Let’s Make the CBC an Election Issue

Today, CBC Toronto celebrates its annual Sounds of the Season. Normally I attend. This year, however, I decided to stay home, listen to the festivities on the radio, and write about the CBC instead. Under external investigation and internal Fifth Estate inquiry, the subject of yet another book discussing its demise, and bleeding from a thousand cuts, the CBC seems to be reeling. The Jian Ghomeshi affair has thrown us into a prolonged funk. It’s not just the fall of a celebrity we saw as the contemporary face of the CBC. The CBC itself as a national employer is under question. All grist for the mill of the naysayers who want nothing more than for the CBC to disappear. It is as if the CBC is expiring before our very eyes, and we will be left only to lament its demise. Are we watching the death throes of our besieged public broadcaster?

I have wanted to write about the CBC as a national institution since I started this blog but have not yet done so. The subject seems so enormous, and so fluid: so many commissions and studies, town hall meetings, recommendations and reimaginings, reorganizations, and further cuts. How to get a handle on what is going on?

Now the question has become more basic: How can I not do something? I can no longer stand by and watch politicians and bureaucrats run into the ground our primary institution for national communications. Watch them sell off priceless archives which are national treasures. Or see political parties put forth platforms for the 2015 federal election without any mention of the CBC.

For many of us, the CBC has been our companion, the centre of our national conversation, our window on the city, the country and the world, all our lives. On a macro scale, the CBC has been at the heart of our national development for decades: the source of our news, the creator and promoter of our “cool” Canadian culture, and, until recently, the centre of our sporting life. The private sector has now taken over Hockey Night in Canada. Is everything else to follow? The question is: If we care, what are we doing about it?

Perhaps it is time to remind ourselves why Canada’s national public broadcaster came into existence, and what it has contributed over its history. What is it that we have so cherished? What have we lost already? What would we lose if it did not exist? Canada is a very different place now than in the 1930s, when the CBC began. Even with a different population, more media, changing technology, and globalization, the particular needs served by the CBC over time still remain. And may be more relevant than ever.

This post is the beginning of an intermittent series on the CBC. I intend to review the history of the CBC, its contributions to our nation, and why we value it. I will try to work my way through the labyrinth of the CBC’s contemporary position, and its prospects for the future. I invite you to join me in this discussion through the Comments section following each post.

We need to raise the priority of the CBC and make it an election issue. The federal government is responsible for our national public broadcaster. It’s about time our national political parties paid attention to what the CBC requires. If you agree, watch for the posts, join in with your comments, and encourage others to get on board. Let’s use the internet, email, Twitter and Facebook to pass the word. Modern technology gives the grass-roots more power than ever before. Let’s use it on behalf of the CBC.

To get started, check out the We Vote CBC Petition initiated by the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. Their Briefing Note shows the pitiful state of public broadcasting in Canada at present. If you are as alarmed as I am by the facts, you may want to support their We Vote CBC Petition. The Friends have been in the trenches on behalf of the CBC for decades. They are a repository of information and a resource for political action. It’s time for the rest of us to join in.

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