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4-week CBC strike goes unnoticed

Diana Forbes | Interrobang | News | September 19th, 2005



Where do you get your news?

Obviously not the CBC, according to a Decima survey that found most Canadians are not affected by the month old lockout, which has left the public broadcaster without their regular reporters, anchors and writers.

CBC employees were locked out August 15 after 15 months of negotiations could not resolve the conflicts between the CBC and the Canadian Media Guild (CMG), the union representing employees.

The survey, which was conducted between August 18 and 21 by telephone, found 61 percent of those polled felt the CBC lockout had no impact on them at all. Only 10 per cent said the lockout was a major inconvenience, while 27 per cent said it was a minor inconvenience.

On the eve of the Toronto International Film Festival, the Screen Actors Guild, America's largest labour union representing working actors, issued a statement urging all members to support CBC locked out employees.

“The Guild is urging its members, particularly its high profile members, to seriously consider this situation and wherever possible avoid granting interviews with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation until this matter is resolved,” said Screen Actors Guild President Melissa Gilbert in a press release.

Ratings for CFL games, which are being aired in silence since on-air broadcasters took to the picket lines, have continuously risen since the lockout. According to the Toronto Star, the Labour Day game between Edmonton and Calgary drew a peak audience of 759,000. The average for the same game in 2004 was 548,000.

The CBC and the union cannot agree in the area of contract employees. According to the CBC website, the network has proposed to hire contract employees in the future for some jobs that are currently held by permanent staff. The CBC argues that in today's broadcasting industry contract employment is essential to the evolution of the network's media environment.

According to CMG, the increase of contract employees will limit future employees' opportunities and threaten full time staff's job security.

The CBC is currently composed of 30 per cent contract and temporary workers, while similar public broadcasters, such as ABC in Australia and BBC in the United Kingdom, hovers around 15 per cent.

The absence of seasoned CBC reporters and anchors has forced management and non-union staff to deliver the news on both radio and television. As a result, many programs are being rerun or supplemented by the BBC. Talks between the two camps continue on a daily basis and various agreements have been made.
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