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Federal budget bill poses 'grave threat' to CBC, say journalists

OTTAWA -- A number of journalist groups are asking Canadians to write to their MPs to demand changes to a controversial bill which would give the government a role in negotiating CBC contracts.

Arnold Amber of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression says Bill C-60 poses a grave threat by giving the government leverage that could be used to skew the CBC's news coverage.

Carmel Smyth, president of the Canadian Media Guild, says it's potentially dangerous legislation.

The bill would allow the cabinet to approve the CBC's negotiating mandate and allow a Treasury Board representative to sit in on talks between the broadcaster and its unions.

Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, says the bill could turn the CBC from a public broadcaster to a state broadcaster.

The government says the legislation is a financial matter, designed to allow the government to keep tabs on spending; the NDP says it will table an amendment Tuesday that would exclude CBC from the bill.

The offending clauses are contained in the latest omnibus budget bill. The journalists' organizations want the government to exempt CBC.

"We are not bureaucrats," said Amber.

The bill is less about money than it is about a government bid to expand its control, Smyth said. "How much control does any government need?"

Even the appearance of bias can erode journalistic integrity, he added.

Amber said people need to bring pressure on individual MPs to get the bill changed.

"We want the Canadian people to react as quickly as possible to bring the government to its senses."

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