Saturday, November 22, 2008

CBC defends itself

The chair of the CBC board of directors has now publicly responded to Heritage Minister James Moore's public dressing down of the crown corporation over some expense reports recently obtained by Sun Media. There's a defence of the expenses incurred that should be noted:
The report, according to Casgrain, was taken out of context and paints "a totally distorted picture of the expenses of one of our most effective executives."

"Some of the items mentioned are expenses incurred by M. Lafrance in the conduct of his duties, while others are corporate expenses of French services for which he is responsible. That distinction was lost in the media reports," Casgrain wrote.
Casgrain also points out that the "...travel and hospitality expenses of all senior management are posted on CBC websites."

What I found interesting was this bit, suggesting the less than pure motivations behind the airing of these expenses and those who sought them out:
He said that while the CBC is mindful of its financial responsibility to the Canadian public, the public nature of its operations makes the corporation particularly vulnerable to attacks from its competitors.

He noted the CBC has received more than 150 access to information requests this year — far more than those received by other Crown corporations — and that the bulk of these requests have come from two sources.

CBC was added to the list of agencies subject to access to information laws after the Conservative government came into power in 2006.

Casgrain also noted that Lafrance, as well as CBC/Radio-Canada, are currently the targets of legal action initiated by Quebecor Inc., which owns the Sun newspaper chain and Le Journal de Montréal. (emphasis added)
A few things the Minister might have factored in, you'd think, if he had bothered to fully inform himself. So perhaps the Heritage Minister could have picked up the phone or requested a meeting and inquired about the expenses upon learning of the report from Sun Media instead of launching a public relations effort, releasing letters to the media and initiating public rebukes. Why was public confrontation Moore's first resort? His opening public salvo here, early in his tenure as Heritage Minister, affirms the undercurrent of Conservative hostility toward the CBC. Such displays are what make a good number of Canadians uncomfortable with letting the Conservatives govern unrestrained by minority government.

Also of note here, the opening up of the CBC to access to information laws, something that would hardly have raised objection at the time it was done, may be having some administrative impact on them insofar as their competitors appear to be engaging it frequently. At least, that's the suggestion here. That there's a backdoor hamstringing going on that may be connected to why the access to information move was made by the Conservatives. Unintended consequence...or convenient result for the CBC bashing Conservatives?