Why I’m Stepping Down as CUTV Chair
First of all, I would like to mention that I love CUTV.
When I moved to Montreal for university I didn’t know anyone. I found in CUTV a nurturing community. I was given space, equipment and opportunity to practice my trade and learned to love video production. I have volunteered as a reporter, camera person, director, producer, editor. I have been employed at CUTV, have been on the board of CUTV and since last spring I have served as the chair of the board of directors.
When I was elected to the board, the station was struggling. CUTV was in a state of “legal limbo” without enough directors to run our non-profit station. The station was entrenched in internal conflict, was way over budget and many staff had been let go not knowing exactly why or what was going to happen to them. Some staff didn’t feel safe returning to work and many members were apprehensive about continuing to produce with CUTV.
It has been extremely difficult to get CUTV back on it’s feet. We had to reestablish a safe space, work on our internal structure and draft new bylaws. We had to stabilize the finances, staff situation and relationship with the university and community. It has been a difficult and thankless job and for a number of reasons I am the only director that ran for election to the board again this fall. Not everyone within the new board shares my opinions about the direction of CUTV. That’s fair, it’s going to happen. I want to take this opportunity to clarify my position.
CUTV is known primarily for its groundbreaking coverage of the student strikes in Montreal.
CUTV members were on the ground during almost every demonstration, livestreaming the event so the world could see the community come together to express their views and witness the state-sanctioned abuse inflicted on those mostly peaceful protesters by police. I recognize that the tireless hours of footage that CUTV shot and disseminated was crucial during the student movement. I do not want to belittle the grueling effort that went into livestreaming protest after protest. People around the world watched and learned about how important the issues surrounding accessible education are to our generation and those generations following ours.
I believe CUTV facilitated the dissemination of voices that were misrepresented by the mainstream media.
But that is not the only reputation CUTV earned through the Maple Spring coverage. There was video released through CUTV that featured inappropriate behavior, such as swearing at the police and editorial reporting framed as news. This kind of coverage is not ethical in my books, nor in my textbooks.
Don’t get me wrong. There is no such thing as unbiased reporting. We have feelings and histories and politics that will affect our coverage but there is a way to report ethically. I believe it is our role as a community television station to provide a voice to those that don’t have many other avenues to express themselves, but I don’t believe that it is CUTV’s role to play partisan in covering stories either. Journalists at CUTV should be free to cover whatever story they choose and from what angle as long as it’s accurate and represents a marginalized community.
It is not within CUTV’s mandate as a station to dictate what politics our journalists are to support; that’s up to them. This is why CUTV as a station should not affiliate ourselves with political movements, so that our members continue to have the freedom and credibility they need to cover stories from their own perspective.
This is why I requested an ethics policy be drafted for future journalists at CUTV. Not everyone can be sure about where to draw the line between activism, opinion, and news journalism and it’s a difficult skill to learn. It is crucial that responsible and credible community media continue to thrive because this is how grassroots movements may gain momentum and how we can try to hold our government accountable.
The ethics policy has been drafted by Cori Marshall, a valuable, level-headed board member and passionate activist. The policy is thorough.
In the near future CUTV has the opportunity to air its programming on cable. Understandably, many members are concerned about working with a major cable provider with a lousy record in supporting community television. I’ve been trying to start a conversation with members about what assurances and policies CUTV would require from Videotron in order to consider broadcasting our footage on their potential new station. CUTV ran their last fee-levy campaign on the premise of trying to get programming on cable and this could be an opportunity to do that.
I’m flabbergasted at the community’s resistance to even set up a committee with which to talk about this cable opportunity.
I have nothing to gain from this cable project and I don’t make any money from CUTV, but what I wanted to develop was perhaps a system where members could produce the same content as they do now and possibly get a stipend for their work since Videotron would pay for content. It sure would have helped me out over those years of volunteering as a reporter and I thought it might be a nice legacy to leave to CUTV and helped students and community keep doing more of the work they love and survive using their new skills learned at CUTV.
Some other people outside the community are concerned about the idea of “rebranding CUTV”, there seems to be a lot of misinformation circulating about this project. What CUTV needs to rebrand is its image right now. We have had a rough year and it’s the reputation of conflict and mismanagement if anything that we had hoped to step away from.
What most people criticizing the strategy don’t know is that most of the pitch was about how to let students know about the awesome resources available to them through CUTV and to encourage them to get involved. This marketing plan has nothing to do with setting up a code of ethics at CUTV. These were separate issues. This well-intentioned and exciting rebranding project was spearheaded by an enthusiastic director and long term member of CUTV, along with the help of some talented and gracious business school students who were excited to spread the word.
Unfortunately the business school students that kindly volunteered to help us promote CUTV at Concordia felt so alienated by the CUTV community that they opted to abandon the project, partially through this we lost a valuable board member. Baghdassar Balyan resigned earlier this week. I understand and am sorry it came to that. What also galls me about the rejection of these volunteers and their efforts is that the station has to run in the spring elections to continue to benefit from the financial support of an undergraduate fee-levy from Concordia students. If CUTV loses its fee levy it will become very challenging to support employees or special projects.
I haven’t seen another campaign plan offered and have only witnessed the rejection of ideas and support. It’s very disheartening.
I am tired. As you may have heard and read it has been a tough tough year for CUTV. After our “crisis” last winter there has been a lot of cleaning up and restructuring to do at the station. If I hadn’t been the only one still available or willing to continue on the board this fall I too would have liked to take a break from helping to run the station, but I didn’t want to leave the new board as lost as we were when we started, with no one to explain the more technical details of how the station works.
I had hoped this was going to be the year we could turn things around, but I don’t have the energy to continue to be attacked while trying to explore the options for the station. After all the things we’ve accomplished and how far we have come, I am tired of people misinterpreting and spreading rumours about me and my motivations. I am tired of the board and employees not being able to simply talk about their concerns in good faith. I am tired of seeing other enthusiastic and hopeful volunteers lose their spark because of outright rejection of their ideas, and most importantly I am tired of people who seem to be more preoccupied with personal agendas than the growth and longevity of this television station.
I thought we could start some new initiatives at CUTV, get the word out, explore the cable opportunities and re-run in the elections next spring, but alas it wasn’t so simple. It is with a heavy heart that I too feel it is time for me to resign from my position on the board. I still love CUTV and wish to see it flourish.
Honestly and earnestly,
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