Friday, September 30, 2005

About Joan Tintor

I am a middle-aged conservative who first became interested in politics when Pierre Trudeau was still the most-despised prime minister in Canadian history, and Brian Mulroney’s interviews were “on background,” not on tape.

My education consists of several years at the University of Toronto (no degree), a Law Clerks’ Certificate from George Brown College, a BAA in Journalism (Magazine) from Ryerson Polytechnic University, and one semester of Cabinetmaking at Humber College (no major injuries). I’ve also taken several continuing ed courses that I can’t be bothered to list in detail.

I have worked as a legal assistant, free-lance writer for Law Times, legislative assistant to Harris-era transportation minister Al Palladini and writer/researcher/librarian for the Ontario PC Caucus.

During the 2007 Ontario election, I blogged on behalf of the PC Party at the "Election Battle Blog" hosted by TV Ontario's "The Agenda."

Global TV using American Footage to Tout its Cultural Diversity

So I was watching the Adam Sandler classic “The Waterboy” the other day on TBS when I noticed that a commercial for an Atlanta Christian radio station featured the exact same clip of hugging, multi-ethnic children that is also in a public service announcement on Global TV, touting Global’s commitment to cultural diversity (sorry, I could not locate an online clip for either commercial).

“How can that be?” I asked myself. Surely Global, a national network with massive production resources at its fingertips would have produced original film with 100% Canadian, ACTRA-card-holding tykes?

Nope. The clip is stock footage from Seattle-Washington based Getty Images, from their “People” category of film CDs. (You have to scroll down to the last two CDs entitled “Lifestyles 2 – Portraits”, click on the “i” to view details, then click on the fourth thumbnail in the top row.)

Ontario political observers may remember that in June 2003 a flap occurred when the McGuinty Liberals revealed that the Eves conservatives had used American stock photo images in a TV ad for their election platform.

A little digging on the Tories’ part soon unearthed that the McGuinty Liberals had used over a dozen American stock photos in their own platform documents, including photos of an MRI machine, a moose, and a guy fishing from a boat with five lines in the water – something that is illegal under Ontario fishing laws. (Full disclosure: I was working for the PC caucus at Queen’s Park at the time and the guys doing the digging were my colleagues.)

Demonstrating the communications skills that have come to serve them so well in explaining their broken promises in office, the Liberals spun back that (1) they had not attributed “voices” to their fake Ontarians as the Tories had in their TV commercial and (2) the guy in the boat represented an American fishing in Northern Ontario. I guess they airbrushed out his assault rifle.

Turning back to Global, if a national network with dozens of cameras, cameramen, and production facilities at its disposal would rather use canned American film than go to the trouble of producing their own footage, there must be good reasons. The ones that I can think of are: convenience, cost, time, not having to find actors/participants, pay them, get releases or pay royalties for each airing.

Someone skilled in this field could probably list a bunch of other reasons. In the case of Global, and in their defence, I might add the CRTC’s policy that “broadcasters accurately reflect the presence of ethnic, cultural and racial minorities and Aboriginal peoples in the communities they service.”

It’s actually kind of fitting that a network called Global is using film of (probably) American kids to remind viewers that it is jumping through whatever flaming hoops of political correctness Canada’s broadcasting poobahs may erect from time as a condition of keeping its license.

The CRTC are the same folks who seem unconcerned that CP24 is ripping off cable subscribers by re-running old CITY-TV newscasts from the 70s and 80s instead of original programming in the dead of night (no offence to the relatives of Colin Vaughan or Bob Hunter). When a 24-hour news channel is allowed to collect basic cable fees plus ad revenue for, say, only 17½ hours of news, it is fair to suggest that Canadian broadcasting regulations operate on the same level of farce as the Canada Health Act, the gun registry and Liberal leadership rules (gosh, I hope I don’t have to add NAFTA to that list). But I digress.

Maybe Global’s use of American stock footage to impress Canadian regulators is some kind of sly inside joke on their CRTC whip holders. I guess there’s no harm in that. But if huge media organizations with in-house production capabilities are resorting to stock images, then perhaps the next time a party is “caught” using them, the media will add some quotes from communications professionals and their own bosses to put the issue in context.

Monday, September 26, 2005

What CBC Employees Think of You

In somewhat the same way that Sherlock Holmes always found the most compelling items to be in the agony columns, I’ve long maintained that the most important sections of any newspaper are the Corrections and Letters to the Editor.

