Group urges Liberals to keep promise to reform CBC board by Elianna Lev

Jul 12, 2016

Source: Yahoo! News

A independent watchdog group is urging the Liberal government to keep its promise to reform the appointment of CBC’s board of directors.

Ian Morrison, spokesman for Friends of the Canadian Broadcasting, says the main problem is that the appointment of board members has been made directly by the government as patronage appointments. He says that eight of the 10 current members of the board, including the president and chair of the board, are Conservative backers. They were able to uncover this information through researching the board members financial contribution to the party.

“For decades, there’s been parliamentary and other studies recommending that the CBC governance be amended so that it’s arms-length from political interference,” Morrison told Yahoo Canada News.

Friends of the Canadian Broadcasting commissioned two experts on broadcasting and media law to recommend a course of action that the government could consider. The extensive review examined how national public broadcasters in other countries appoint a non-partisan board.

During last year’s election campaign, Justin Trudeau promised that a Liberal government would review the way the board of directors is appointed to make sure it’s merit-based and independent from political interference.

Morrison says that based on the information in the report, he believes it is possible to move away from the patronage appointment of the board. He also says it’s possible to change the law so that the CEO of the CBC is appointed by and responsible to the board of directors. Currently, the president is appointed by the prime minister.

“(The report finds) that it is possible for Mr. Trudeau to keep his promise and shows how to do it,” he says. “It is possible to get the CEO of the CBC to be accountable to the board of directors the way almost every other CEO in the world is accountable to a board of directors.”

So far the Liberals haven’t responded to the campaign, though Morrison says he didn’t expect one since the prime minister has been abroad since the group sent the report to him. (Yahoo Canada News contacted the Prime Minister’s Office.) However, their efforts have been gaining lots of momentum.

A petition launched to “reform the board” on June 21 has just over 20,700 signatures. And Author Margaret Atwood tweeted out a link to the campaign to her 1.2 million Twitter followers.

“It’s a source of great encouragement but not a surprise that she’d do that,” Morrison says. “She’s a very thoughtful, articulate and highly regarded person.”

A representative of the CBC told Yahoo Canada News that the corporation isn’t responsible for the appointment of the board and couldn’t comment on the efforts to reform it.

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