Care for a glimpse of the venomous agenda of the Conservative government for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation? Just look at a report emanating from the widely discredited Senate.
The Conservative-dominated Senate committee on transport and communications, in a document titled “Time for Change: The CBC/Radio-Canada in the 21st Century”, recommends gutting the public broadcaster.
It dismisses calls for giving the CBC stable, multi-year funding, stating that CBC needs are subordinate to the government’s needs. Instead, the appointed Conservative Senators insist the the CBC “explore alternative funding models.” That could include slapping a licence fee on households, forcing the public to pay extra to get the CBC channel, and asking viewers to sponsor programmes and make voluntary donations (shades of the feeble PBS in America).
The Senators also want the CBC to stop in-house production of non-news and non-current events programming. Indeed, they recommend that “a portion of the CBC’s funding be reallocated” to a superfund that private companies could draw on to produce Canadian content. Could this corporate agenda be any more obvious?
Now, the CBC is no paragon of proletarian virtue. Liberal ideology defines its programming, reserving plenty of air time for more conservative propagandists (Don Cherry, Kevin O’Leary and Rex Murphy instantly come to mind). Occasionally, someone to the left of news anchor Peter Mansbridge is shoe-horned into a regular discussion panel (like UNIFOR’s spritely left-Keynsian economist Jim Stanford). But the point is this: the CBC offers some creative space, and presents a range of voices not found on Bell Media-CTV, Shaw-Global, Rogers, TVA (Quebec), etc. Moreover, the CBC is a public employer whose unionized workers are under attack.
This year the CBC will get about $930 million from the federal government – a third of what the BBC gets on a per capita basis – and it will raise $700 million from ads and other sources. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have cut $212 million in funding for the network in recent years.
CBC, and its employees, deserve increased funding – starting with a reversal of the Harper cuts. That is clearly necessary, as is workers’ and community democratic control of the corporation, for there to be greater scope for progressive public broadcasting in the future.