead of now, when it’s too late?

Let’s face it. This place was built on coffee, cigarettes, the twofour in the office and criticising senior management.

And if we can’t depend on the union to criticize management, who else will do it?

Other mangers?

Like that’s ever going to happen!


  1. Dwight Williams
    Posted March 31, 2007 at 10:48 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Some room for improvements, I’d certainly agree. Having design staff in-house at every broadcast centre could only improve the situation in my POV.

    But then, I’m a part-time cartoonist. Heh.

  2. sadforcbc
    Posted March 29, 2007 at 7:34 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Yes, that is how the CBC tells it (1). The agreement was not that the department would close, end of story. The two sides negotiated an agreement that the Guild would be given a year to have an independant study conducted to examine the feasability of an employee run company.

    The study was done, and suggested it would be profitable, both for the company, and for the CBC. In exchange for the opportunity to keep the facility alive in some form, and for the stay of execution, the Guild agreed not to publicly campaign against the final decision, whatever that would be.

    Say what you will about the deal, but it was better than the alternative. Yes, that is how the CBC tells it (2). The CBC never “worked with the CMG”. In fact, they negotiated in bad faith.

    The other week, when Richard Stursburg was asked by the heritage committee whether the CBC was really going to close the design department in the middle of a mandate review, Richard said of course it would, since that was the intention well before the mandate review began.

    Yes, that is how the CBC tells it (3). I am sure the CBC isn’t happy with the mayor’s letter. It wasn’t happy a year ago, when he said the same thing.

    Only the paranoid cabal that runs this joint would draw the conclusion that by repeating his concerns about the impact of the closure, the mayor of Toronto is suddenly a CMG mouthpiece.

    As to Lise’s letter, sure, anything short of fawning obeisance gets under this thin skinned group’s shallow hide. As to the video, well, I’m glad you think it’s so effective it could have made a difference a year ago,

    when there was a public campaign, with letters and petitions and T-shirts and buttons and rallies (remember?)

    Let’s not forget the real issue here. It’s not what the employees and their union could have done, or should have done, or when. It’s whether you believe CBC management, which the Broadcast Act repeatedly refers to as “the custodian,” ought to be parcelling not only the ability to produce programs, but the physical assets dating back to the origins of Canadian television, out the back door.

    I’m not so sure. As you have pointed out time and time again, this is a ruthless and determined bunch who are steamrolling any opposition to their vison of the Canadian Broadcasting Centre as a half empty shell with a “For Rent” sign in the window. October can’t come soon enough

  3. Allan
    Posted March 29, 2007 at 9:29 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’m glad you brought this up, Ouimet, and I hope Tod takes note over at, where a few qualified eyeballs seem to pop infrequently (the Joe Clark piece drew a few of them out to speak publicly).
    The video was pretty slick and nostalgic. The secrecy was ridiculous – “I didn’t know I was being taped!”.
    I’m not afflilliated with either the CBC or the CMG, but when you mention these two in the same story, it’s hard not to think of the lock-out.
    At the time, there were thousands of upset people who had their lives disrupted by … management, and a lot of invectives hurled at one person in particular.
    But virtually none of the rank and file seemed prepared to question their union’s leadership, and how they failed to prevent this disaster.
    They choose to view the world in black & white, us versus them, the people versus management. They even cried “we’ve been silenced!”.
    But who really brought this upon them?
    It’s a question they chose not answer, and I suspect everyone would rather forget the whole thing and just be grateful for direct deposit.
    Anyone who has ever been a member of a union (I was in the Director’s Guild) knows that freedom of speech is secondary to UNITY!. And that questioning it’s leadership, even one composed of creative pansies rather than Teamsters, can be a dangerous experience if there’s enough of them to drum you out of the industry.
    I’ll stand alone and suggest that the loss of this historic and revered gem from Canadian theatre is not so much a reflection on the bean counters (what do you expect from them?) but rather on the artists themselves for failing to come up with a creative solution. At the end of the day, they agreed there was no other way out than to close shop. So they are complicit in this sad outcome.
    The Design Dept. would always have been a great tourist attraction even for locals, and community colleges could have made good use of this incredibly fertile and masterful training ground.

    And if we see a few members of ACTRA shedding tears, let’s remember, they’re professional actors. It’s part of what they do.

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