Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/2/2015 (1693 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If there was a single cow flop in the vast field of Canadian broadcasting, CBC managers would find a way to step in it.
Those making the decisions have shown over the past six months they have an exceptional ability to take a bad situation and make it immediately worse.
Their blunders have no doubt brought much joy to the hearts of those who have weathered being the subject of unflattering news stories.
They've also managed to bring much embarrassment to their own employees. And they've given a top-up to the tanks of the anti-CBC machine.
The hits just keep on coming.
There was the Jian Ghomeshi disaster, which began with the routine CBC response: It knew nothing. That led to contradictions over who knew what when and whether anyone actually did anything about it. On a parallel track was the discovery that network "stars" were getting paid for speeches given to groups they covered and put on air. Those were topped by the revelations a TV host was working behind the scenes to sink an unfavourable story about a company from which she had received such payments. Oh, yes, at the time she also had a romantic relationship with one of the directors of that company.
While the mismanagement and conflicts of interest were obvious, the CBC's response to all of them was the same tired, corporate dodge for which it routinely criticizes others.
First deny, and, if that doesn't work, then introduce some small controls and, if that doesn't work, make another policy change or toss some flunky overboard. Rinse, repeat.
Being open, honest and ethical doesn't appear to be on its checklist. The CBC talks a good game. It argues for transparency from governments and others it covers. Yet the corporation itself is about as transparent as a block of wood.
In fact, it could have avoided much of its bumbling by simply following its own rhetoric, which it actually has written down. Its policies are clear:
CBC/Radio-Canada employees shall serve the public interest by:
3.1 Acting at all times with integrity and in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that may not be fully satisfied by simply acting within the law.
3.2 Never using their official roles to inappropriately obtain an advantage for themselves or to advantage or disadvantage others.
3.3 Taking all possible steps to prevent and resolve any real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest between their official responsibilities and their private affairs in favour of the public interest.
What person with a working cranium would think it acceptable based on these straightforward policies to take money for speeches from interests that are covered by CBC?
This not-so-free-speech issue is important. This is the country's public broadcaster. We pay for it. We expect a higher standard from all its news employees, let alone the high-profile ones like Peter Mansbridge and Amanda Lang. They profited from the speech circuit, taking payments from oil and gas interests and big banks and other financial institutions. Then there was Rex Murphy, who used his soapbox on CBC-TV (and for-profit speeches) to denigrate those who disagreed with his denial of climate change.
Lang, host of the business-boosting show The Exchange with Amanda Lang and the CBC's "senior business correspondent," was revealed to have been giving paid speeches to companies that appeared on her show. She also attacked a CBC investigative story about the Royal Bank of Canada's plans to replace Canadian employees with foreign workers. At the time, she was dating a member of the RBC board and had given paid speeches to events that, in part, were sponsored by RBC. She even wrote an op-ed in the Globe and Mail calling the CBC story a "sideshow."
CBC managers danced on the head of a pin for weeks before deciding their steadfast defence was inoperable — such payments were now banned. The managers' conversion on the road to Damascus didn't seem quite as heartfelt as St. Paul's.
One of the saddest results of these, other CBC misdeeds and the endless smokescreens generated by its sovereigns, is it casts a dark shadow over all the fine work done by the corporation. But that work is turned out ethically day by day by those not protected by star status or management titles.
Had any of those at the bottom rung been involved in similar capers, those above wouldn't have rolled out the PR cannons or contorted themselves like pretzels to explain away their conduct. They would have dumped them without a backward glance.
George Stephenson is a former journalist who once worked for the CBC.