Jo-Ann Roberts Quit the CBC to Fight for it From the Outside



JANUARY 3, 2015

Jo-Ann Roberts quit as host of CBC Radio’s All Points West because, she says, that will free her to criticize budget cuts at the corporation.   Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist


 Jo-Ann Roberts didn’t just retire from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. She quit, she says, to fight for it.

Since 2004, Roberts has been familiar to listeners as the host of CBC Radio One’s Victoria-based All Points West.

Just before Christmas, the 58-year-old pulled the plug. “It was a tough decision to make,” she wrote on Facebook when announcing the move. “I love my job and the people I work with, but I am worried about the future of the CBC and have decided I can do more to fight to save it on the outside rather than in my current position.”

Not a typical exit, but the Mother Corp. is not a typical employer, at least not to those who view working there as more mission than job, or to who see the broadcaster as a cultural institution. Here in Victoria, where a prolonged campaign earned the capital its own CBC station in 1998, radio in particular is revered: Think Barbara Frum, Bill Richardson, Peter Gzowski, Cross Country Checkup, Dave cooks the Christmas turkey. And, um, Jian Ghomeshi.

It was not a good year for the CBC, even without the Ghomeshi factor. More than 650 jobs were chopped in spring to offset federal budget cuts and the loss of Hockey Night in Canada revenue. The total hit 1,000 after additional cuts were announced in June, and more are on the way.

“The public has no idea how demoralized we are becoming on the floor,” Roberts says. “All we’re doing right now is responding to budget cuts.”

Travel has been scaled back. When All Points West was launched in 2004, Roberts roamed the province from Fort St. John to Penticton doing remote broadcasts. No more. “There’s no money for remotes. We did a show from a coffee shop on Saltspring a year ago. That was the last remote.” Aging equipment hurts sound quality. Freelancers have been dropped. There’s less time to research stories. More repeats.

Welcome to the club, comes the reply, that just sounds like the media world in general — to which Roberts argues that Ottawa’s squeezing is driven as much by politics as economics. The CBC has long clashed with whichever party is in power, but this is the first time one has seemed ideologically opposed to the very existence of a national broadcaster, she says.

That raises a legitimate question, though: In an age when we are bombarded with information, does Canada really need the CBC?

Yes, Roberts says. “We need a place for Canadians that’s just for Canadians.” The CBC is not a source where behind-the-scenes strings are being pulled by special-interest groups, as is the case with much of what passes itself off as news on the Internet. It is not afraid to tick off advertisers. Its content is not just for or about the people who live in the big-market profit centres (read Toronto). It is definitely not a Soviet-style extension of government, as some in Ottawa would like it to be. “The shareholders are not the government. The shareholders are the public,” Roberts says.


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  1. Firstly, if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t it a conservative government who were responsible for founding the CBC? For me to see the current conservative government not throw OUR money into the public broadcaster is what I’ve advocated for years. The major problem with the liberal governments in the past is they have no problem forever funding anything, just keep raising taxes. Even Justin figured that out when he says don’t worry about the budget, it will balance itself! We in the commercial broadcasting side have been screaming since deregulation was introduced to broadcasting in this country back in the early 80’s. Since that time we have seen a deterioration of the industry, Big Time! Why should the CBC and its beauracracy be forever protected by tax dollars? What really ticks me off about the CBC is it’s political bent. It doesn’t come near my political bent. I also never understood why our tax dollars should fund the addition of CBC radio and TV stations to pay for radio ratings? Oh, how I too, love to hate the CBC

  2. Got news for you lady, the rest of the world does not give a rat’s behind about how “demoralized” you’ve become. Welcome to the real world…..

  3. “And, um, Jian Ghomeshi.”

    After Ghomeshi’s legal business is done and – if he doesn’t go to jail – I bet you Ghomeshi might eventually resuface at some commercial station.

    If Conrad Black can return to his own television show, anything is possible !

    Regarding Jo Ann Roberts, I see a person out of touch with reality.

    Maybe the CBC was just too bloody fat at the trough from the beginning ? Maybe a slimmed down CBC brings the mother corp. on an equal playing field with the rest of the frigging
    broadcast world, such as, if your expenses exceed revenue. you need to cut back on largess.

    The sense of entitlement at CBC is just ridiculous !

  4. At 57, I suspect she will be able to walk away with a generous CBC pension that will give her comfort and cost taxpayers millions over the remaining 35 years of her life. ($60,000 X 35 = $2,100,000 total). That’s the real story crippling the CBC.

    Cry me a frickin’ river.

  5. I have 25-1/2 years in private radio and have never worked harder than I do now. As we all know, automation and downsizing have shrunk our business. I have never been more proud of the job we do and the new skills I have learned and feel so lucky to still be employed full time in a field I love.

  6. “The shareholders are the public”. Then the shareholders that want it should pay for it. I don’t wish to be a shareholder, ergo I don’t want to pay for it. Pattishea, good on you that you can still make a living in private radio. You have more patience than I ever had.

  7. “At 57, I suspect she will be able to walk away with a generous CBC pension that will give her comfort and cost taxpayers millions over the remaining 35 years of her life. ($60,000 X 35 = $2,100,000 total). That’s the real story crippling the CBC.”

    I’m 56 years old, so, one year younger than u know who ?

    I’ve worked just as hard as any of you and have 32 years experience, all of it in private

    I won’t be getting a big fat pension like Jo Ann Roberts, perhaps a CPP of merely $ 600.00 a month ?

    I remember back in the 1980’s covering PM Brian Mulroney for a local radio station and the national press gallery was in our town, covering Mulroney.

    I was the only local reporter amongst 20 other news organizations.

    CBC television was there and their parliament hill reporter was also there (I think Terry Mileweski)

    Anyhow, the CBC camera crew accompanying Milewski included one person holding the camera, a second person (i.e. somebody holding a shotgun mike with a ball of fur around it) and then a third person, presumably Milewski’s make up artist or an intern ?

    WTF ! That type of largesse (ie to have three people assist the reporter) is PIG AT THE TROUGH broadcasting if I’ve ever heard of it !

    It went on for years and years and guess who paid for it all !

    Thatls right, suckers !

    The other bullshit about the CBC is the requirement of having a university degree to actually work there ?

    The degree could be in fucking basketweaving, but that is still the standard over there.

    Meanhwile, you can go retire, Jo Ann Roberts, with your big fat pension, nobody cares.

  8. Enough of my tax dollars going into your big fat entitlements. Its bad enough we have to put up with politicians and government workers who will retire with their healthy pensions and like a stiff I work my 40+ years pay into CPP and who knows if I will see any of that money.

    Let the minority who want the CBC start paying for it.

  9. We don’t listen to the CBC any more, its just another dinosaur that should be put to rest. Why cant we sell it! The private sector could do a better job. The CRTC, the Senate, the CBC, please tell me how my life would be better, if we kept them. I bet the unemployment rate in Canada would not change.

  10. We know what the Prime Minister makes a year, yet CBC will not tell us how much money Peter Mansbridge makes. Take the CBC and turn it into a PBS like in the uS, and let those that want it, pay for it. Or, sell it to the private sector.


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