Since CBC journalists were forced to put down their cameras and microphones by a lockout a week ago, the network's news coverage has become BBC-occupied territory.
And while many viewers have long appreciated the Beeb's more global approach to news gathering, the Brit-centred commentary is starting to wear. But it's more than just the content that's generating flak. Unions on both sides of the Atlantic are now asking whether this appropriation of current BBC material is strikebreaking by another name.
When a third party crosses a picket line, even electronically, they ask, isn't it scabbing?
Certainly, BBC material is everywhere. CBC Newsworld is running three and half hours of BBC World a day, and on the main network it has replaced the supper-hour news and The National.
Instead of tuning in to watch Adrienne Arsenault cover the pitched battles between Gaza settlers and the Israeli army, CBC viewers are treated to BBC's Orla Guerin.
And instead of Neil MacDonald reporting on Washington's response to the Iraqi constitution, the BBC shows George Bush pitching his war to old U.S. veterans, followed by an interview with a talking head from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The night the CBC launched the work stoppage, the British Broadcasting Corp website covered it, ending its story with "CBC can rely on BBC World Service reports for coverage of international events."
But BBC's own unions are deeply disturbed by their employer's decision to continue selling news feed to the CBC. A joint communiqué by Britain's Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) argues that "the BBC's support for a broadcaster who has locked out its staff rather than talk to them can only make CBC management bolder, and will probably lengthen a dispute that should never have happened in the first place."
The last thing the BBC needs, the statement continues, "is this kind of damage to its reputation at a time when the debate about its own future is beginning. We will not stand idly by and allow management to attempt to break the strike by the use of BBC material. BBC management must act now so they do not stand complicit in taking sides in this dispute."
Some journalists, the statement says, "have sought advice about withdrawing permission for their material to be used if it is going to be used by CBC."
Says Canadian Media Guild president Lise Lareau, reporters from the two networks often cooperate, and her British colleagues feel badly about how their work is being used. "The BBC is risking its reputation as an impartial news organization in this dispute," she says. "In Canadian minds it will always be associated with supporting the lockout."
But the British broadcaster maintains that its relationship with the CBC is business as usual. Public relations officer Rick Behari, speaking from London, says the agreement between the two networks "is not something that's changed in light of the dispute." He adds that he is "unaware of any journalists refusing to have their work rebroadcast."
"CBC has had a long-standing agreement with BBC World," an official BBC statement reads. "This allows CBC to use any news programs from BBC World's output. The BBC is not involved in the CBC dispute, and refutes any allegation that it is taking sides."
CBC spokesperson Jason MacDonald also denies there's a special revved-up accord with the Brit network. "Our contract with them predates the labour issue," he says. "More to the point, they're not in any way altering the programming for us."
MacDonald says he's heard the allegation that the BBC is strikebreaking or picking sides by providing content, but says, "This is nonsense. My honest opinion is that this is a diversionary tactic by the union to draw attention from the fact that they're not at the bargaining table."
The NUJ's Jeremy Dear, however, disputes that the BBC is simply complying with an old arrangement. "We are challenging that and have asked them to provide us with a copy of the contract," he says. The BBC, he says, has refused to meet to discuss the situation, and if this continues "we will look at staging a protest outside" the offices of the corp in London.