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CBC Radio 'offensive and flippant' by Denis Armstrong

Feb 9, 2006

Source : Ottawa Sun

CBC Radio was blasted yesterday for spending an undisclosed amount of taxpayers' dollars to throw a concert in New Orleans.

The Maple Leaf Mojo benefit concert on Saturday night will feature 14 Canadian artists -- including Daniel Lanois and The Mighty Popo -- who will fly down to the Big Easy today along with five CBC staff members.

The show, which was originally described by the CBC as a fundraiser for the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, will be broadcast live by satellite on Radio 1 from 7:05 to 11 p.m.

With 1,000 tickets selling for $10 each, the $10,000 a sell-out would generate would pale in comparison to the costs of hosting the event, a price the CBC won't divulge.

"Their lack of accountability is offensive and flippant behaviour," said NDP MP Pat Martin. "You'd think that after the stink with (Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson's) junket with journalists to Scandinavia, you'd think that the CBC would be careful about even the perception of a junket such as this."

Martin, a card-carrying member of the Friends of the CBC, questioned why the same concert couldn't be held at home and then the money sent to the New Orleans cause.

"Couldn't they go to The Black Sheep or record portions of the Bluesfest?" he asked. "I recommend they scrap the remote immediately."

IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Martin went on to predict that if the CBC doesn't rethink its spending policies, the new Heritage Minister Bev Oda will.

"CBC is in the crosshairs of the Conservative budget trimmers," he said.

A spokeswoman for Oda's office said while the minister saw the story about the trip in yesterday's Sun, she would not be making any comment on it until next week after she gets settled into office.

Ruth Ellen Soles, CBC director of media relations, refused to say how much the trip will cost.

"We don't discuss budgets of individual programming initiatives. We never have," Soles said.

NO ONE-OFF

When asked how much the CBC hoped to raise from the event, Soles responded: "Does any fundraising event cost out how much they're going to raise before they go?"

Soles said the concert is not a one-off fundraising event but a major investment in future radio programming.

"This concert is a benefit concert, so there will be funds raised, but this is also a programming initiative," Soles explained. "It's a part of our regular remote programming budget for the fiscal year.

"What we're getting is eight hours of live broadcasting on Saturday as well as live concert recordings we can use for one year. There will be news stories, documentaries done, items for Sounds Like Canada and programming for Definitely Not the Opera and Jowi Taylor's Global Village.

"It's a very sound programming decision as far as we're concerned."

Adam Taylor, a spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, was "embarrassed" by the details of the junket.

"How can they justify sending so many people at taxpayers' expense?" he asked.

"Accountability and transparency are major buzzwords in Canadian politics. It's the height of arrogance for a Crown corporation like the CBC to spend tax dollars with little to no concern for accountability to the public.

"I'm dumbfounded. We have the right to know (how much is being spent)."

© Ottawa Sun

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