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Me, the CBC and the CTF by Stephen Kimber

Feb 4, 2012

Why would the Canadian Taxpayers Federation make a mountain out of the  minuscule? Why indeed?

Source: StephenKimber.com

So the sleuths at the Canadian (sic) Taxpayers Federation have uncovered the startling (to me, at least) fact I’m “on the CBC payroll.”

They appear to believe this is the only possible explanation why I—and other members of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting—could support public broadcasting in this country.

Perhaps that’s because the CTF assumes everyone else who supports a cause must be on the payroll of those with a vested interest in the outcome of the causes they support because… well, we’ll come back to that.

First some background.

I’m a volunteer—which is to say unpaid—member of the steering committee of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. It’s an independent watchdog group whose mission is “to defend and enhance the quality and quantity of Canadian programming in the Canadian audio-visual system.”

We do support public funding for the CBC, but we also often criticize the CBC for what we see as its failures to live up to its responsibilities as a public broadcaster. We criticize—and sometimes praise—private broadcasters for their roles in providing quality Canadian content to viewers. And we make presentations to the CRTC and parliamentary committees, arguing for more and better Canadian content.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation calls itself a “citizen’s advocacy group dedicated to lower taxes, less waste and accountable government.” It’s mostly run by ex-(or not so ex)Tory hacks and right-wing zealots who have never encountered a government expenditure (other than prisons and bombs) they wouldn’t bulldoze out of existence.

On its blog last week, the CTF wrote:

“Amongst the many Access to Information (ATI) enquiries we make each year was this tidbit relating to the CBC. Our National Research Director, Derek Fildebrandt got to thinking about the leadership of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, the group that advocates for more funding for the CBC. ‘What if these people are actually on the CBC’s payroll?’ thought Derek. If it were true, it would go a long way to explaining their passion for public broadcasting. And it would be very, very funny.”

So they went fishing, filing a request to the CBC for records, “in Excel format, if possible” of all payments— “regardless of the reasons they were paid”— to the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, its spokesperson, Ian Morrison, or any of its 11-member steering committee, including me.

“As it turns out,” the CTF breathlessly reported last week in a post entitled “Friends With Benefits,” Access to Information documents had revealed that “three members of the ‘Friends’ Steering Committee actually were on the CBC payroll.”

Including me!

“Stephen Kimber was paid $675 as a ‘freelance[r].’”

Whoah. Be still my beating heart.

I earn part of my annual income as a freelance journalist, and have done so for the last 40 years. I’ve written newspaper columns, magazine articles, books, commissioned books, occasional government reports (for Tory governments, I might add) and even the 1989 Report of the Royal Commission into the Wrongful Conviction of Donald Marshall, Jr.. I’ve also worked on occasion for the CBC—and for CTV, and for what is now Global TV.

What is interesting about the $675 figure the CTF touts on its blog—and which even it behind-the-hand mumblingly admits involved “quite small sums of money”—is what the CTF didn’t say about its initial request for information.

The CTF didn’t mention that it had asked the CBC for records of all payments made “from 2001 to present” because including that inconvenient fact would make those small sums reported seem even more minuscule, and its argument even more ridiculous.

The $675, therefore, represents all of the income I received from the CBC for 10 years! That works out to $1.30 a week.

I may be buyable, but even I’m not that cheap.

Speaking of being bought, what—aside from the usual ideological zealotry—would prompt the CTF to attempt to turn this molehill of non-information into the mountainous revelation that I was “actually… on the CBC payroll?”

Who foots the bill for the CTF’s federal office in Ottawa and its regional offices in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Altantic Canada not to mention its seven apparently fulltime spokespeople?

Whose interests does the CTF really represent?

One might answer that question by asking who else has a vested interest in getting rid of the CBC? Can you say Quebecor? Sun Media?

Surprise, surprise. Quebecor has created its own not so mini-industry churning out similar access to information requests of the CBC, desperately seeking ammunition for its goal of convincing a too-easily-convinced Harper government to shutter the CBC screens.

Do Quebecor, Sun Media, their executives or board members contribute to the Canadian (sic) Taxpayers Federation?

If so, how much?

Is the CTF… ahem.. “actually on the payroll” of those vested interests.

I don’t know. The CTF doesn’t disclose the names of its donors or how much they give.

But I’m guessing those corporate interests would be far more generous in putting CTF on their payrolls than the CBC has been with me.

© Stephen Kimber