Photo from Colin Kheiger on the Flickr Commons
DAMNING INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION DIDN'T GO DEEP ENOUGH
The Jian Ghomeshi case has brought to light a disturbing host-centric culture within the CBC. A recent independent report by Janice Rubin looked into Gomeshi’s workplace behaviour and determined that producers and management at the CBC tend to look the other way when their star hosts behave badly.
In fact, employees who were concerned about how Ghomeshi behaved were told to work around him or deal with the problem themselves.
The report covered Ghomeshi’s boorish behaviour and management’s willful ignorance about it. It also contained a litany of recommendations on how to improve workplace culture and safety at the CBC.
Unfortunately, the media coverage of this story has died down since April 16 when the report was released. It’s curious how when this was about Ghomeshi’s sex life, you couldn’t avoid all the media coverage. But now that the story is about workplace bullying, it’s no longer on the media’s radar.
But one can’t help but wonder what was left out of the report. While the report was fairly comprehensive, it’s scope was focused on Ghomeshi and management. But the CBC is a giant, nationwide organization–what other workplace issues could the investigators have found if given the mandate?
In order to explore this line of thought further, the public should focus in on these three unanswered questions:
1. IF THIS HOST-CENTRIC CULTURE EXTENDS BEYOND GHOMESHI, HOW ARE OTHER HOSTS BEHAVING?
The report makes specific reference to a host-centric culture within the CBC. The use of the word ‘culture’ suggests this is a widespread issue at the broadcaster. So, which other hosts are abusing their privilege and being protected by the CBC?
“The CBC is not unique in the celebration of celebrity -- of fostering celebrity with all the entitlement and power that it bestows -- in order to enhance the prestige of the institution and the reflected fame and reputations of the people with the real power, the managers,” said former CBC personality Linden MacIntyre in a speech at the U of T last year.
The problem with a host-centric culture is that it creates two sets of rules for employees: one for hosts and one for everyone else. A worker’s basic right to security in the workplace should never be trumped by another worker’s popularity with the public.
In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear rumours of other tyrannical radio or television hosts abusing their staff. MacIntyre said as much in an interview with the Globe and Mail in which he suggested that Peter Mansbridge and former CBC Radio host Peter Gzowski were both also workplace bullies.
Jennifer Harwood adamantly denied the existence of additional hosts who were workplace bullies. But, given the recent examples of CBC's atrocious workplace culture, can we really trust their denials?
If the other hosts are not held accountable, then Ghomeshi could reasonably argue that he was discriminated against only because of the media exposure.
As the cases of bully Jeremy Clarkson and child abuser Jimmy Saville at the BBC prove, this instinct by the CBC to protect their hosts can be nothing short of turning a blind eye to blatantly illegal or even downright evil behaviour.
2. WHAT WAS THE AFTERMATH OF THE SCANDAL ON THE WORKERS IN STUDIO Q?
While the report took a hard look at Ghomeshi, his workplace and management’s response to the situation, it didn’t explore what the fallout from the scandal on Ghomeshi’s co-workers or the workplace in general.
Instead of getting the staff to only outline their experiences with Ghomeshi, the report should have explored the emotional and psychological affects of the scandal on the staff. If this was conducted, the findings were not made public.
Though maintaining victim confidentiality is important, the personal information from these targets and witnesses would have been very useful for the CBC. It also would have been important for the wider field of workplace bullying research.
While workplace bullying is common, workplace bullying where the victims are thrown into the centre of a national media firestorm is more rare. It’s not only important to follow-up with these employees for their own emotional well-being, but for our understanding of how the modern media landscape affects innocent targets and witnesses of bullying who find themselves in the spotlight.
Given the increased number of workplace bullying scandals around the globe, not following up more closely with affected employees in this scandal is a missed opportunity to learn how to better address similar situations.
3. RECOMMENDATIONS ARE NICE, BUT ARE WE GOING TO SEE SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE AT THE CBC?
Papers will not create substantive change at the CBC. Press releases about improving culture will not create substantive change at the CBC. Even executive turnover hasn't always resulted in substantive workplace culture changes.
Change is created by new workplace policies, implemented from the top-down, that address the inequality and lack of formal HR process in the CBC’s workplace.
The public, who are both the audience and funders of the CBC, deserve to know which recommendations the CBC and the Canadian Media Guild, who represents CBC employees, will be implementing today–not six months from now.
Though some minor reforms have been launched by these two organizations, any reforms that would actually lead to substantive change are still being deliberated.
Unfortunately for CBC employees, there isn’t any time to waste. While these bodies deliberate the common sense recommendations in the report, the next Ghomeshi could still be terrorizing his or her workplace.
Until the CBC comes clean about what they’re doing, or going to do, in order to hold their hosts accountable, how can they claim to be maintaining their own journalistic integrity? Or, perhaps more importantly, how can they still hold the public’s trust?