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Trudeau government to revise CBC’s board selection process

Critics have noted that the current CBC board boasts little outside broadcast industry experience, and does not reflect Canada’s diversity.

Brian B. Bettencourt/The Globe and Mail

The Liberal government is overhauling the process by which members of the board of directors of CBC/Radio-Canada are selected, in hopes of ending decades of allegations of political interference in the public broadcaster's operations.

The Globe and Mail has learned the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly, will announce on Tuesday the creation of the Independent Advisory Committee for Appointments to the CBC/Radio-Canada Board of Directors. A government source said the board would comprise nine "experts in broadcasting and digital technology, representatives of cultural sectors from across Canada," as well as "Indigenous peoples, official-language communities and youth," who will be charged with compiling a list of candidates whose names will be submitted to the government.

The move goes some distance to fulfilling a commitment Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made while running in the 2015 election, for the CBC to embrace "merit-based and independent appointments."

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It will likely please many who have called for non-partisan appointments to the board, including the Canadian Media Guild, the union that represents most English-language CBC staff. The advocacy organization Friends of Canadian Broadcasting has regularly hammered the board for being stocked with contributors to the Conservative Party of Canada. Last summer, Friends launched a campaign calling for the CBC to "be allowed to operate freely from political appearance that comes from partisan political appointments" to the board.

Still, the ultimate decision on the board members will rest with the Heritage Minister.

In a mandate letter given to members of the Advisory Committee, who will serve a six-month term, Ms. Joly said the assessment criteria for potential board members would soon be published on the Governor in Council website. Previously, no criteria were publicly known.

Ms. Joly also asked committee members to consider seven criteria: Whether potential candidates "contribute to the development of a shared national consciousness and identity; reflect the regional and cultural diversity of Canada, including Indigenous communities; understand the need to offer local, national and international information and analysis from a Canadian point of view; have contributed to the development of Canadian talent and culture; understand the impact of the digital shift on broadcasting and on Canadians' consumption of news and entertainment content; see the opportunity for Canada's public broadcaster to use multiple platforms to connect Canadians to the best of Canadian content; and understand the crucial role the CBC/Radio-Canada plays in promoting the vitality of official-languages minority communities across Canada."

Critics have noted that the current CBC board boasts little outside broadcast industry experience, and does not reflect Canada's diversity.

The term of the current CBC chair, Rémi Racine, expires Tuesday; the term of the CBC's president, Hubert Lacroix, expires at the end of the year. While each man may reapply for another term, the government source noted that both would need to submit to the same new Advisory Committee process as all other candidates who wish to be considered.

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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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