The CBC Summer Waves Lockout Review

Well, it’s actually happened.  The two CBC Radio networks and the CBC in general have officially become crippled by the strike.  It might be wrong for me to say I couldn’t be happier, but let’s face it: there wasn’t much of a line-up this summer season, was there?  Granted, I’m talking as if the summer season is dead – and with CBC management and The Canadian Media Guild at loggerheads right now, it essentially is – but if that’s the price to pay to keep Tetsuro Shigematsu off my radio, I’ll accept it.

I’m not callous.  I feel sorry for the 5500 staffers who can’t work for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation due to the strike.  I’m not looking forward to the spectre of a completely silent Hockey Night in Canada and I’ll miss Ron MacLean’s sports reporting (which is always very good, and even the haters know that – if MacLean had defected to TSN instead of Chris Cuthbert, CBC Sports would have been crippled and CBC knows it).  The National isn’t as good when it’s pared down to thirty minutes, though the comedy program usually aired in its stead is an acceptable price to pay for the usually competent but rarely ever engaging documentary features.  Still, this is the third overall national strike (CBC workers in Quebec and Moncton, New Brunswick belong to different unions – the Quebec union having gone on strike twice itself) by CBC staffers in seven years.  Global doesn’t have this sort of labour problem.  CTV employees don’t go on strike like this.  Only the CBC employees do.  The CBC will survive this strike – it has in 1999 and 2001 – but with the technicians out of the building and ACTRA possibly following suit, the situation looks bad for the CBC.

Do I feel sorry for either side in the labour situation, though?  No.  Like any broadcaster CBC has been paring itself down, attempting to reach that ultimate level of cost-efficiency for a few years.  The network needs to be fiscally conservative like this.  It hasn’t been an easy few years for the CBC (especially with the radio networks, which have gone through an overall overhaul since 2003) but I appreciate the network’s push towards overall efficiency.  This means more contract workers and less full-time employees, but that’s just the nature of the beast these days.  The CBC didn’t need its own publicists.  This is no longer the CBC that stands alone as a monolith of the Canadian broadcasting landscape.  There needs to be a reason for CBC to exist, and while I despise a lot of the network’s programming there is an overall need for it.  Like it or not, CBC Television puts more effort into its programming schedule than CTV, Global and A-Channel/CityTV put together.  With the other networks, they just import a lot of American programs and add some cheap Canadian filler, seeing what works and going with that.  Ivan Fecan’s best work was at CBC Television, and it’s due to Danylo being exposed through Comics! that Comedy Inc. is on SpikeTV right now.  I don’t care if the CBC is third in the Neilsens.  That doesn’t mean one fat load of creamery butter to me.  I hope it doesn’t to other viewers.

What I can’t accept from the CBC, though, is the massive push towards temp work.  About a third of the CBC workforce right now consists of temps and contract workers.  The CBC needs its full-time employees, and while it needs to be efficient it also needs to be the public network it has been since its inception.  It’s ridiculous to turn the CBC radio and television networks into a carbon copy of what’s already out there.  The network had fifteen months to rectify the situation it was in with the CMG.  That this is the third CBC strike since 1999 suggests a failure to communicate with the people that make the CBC what it is.  It’s ridiculous to rely on BBC News so much during the opening salvo of this strike.  This wasn’t an unavoidable situation.  There’s no reason why CBC managers need to be so inflexible in the situation they’re in.  The CBC can only blame itself for arriving at this situation in the first place.  This isn’t war – it’s broadcasting.  There’s no place for ideology here.

Are CBC managers out of touch with what Canadians want?  I can’t say.  I can only suggest.  Still, I’m sure that most CBC viewers would rather have Don Cherry, Bob Cole and Harry Neale than three hours of the Air Canada Centre/Bell Centre/GM Place feeds with score-in-the-corner.  I cringe at the spectre of The National‘s opening credits being replaced with a chyroned-in “CBC News” over the generic CBC News logo.  I hope CBC Radio One re-airs The Vestibules, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the new shows – as much as I hate some of them.  I hope for a speedy resolution to the labour dispute, but the lockout might go on for months.  The labour dispute with the CMG isn’t going to kill the CBC where it stands, but the network might not recover from this particular strike as well as it did in 1999 and 2001.  There’s only so many times the network can, if I can be so crass as to make a bad hockey analogy, make the save before it lets a floater in.

On the bright side, PROMO GIRL IS DEAD!  YAY!

What, you thought I wouldn’t let one cheap CBC joke pass through your eyes?  My sense of humour isn’t on strike, now, is it?  That’s one thing you can rely on.


C. Archer
Le Social