For those of you with any lingering doubt about how your typical CBC employee regards conservatives, check out this excerpt from a missive in Friday’s (September 23) Globe and Mail from locked-out Newsworld employee Natalie Ruskin, responding to Patrick Watson’s bombshell op-ed recommending the CBC be shut down and the entire service put out to tender:

C’mon Watson, who’s the real dinosaur here? For argument’s sake, let’s overlook Patrick Watson’s complete insensitivity toward CBC workers and their jobs when he writes, “Let’s put public broadcasting out to tender,” and “close down the whole institution.” Those remarks are ancient: They existed way before this lockout, their origins from the same dust-covered crop of conventional conservatives who likely struggle to pronounce the phrase “national dialogue.”

Perhaps Ms. Ruskin is too young or has forgotten that the CRTC’s awarding of Canada’s first news channel licence to the CBC was telegraphed and therefore basically fixed in the 1986 Caplan-Sauvageau report on Canadian broadcasting, which recommended an all-news cable channel run by, of course, the CBC. Both this report and the awarding of the news channel to the CBC came to pass under a conservative government. The losing bidder, Western-based Allarcom, appealed the decision to the federal cabinet. A group of Alberta MPs also lobbied cabinet to overturn the decision, but neither was successful. The cabinet did, however, require the CBC to get 20% of Newsworld’s content from private broadcasters and add an all-French news channel.

The Alberta MPs and even some cabinet ministers – including Mulroney, Don Mazankowski and Joe Clark (who was scheduled to appear last week at a rally in support of the CBC) – were reportedly concerned about the additional burden on taxpayers, and awarding a licence to a broadcaster based in central Canada and hostile to the governing party. Wonder why.

This item spurs me to admit that I have been negligent in not checking out the blogs of locked-out CBC workers (lockees?), thinking the occasional glance at Antonia Zerbisias’ column would suffice, but Ms. Ruskin’s shot has prompted me to seek them out.

Anthony Germane? Hardly

In keeping with the above observation about the gems hidden in Letters to the Editor pages, there was an interesting letter in Saturday’s National Post from Anthony Germain, host of CBC Radio’s The House. Germain notes that his fellow lockee, The Hour host George Stroumboulopoulos, is taking a gig at Toronto talk radio station CFRB and concludes thereby that the money Newsworld spent promoting Stroumboulopoulos is improperly benefiting a private-sector competitor:

I’m writing to see if somebody from the National Post can offer CBC managers a training seminar on rational business plans. As an example, consider the case of George Stroumboulopoulos.

CBC-TV has spent hundreds of thousands of (tax) dollars to raise George’s profile for his show The Hour. Now I see that George is also going to host a radio show for Newstalk 1010 on CFRB in Toronto and its sister station, CJAD in Montreal. Standard Broadcasting owns CFRB and CJAD. They directly compete with CBC Radio in the country’s two largest markets. Is not the diffusion of George’s talents a loss for the CBC?

Er, no. I can think of a few things wrong with Germain’s thinking:

(1) George Stroumboulopoulos’ profile stems largely from his years in private broadcasting, not his six months hosting The Hour. Germain says the CBC has spent hundreds of thousands of (tax) dollars to raise Stroumboulopoulos’ profile for The Hour. First of all, Newsworld – where The Hour resides – is funded through cable fees (or at least it’s supposed to be), not the tax dollars that go to the CBC main network and radio. Second, most people know Stroumboulopoulos from his years at private broadcasters Much Music and CITY-TV. So applying Germain’s premise, this private-sector funded profile actually accrued to Newsworld’s benefit when they hired George.

But what’s the core of Germain’s argument? That the CBC should not raise the profile of people who appear in private media and vice versa? Yet every day journalists from the Star, the Globe, CanWest and Sun Media appear on the CBC/Newsworld. I think I’ve even heard some of them on The House.

(2) Standard Broadcasting is not a competitor to the CBC. The notion of competition for listeners in broadcasting is only relevant where advertising is being sold. CBC Radio has no ads and as a publicly funded broadcaster is free of the commercial imperative to seek or maintain a large audience to maximize its revenue. Therefore the CBC does not – and by definition should not – compete with private radio. Germain’s attitude hints at what many believe is a fundamental problem with the CBC: they want to be high in quality but mass in their appeal and influence.

What’s more, CBC and Standard Broadcasting are actually partners in a satellite radio bid recently approved by the CRTC and rubber-stamped by the federal cabinet. Germain should be more concerned with what the CBC’s partnership with private broadcasters in satellite radio might do to his future prospects, not its imaginary competition with private radio. And no, I don’t endorse Standard Broadcasting working with the CBC. Lenin predicted that “the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” Some not-so-bright capitalists seem intent on making that prophecy come true. When they do something as stupid as helping the CBC achieve more reach and revenue, it’s not selling them the rope – it’s giving the rope. And when did the CBC ask their shareholders – or at least our MPs – for permission to expand into private satellite radio? But I digress.

