CBC journalists could end up bound and gagged and dumped in the trunk of a sedan, Goodfellas-style, if the Harper government’s attempt to take direct control of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s employees, embedded in the omnibus budget Bill C-60, passes Parliament, according to a new advocacy ad campaign rolling out online on Monday.
The campaign, by the grassroots organization Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, which has been lobbying against the provisions in Bill C-60 that would give the Treasury Board oversight of the CBC’s collective bargaining process, calls on the Harper government to “free the CBC from political interference.”
Since C-60 came to light in the spring, a number of Canadian journalism and media organizations have expressed concerns about the legislation. But while the CBC’s leadership has said it will share its concerns about Bill C-60 privately with the government, its most high-profile newsman took umbrage in May over the idea that he and his colleagues might be so easily cowed.
“Insulted by suggestions by so-called “Friends” that CBC journalists’ day to day integrity is negotiable. Pathetic,” tweeted Peter Mansbridge.
“Mansbridge is entitled to his opinion,” said Ian Morrison, the Friends spokesperson who will hold a press conference on Parliament Hill on Monday to announce the campaign. “A lot of journalists agree [with Friends].”
Friends says it will try to place the ads on TV and has budgeted about $60,000 for the effort, which Morrison said was higher than any previous TV campaign it has waged.
But some of the campaign may turn off the very people it is trying to engage, including fans of the CBC who are also Conservative voters. A 60-second English-language ad begins with a reporter outlining a dozen of Stephen Harper’s perceived sins, including “robocalls … the G20 abuses, the F-35 boondoggle … the cancelling of the long-form census, muzzling of scientists, the Duffy-Wallin scandal … and now turning CBC into a state broadcaster,” before he is packed away to his Scorsesean fate.
Morrison says that, while the ad is a metaphor, the threat is real. “We see Bill C-60 as a direct contradiction to the Broadcasting Act,” which expressly notes CBC journalists are not government employees. Friends would likely join a court challenge if the legislation were passed, he said.
At Monday’s press event, the group will release results of a poll taken last month that found 81 per cent of Canadians believe the CBC should remain independent of government control.