A hole where the news should be

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The CBC lockout of its employees gives the expression “news hole” a literal usage. Without the CBC it is hard to imagine where in the mainstream media people can go to find out what is going on, let alone make some sense of events. There is a hole where the news should be.

Gathering the news is expensive. You have to invest in talent and experience. Private ownership of media ensures that profits come ahead of news content when priorities are set. The losers are the public and the democratic process.

In media speak, the news hole is the place in the middle of the ads you put the content. A newspaper sells as much advertising as it can. Some content is needed to get people to turn the page. The cheapest content is from syndicated features, and newswire stories.

The reason network television and daily newspapers do not report the news adequately is they do not have the journalists, editors, researchers and producers in place to do the job.Because this is well known and recognized we created and funded the CBC. It is supposed to put broadcasting before the bottom line. Instead it has decided to ape the private media organizations in the way it treats its staff.

The Canadian Media Guild is attempting to negotiate a collective agreement for the three groups of employees that make up the CBC: journalists, technicians and administrative employees.

In the future, management wants contract employees to be the norm; careers at the CBC go missing, and disposable workers are welcomed.

The CBC lockout is about real jobs in a media organization that reports the news, investigates public affairs, and features the arts and culture. If management has its way the CBC will not give its people the commitment that must be made if people are to commit in return.

The process is already underway. The CBC terminated employees in public relations, replacing them with outsourcing from agencies. Hiring someone by the hour to inform about what you are up to is exactly the opposite of what is needed. In the world of channel surfing through 500 or so options, the best way to get audience is to let them know continuously what you offer that no one else does. The hourly employee working out of house can not possibly do the job as well as a career professional.

The CBC has a commercial character. It has a mass audience for NHL hockey and CFL football, or would have if it decides to go back on the air. By shutting itself down it loses the revenue it needs to hire proper staff.

We look to the CBC to lead the media, inspire broadcast professionals to make our daily lives more interesting, secure and meaningful. By trying to reduce the independence of its workforce the CBC has abdicated its leadership role.

The corporation has lost its way. Its leadership needs to be replaced.

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