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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Margie Gillis object of on-air bullying

>> by Amy Bowring
Montréal-based dance icon Margie Gillis was the object of on-air bullying when she appeared as a guest on SunTV's "Canada Live" on June 1st. The controversial news station, known for its sensational coverage and aggressive interviewing style, had contacted Gillis' office shortly after she received the Governor General's Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Performing Arts. Gillis told The Dance Current that staff at the news channel had been persistent in their requests for her to appear on the network and were repeatedly flattering in those requests. She says she was aware of the station's conservative approach to news coverage, but agreed to be interviewed and was told the topic would be arts funding in Canada. Gillis, who has had a thirty-nine-year career as a dance artist, did further research on arts funding to prepare herself for the session. Interviewer Krista Erickson introduced Gillis as a Governor General's Award winner and congratulated her on the award but then proceeded to verbally attack the dancer-choreographer, asking her why she deserved the $1.2 million in funding that she and the Margie Gillis Dance Foundation have received since 1998. Erickson exacerbated the situation by repeatedly talking over Gillis so her answers could not be heard properly. Throughout the interview, Erickson continually dismissed the value of tax-payer support for the arts. Gillis described being "shocked" by the attack, telling The Dance Current, "I was sitting in a small room with no one else there ... no one to dialogue with." She says, "What I found most disturbing was that [Erickson] thought part of it was amusing ... but her audience does not think what she says is amusing." Gillis added that she has received an overwhelming response from the dance community. Reflecting on the current times, she continued, "We need to face the future bravely. We cannot cower and be timid ... we have to stand up." On June 9th, Gillis posted a message on Facebook to thank people for their support and to discourage the spread of hateful messages. Rather, she encourages people to take action by writing to the CRTC, the Prime Minister and MPs. In her coverage, Erickson neglected to mention the grants and subsidies provided to many other economic sectors, including farming, manufacturing and media, of which SunTV's parent company, Quebecor, has been a past recipient. Globe and Mail TV reporter John Doyle pointed out in a June 9th article that SunTV's prime-time viewership is approximately 7000.
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