Tele Sur | 29 September 2015
Canada’s CBC could be threatened by TPP, journalists warn
Canada’s public broadcaster CBC could be on the chopping block in secret trade talks Wednesday, a journalism union has warned.
“The fate of the CBC could be decided at a trade table far away from Canada even as this country is caught up in a tight election race,” the Canadian Media Guild (CMG) said in a statement released ahead of Wednesday’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
The latest round of TPP talks are set to take place behind closed doors in the U.S. city of Atlanta, Georgia. Canada’s trade minister, Ed Fast, is expected to participate in the negotiations, though details of the talks themselves are expected to remain secret.
Canadian unionist Martin O’Hanlon urged the government to ensure the CBC is safeguarded.
“The Conservative leader, and every other leader, must tell Canadians what they know and are planning in regard to the TPP and the future of CBC – Canada’s major cultural and news organization,” O’Hanlon stated.
The CBC is Canada’s oldest existing broadcast network, but according to the CMG “WikiLeaks has revealed that the CBC could be on the table” in TPP talks.
Classified TPP documents published by WikiLeaks in July suggested the trade deal could force public enterprises like the CBC into privatization.
In an analysis of the leak commissioned by Wikileaks, Professor Jane Kelsey from New Zealand’s University of Auckland concluded the TPP could carve out a “backdoor to privatization” of state enterprises (SOEs).
She argued seemingly proposed regulations outlined in the leaked document ignore “the reality that SOEs and private firms are driven by different imperatives and obligations.”
“SOEs are almost always state owned because they have functions other than those that are merely commercial, such as guaranteed access to important services, or because social, cultural, development and commercial functions are inextricably intertwined,” Kesley argued.
However, the CBC may not be alone. Critics of the TPP have argued public broadcasters in other negotiating countries could likewise be forced into privatization, such as Australia’s ABC.
In a statement, Wikileaks said the leaked document proved the TPP will force member states to swallow “a wide-ranging privatization and globalization strategy.”
“In this leak we see the radical effects the TPP will have, not only on developing countries, but on states very close to the center of the Western system,” said Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at the time of July’s leak.
Under negotiation for more than seven years, supporters say the TPP will streamline global trade and promote economic growth.
Once the TPP is completed, its provisions will override national laws of its 12 member states, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States. The deal is already being hailed as the largest trade agreement in world history, and will encompass over 40 percent of global GDP.
However, the deal’s provisions have been almost entirely withheld from the public, prompting critics to argue the agreement is subject to undue secrecy. The few glimpses the public has had into the closed door talks have been leaked drafts of the TPP published by Wikileaks.
Independent analysts say the trade deal is a “bonanza” for big business, and a raw deal for consumers. U.S. trade officials have responded by urging the public not to read the leaks, arguing the draft documents may not accurately represent the final document. The controversial deal has already sparked international protests, with activists demanding negotiators open talks to public scrutiny.