Guest blogger: No smoking zone

Sent to us by sadforcbc.

Dear Hubert,

The wondrous and magical journey begins! Congratulations to you and your partner on the birth of your daughter.

As you pointed out in your latest note, your daughter’s arrival happily coincided with the emergence of something we haven’t had for a while. Hope. All of us who work here, and indeed all Canadians who support public broadcasting, should be rejoicing at the Heritage Committe report. It adopted, or partially adopted, many of the recommendations made by CBC. And it seemed to accept many of the pro-public broadcasting message advocated by participants such as the CMG.

Yes, it is true that the Conservative Party MPs on the committee declined to support the call for new money without concrete budget proposals, but that’s not such bad news. Maybe they just want to see where it goes, which is both wise and prudent. (And for those who believe that the Tory government has a secret agenda to kill the CBC, I will remind them that it was this same Tory government which did something no Liberal government had ever done; a year ago, it renewed the annual $60 million top-up for TWO years. Go figure.)

Ironically, just days earlier we were listening to Richard repeat the old corporate mantra. “There is no new money coming from parliament,” he said.

And he’s been saying the same thing for years, and Rabinovitch before that. It’s the justification for programming decisions like The One, the dumping of arts, and the expected cut to current affairs. It’s the justification for all the real estate rationalizations, which have resulted in elbow-rubbing chumminess in Ottawa, the closure of the design department in Toronto, condos in Vancouver, and the new plans to expand rental space in the Broadcast Centre which puts us at war, again, with the City of Toronto. (We’ve lost every round so far, but hey, why not try again to have the city rewrite the zoning bylaws? It stands to reason that if we pound our head against the wall long enough, we will eventually be concussed enough to believe the wall will give way.)

No new money? It now appears likely that all we really had to do was get the heritage committee to have a serious look under the CBC’s hood.

Hubert, this is yet another stunning failure of your senior management team. They came up with the “no-new-money-is-coming” mantra during a time of record federal surpluses, when every other federal department and agency was busily reclaiming the money lost in the cuts of the mid-1990’s. While everyone else won their share back, and then some, our brass sat on the sidelines and essentially declared they weren’t prepared to advocate for more money.

Arguably, it makes sense to maximize resources from excess real estate. But in declaring space “excess,” management is essentially waving the white flag. Space is only excess because management declined to fight for the money to replace all the people it laid off in the 1990’s. And when it comes to decisions like closing the design department and selling off costumes and props…. well that’s the tail wagging the dog. Or realtors wagging the public broadcaster.

Has anyone noticed that there are 74 entries for “real estate” in the CBC staff directory? That’s compared to 52 “news” staff in all of Newfoundland and Labrador, including TV, radio, on-line, French, English, editorial and technical, spread across four bureaus.

And is anyone aware that while television’s communication department was being contracted out, real estate was busy building it’s own? So programs don’t need in-house PR. But the real estate division does?

What do all those people do? Especially now that the major tasks appear to have been done. Or have they?

The real estate department is a monster that has not only outgrown the closet, but it’s a hung a “for rent” sign on it. How serious can we be about public broadcasting, if we have all these people tasked with clearing people and product out to make room for sushi shacks and coffee shops?

Good luck with your daughter, sir. I note with interest you won’t be handing out cigars since you don’t smoke. That’s good for your health, and hers.

I don’t smoke either. But we do have a health issue at the CBC. It also involves smoke; too many senior managers blowing it.



  1. Anonymous
    Posted March 7, 2008 at 7:10 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    That means Lynn Russell simply moved from one real estate company to a new real estate company.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted March 5, 2008 at 10:07 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    An absolutely brilliant posting sadforthecbc. The priorities of the CBC have shifted during the last many years from production to God-knows-what. The only person that will be able to answer the many issues and concerns you have raised is the Auditor General. It’s time to call Sheila Fraser – the CBC has more real estate agents on staff than Remax – how is that possible Dick? CBC operations no longer pass the smell test. What an absolute disgrace.

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