One day in between one major layoff announcement and another terrible revelation in the Jian Ghomeshi case, an email appeared in my inbox declaring the winners of the CBC President’s Awards. It stunned me – it seemed so wrong to pretend things were normal and the annual tradition was going on uninterrupted, while so much at CBC was being disintegrated. I didn’t read on and tried, like many of us, just tried to get through another sorry day at work.
So hats off to the Radio-Canada employees in Sherbrooke, Québec who had the same feeling – but amplified it and acted upon it. They were the winners of a President’s Award for their coverage of the disaster at Lac-Mégantic, Québec. But when CBC President Hubert Lacroix went to deliver it this week, in person, he was rebuffed. The employees refused the award – citing the cuts. Lacroix is quoted as saying their move was, in effect, useless – but that’s evidence of the massive disconnect between those making decisions to dismantle much about the CBC and the people who do the programming every single day that makes the CBC what it is.
No Mr. Lacroix – what’s useless is pretending it’s business as usual at the CBC these days.
When senior managers write memos of yet another cut (this one the outsourcing of weather to another network, no less) that say people are “pleased to announce” a “new content sharing agreement” before mentioning the people who will lose their jobs, and the president of the CBC declares it’s a “good day” to announce 1500 job losses in the next five years, one has to seriously wonder if senior CBC managers are deliberately deluding themselves in the hope that if they use words like this, it will all be OK.
There is nothing normal, usual or “good” about any of this. That’s why employees openly ask their CEO who will be their champion as the CBC is attacked by government cuts. The answer should be obvious, but in this strange world of dismantling a public institution, nothing is as it should be.
What we do see is an increasingly empty Broadcasting Centre. We see empty offices. We see one empty studio, another one used by a former network competitor (Rogers) and a few more slated to be shuttered by next year. We see whole areas of expertise parcelled out (documentary production, weather, hockey). We see a single permanent reporter in a city the size of Fredericton. We listen to talk about selling the Broadcasting Centre itself. And today all of us will bear witness as hundreds more people across the country get notices that their jobs are redundant. I could go on.
We at the CMG are planning to do a full inventory of the losses in all their grim detail mostly because we know no one else will. Others, apparently, will keep declaring things are “good” and be pleased to hand out awards – until the very last studio door is closed.