Former journalist Tom Clark will chair a new committee recommending candidates to be appointed to the board of directors of CBC/Radio-Canada, as the Liberal government tries to confront accusations of partisan bias in the oversight of the public broadcaster.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Minister of Heritage Mélanie Joly announced Mr. Clark would be joined by eight others on the independent advisory committee, including actor Colm Feore (Bon Cop, Bad Cop), documentary filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin (Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance) and Prem Gill, the current chief executive of Creative BC.
Other committee members include Éric Larocque, the New Brunswick-based director of the organizing committee for the 2021 Games of La Francophonie; Monique Savoie, the founder of Montreal's Société des arts technologiques; and Marc Beaudet, the president and CEO of the Montreal-area digital platform company Turbulent.
Two others have direct experience with CBC: the Franco-Métis filmmaker Janelle Wookey contributed to the broadcaster's aboriginal people's project 8TH Fire, and Carolyn Warren was a CBC Radio producer and manager for about 10 years before joining the Banff Centre in 2013.
Committee members will serve a six-month unpaid term, during which they will compile at least three names of potential candidates for each available position on the CBC board. The names will be submitted for consideration to the Heritage Minister, who will make the final decision on whom to recommend to the Governor in Council.
"Our government firmly believes in the importance of our national public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada," Ms. Joly said in a statement. "I am pleased to establish this independent advisory committee composed of experts in broadcasting, digital technology and culture, who reflect Canada's diversity. This new committee will recommend qualified candidates for a selection process that is open, transparent and based on merit."
The process may not be as transparent as some observers would like: A Department of Heritage fact-sheet published Tuesday says the "recommendations provided to the Minister are confidential and will not be disclosed."
Critics have long complained that the CBC board is populated by political partisans. They have also pointed out that few of the current board members have much outside broadcasting experience, and do not represent the diversity of Canada.
The Canadian Media Guild, the union representing the majority of English-language CBC employees, cheered the move. "We believe a representative, non-partisan, and fully qualified Board of Directors is an absolute necessity when it comes to restoring and building CBC/Radio-Canada into a point of pride that reflects all that we are and all that we aspire to become," the CMG said in a statement.
The union added that it encouraged the committee to recommend "employee representatives chosen by CBC's unions" for potential board membership.
The Broadcasting Act dictates that the CBC/Radio-Canada board comprises 10 part-time directors, plus a part-time chair and a full-time president/CEO, who are appointed by the Governor in Council for terms of up to five years. They may serve multiple terms.
Three positions are currently vacant, for which applications are being accepted until July 18. Applications to replace board chair Rémi Racine, whose term expires Tuesday, are being accepted until July 11.
The second term of CBC's president and CEO Hubert Lacroix expires at the end of the year.