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PM’s appointees responsible for CBC’s disclosure woes

Oct 27, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Ottawa - The current debate about the CBC's access to information practices lays bare a broader accountability issue that should be addressed by reforming the patronage appointments system that effectively leaves the CBC's leadership accountable to no one, the Canadian content watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting testified this morning to a House of Commons committee.

The Prime Minister appoints both the CBC President and the Board of Directors through political patronage.  This arrangement denies CBC's Board a key accountability duty held by most corporations and public broadcasters to hire and fire the President and CEO.  Because it would be inappropriate for the Prime Minister to directly interfere with the CBC's access to information or other policy matters, the CBC President is largely accountable to no one.

 "We find it shocking that the current CBC President has endorsed and continued the disclosure avoidance practices inherited from his predecessor, presumably with the approval of CBC's Board of Directors who are responsible for the Corporation's policies with regard to access to information. It is Prime Minister Harper's appointee who is responsible for this," said Ian Morrison, Friends' spokesperson.

In his presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics this morning, Morrison suggested the Committee borrow a recommendation to remove patronage from the process of appointing people to CBC's leadership positions.  A June 2003 report of the Commons Heritage Committee recommended: "In the interest of fuller accountability and arm's-length from government, nominations to the CBC Board should be made by a number of sources, and the CBC President should be hired by and be responsible to the Board". 

"This would bring the standard of governance of Canada's national public broadcaster up to par with the standard of governance of public broadcasters in other democratic countries, while addressing the issue of compliance with the Access to Information Act," Morrison said.

Noting that the CBC continues to enjoy broad public support, Morrison told the committee that Friends of Canadian Broadcasting strongly supports CBC's talented employees who actually make the programming that Canadians enjoy daily, rather than the Prime Ministerial appointees whose policy decisions are the subject of Parliamentary scrutiny.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is an independent watchdog for Canadian programming supported by 150,000 Canadians and is not affiliated with any broadcaster or political party.

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For information: Jim Thompson 613-447-9592

Related Documents:

Oct 27, 2011 — Policy Brief: Presentation to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics House of Commons
FRIENDS tells a Parliamentary committee looking into CBC's access to information policies that the root cause of the public broadcaster's disclosure avoidance is patronage appointments of it's Board and President. 

Oct 26, 2011 — Winnipeg Free Press: Tory government's handpicked CBC board oversees access-to-info file by Jennifer Ditchburn
FRIENDS calls for an arm's-length process for CBC board appointments and wants CBC president to be hired by and answerable to the board.