(3) A strike or lockout is not a normal situation. As the public sector unions never fail to remind us when they shut down government services, a strike is “not business as usual” and the public should not expect to be served as if it were. After the lockout, Stroumboulopoulos will presumably be back on the CBC (the CFRB show is only one night a week), making good the bucks the CBC spent to promote him. If he keeps the CFRB show, then his profile on CFRB may enhance his profile at The Hour.

(4) Germain’s anger should be directed at Stroumboulopoulos, not CBC management. By taking another paying job during the lockout, Stroumboulopoulos is “lockout breaking” and betraying his brothers and sisters on the picket line who do not have any employment income.

Not only has Germain missed in his attempt to embarrass CBC managers, he has missed the larger picture. The George Stroumboulopouloses(!) of the world have figured out which way the bus is headed. I hope for Germain’s sake he figures it out too, before it runs over him.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Oh! Carol (apologies to Neil Sedaka)

Note: the author is a conservative who has never belonged to the Reform party or the Canadian Alliance, and came to support merger only after the PCs were reduced to 12 seats in the 2000 election.

I volunteered to be the interim secretary of the GTA Presidents’ council when Brett Snider founded it last year. When I was asked – repeatedly – to stand for the position of permanent secretary, one of the reasons I declined was the involvement of Carol Jamieson, who in recent years has been slowly destroying her enviable reputation as a political organizer, replacing it with a reputation as a political wing nut. My decision was vindicated when she reportedly appeared at the party’s March policy convention, flogging buttons attacking Stephen Harper. Now she has come out publicly calling for Harper’s resignation.

Carol’s claim that Peter MacKay magnanimously declined to run for leader because he believed the new party needed a new face is laughable: MacKay didn’t run because he knew he couldn’t win, and the same likely applies to whatever contenders Carol is referring to who were scared off by Harper. But if the first rationale is what MacKay wants people to believe, then it is a rationale that creates an obstacle to him running for leader next time, unless he wants to be accused of another Orchard-style flip-flop. His campaign-in-waiting should really be a little more careful about these things.

Carol and the others who promoted Belinda Stronach as a viable prime minister (come on down, Mike Harris and Bill Davis!) bear a good deal of the responsibility for elevating her to a position where she (1) eclipsed the many smarter and better-qualified MPs in our caucus (e.g. Peter Van Loan) and (2) gained the profile to inflict serious short-term damage on the party she herself helped found – damage which she gave little thought to inflicting.

Tony Clement was his usual astute self when he observed that Belinda sucks all the oxygen out of a room. Sadly, little of that oxygen seems to reach her brain stem. I suspect that the main reason Harper hired none of Belinda’s acolytes is because accommodating their pay demands would first require the firing of multitudes. (I wonder whether Carol thinks that now that Harper has fired multitudes, he should still hire Belinda’s people.)

Then Carol undercuts all she has just written, with her view that “the new Conservative Party of Canada had no chance of convincing the Canadian electorate that it was any different than the Canadian Alliance once it picked Stephen Harper as its first leader.” So Carol never supported Harper from the get-go and everything that has happened since has served to confirm that view. So where’s the news here?

I did not support Stephen Harper for leader, but I am frustrated and mystified at why so many in the media and even in our own party are so quick to conclude that he is to blame for the opportunism, venality and incompetence of others. Harper does not strike me as a man who has been plotting and scheming his entire adult life to live at 24 Sussex (unlike the current occupant), but who has reluctantly stepped forward on occasions when he looked around and saw the alternatives were no better qualified or staffed than he. I suspect that the antics of the Carol Jamiesons of the party do little to alter that view.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

So Sean Penn rents a boat . . .

I was disappointed that in his first monologue since the Katrina disaster, Jay Leno somehow overlooked Sean Penn's pathetic showboating in New Orleans, though he want hard on Bush and FEMA.

Penn's transparent effort to embarrass Bush by showing how easy it is to rescue people (until your own boat starts leaking because you didn't put the drain plug in) were ripe for ridicule. Here are a few gags Leno could have used:

Sean Penn went to New Orleans and hired a boat to try and rescue people, but the boat began to leak and he only had a small cup to bail out the water. The only celebrity bailing himself out faster is Jude Law.

When Sean Penn couldn’t find anyone to rescue, he drove the boat around the city inspecting damage from the storm and subsequent looting. Good news: every copy of the DVD of “Shanghai Surprise” was still on the shelves at Wal-Mart.

Sean Penn went to New Orleans and hired a boat to try and rescue people, but the boat began to leak and almost sank. The next morning a hungover Ted Kennedy turned himself in at police headquarters, accompanied by his lawyer.

Sean Penn went to New Orleans and hired a boat to try and rescue people, but the boat began to leak and almost sank. Sean was able to bail himself out, but he learned a valuable lesson: never rent a used boat from Saddam Hussein.