I'm Mad as Hell

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and I can't do a thing about it

Media News

This week I received three emails that I think are important to media people and people interested in the media. I’m passing them along here.

The first is from another long suffering CBC person who loves the national broadcaster but hasn’t always liked the way the news service has operated. I think this insider provides a fitting last word on Newsworld’s 20th anniversary.

I really enjoyed your Newsworld memorial, but you were too kind.

I don’t think they had unrealistic goals at all. I think they were lying about their goals from the start.

When they were applying for their license (I remember thinking at the time what a load of manure this is going to turn out to be) they promised a string of their own foreign bureaus, including Tokyo; and a vow that the new network would be self-sustaining and not leech off the main network; and it would all be decentralized and not Toronto imperialism.

It turned out there were zero new foreign bureaus.

Further, the assignment desk would tell national reporters to go and cover such and such … and you’d say that The National would never use this in a million years. They would say yes, but Newsworld might. So, national reporters ended up being used to feed Newsworld and Newsworld alone. It was the news to nowhere, as Craig Oliver used to say.

As for decentralization, the operations in Halifax and Calgary ended up being quickly closed, without a peep.

Newsworld’s meat and potatoes is not “news” at all, it’s talk and blather (“context” and “background”). They are so devoid of imagination and fresh air at CBC that they decided must-see news programming is giving new hosts hours to fill with talk.

It has all turned out to be a sham and a failure. It sucks energy out of the main network (which has little enough to spare) and contributes nothing journalistic plus, it has an audience so low you would need a magnifying glass to find it.

I like that old cockney saying: if bullshit were music, there’d be bands in every street.

The second is a story passed on to me that speaks to how low the people at Canwest/Global have sunk. Some of you may have missed this little story because it doesn’t affect a lot of people and it didn’t happen in Toronto. The company that had the money to buy Alliance/Atlantis and that keeps the money pit called The national Post going found an interesting way to save a few bucks: by punishing a few retirees.

News release via Canada NewsWire, Toronto 416-863-9350 -ME-
Attention News Editors:
CHCH TV retirees call on Canwest Global to approach the federal
government to resolve CHCH TV pension crisis
HAMILTON, ON, July 28 /CNW/ – Canwest Global Communications Limited has advised CHCH TV retirees that the company will be winding up the CHCH TV pension plan effective August 31, 2009. The company has also informed the retirees that the plan has an unfunded windup deficiency, and that Canwest Global has no intention of funding the deficiency. This means that CHCH TV retirees will have their pensions reduced when the pension is wound up. The amount of the reduction is unknown because Canwest Global has yet to provide retirees with this information.
“Retirees are concerned that the issue of pension plan windup will pit current active employees at CHCH TV against retired former employees,” said CHCH TV retiree Bob Ireland. “If Canwest lacks the resources to fund its commitments, then a better solution is to approach the federal government to seek regulatory relief. Regulatory relief would have the benefit of protecting the interests of both active and retired members.”
Ireland noted that other federal employers, both big and small, have been able to obtain regulatory relief from the federal government. “This year, both Canadian Press, a small employer, and Air Canada obtained regulatory relief that allowed them to preserve and continue their pension plans,” stated Ireland. “CHCH TV retirees believe that the interests of CHCH TV employees, retirees and other beneficiaries, as well as Canwest would be best served by this approach.”
CHCH TV retirees have organized themselves and have retained legal counsel, Hugh O’Reilly, of Cavalluzzo Hayes. O’Reilly worked on the restructuring of both the Canadian Press and Air Canada pension plans.
“Canwest Global has demonstrated that it has a great deal of influence with the federal government. Canwest Global obtained approval to receive carriage fees from cable and satellite carriers,” commented Ireland. “Given that the company is now in a position to receive these new revenue streams, a portion of those funds should be used to honour the pension promise to retirees.”
“CHCH TV retirees will be contacting their members of parliament to get support for their position and will be in contact with the federal pension and broadcast regulatory authorities to make their case clear,” added Ireland. “Retirees have also written a letter to the Honourable James M. Flaherty, Minister of Finance, to ask whether or not the federal government would be willing to consider regulatory relief if approached by Canwest Global and current and retired CHCH TV employees.”
CHCH TV retirees have received the support of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), the union representing CHCH TV active members. “We fully endorse the CHCH TV retirees in their efforts and will work with them to approach the federal government for regulatory relief,” said Bob Huget, CEP Vice President for the Ontario Region. “Companies cannot be allowed to walk away from their pension commitments and the CEP will be taking proactive steps to prevent this from happening.”
“Like all retirees in today’s economy, CHCH TV retirees are vulnerable and face a number of challenges. Some have mortgages and children attending university and college while others have high medical bills or are looking after their elderly parents,” commented Ireland. “After years of service, the one thing CHCH TV retirees thought they could count on was the pension that the company promised.”
Bob Ireland spent 20 years as CHCH TV Bureau Chief at the Ontario Legislature and covered local and regional politics for CHCH TV for 5 years. Ireland was employed by CHCH TV for more than thirty years and is one of approximately 108 CHCH TV retirees and other plan beneficiaries.

Finally, I will let Stuart Bayens speak for himself. He runs a website out of Edmonton and he has a story that we all should know about.

I run a website out of Edmonton called The Last Link on the Left.

It covers matters of local interest, particularly crime (after all, Stats Can recently called us the murder capital of Canada).

I caught wind of your website via the insidethecbc blog. Your tagline caught my interest: “The real story about media that you won’t find in the mainstream media.”

Have I got a story for you.

It concerns a veteran reporter (30-years experience) getting pulled off a murder case because he refused to co-operate with a police search warrant. He was later fired by the radio station he worked for.

His boss, still at the station, openly raises funds for the police and takes on-going credit for them being able to buy a helicopter.

It concerns a man convicted by the media, who failed to report key problems with police evidence.

One reporter covering the trial, working for the area’s top-rated TV station, is married to a police officer.

A lawyer for the man accused, and later convicted of the murder, had to resort to instructing the media to correct a myth they perpetuated — that he had led a search party to discover his wife’s body.

It’s a long story, revealing not only how the reporter developed a relationship with the accused but how press-release journalism followed and supported a police theory — that given the details revealed in the reporter’s story — should not have held up in court.

The case is of Michael and Liana White. The reporter is Byron Christopher.

The story, released on the web on July 26th, can be read here:

http://www.lastlinkontheleft.com/e2005whiteuntoldstory.html

If you have the time, it’s an amazing read.

Thanks to all my readers for these stories.

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