The CBC

This post on social media caught my eye:

Mary Grannan - ICCANB

Even though I am on record as advocating truly massive changes in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, I am one of those who, like Mr Glavin, loves (too often, sadly, loved) what it can do for Canada. I have “loved” the CBC since I was a child. But I watched and listened as the CBC changed in the 1960s. The CBC News and Public Affairs programming became overtly political in the 1960s … but NOT about Canada. The CBC became virulently anti-American after the assassination of John F Kennedy. It was the Vietnam War, of course, Canadians, like our American neighbours, were deeply divided.

I was serving overseas in 1968 so I missed the famous Walter Cronkite report, in February of that year, that said that America was losing the Vietnam War and American lives we being wasted in a bad cause, he said, and it was, mainly because of poor leadership. One article says that “President Lyndon Johnson is claimed by some to have said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Weeks later, President Johnson announced that he wasn’t going to be running for a second term as President. Many people claim that Cronkite’s critical editorial may have been on of the last straws to convince the President not to run for reelection.” But, Mr Cronkite was an American, speaking to America about America’s vital interests. He was doing journalism in the best traditions of e.g. Edward R Murrow.

We, the Canadian Army in Europe, heard CBC News‘ new radio programme, ‘The World at Six,’ in addition to news, mostly provided by the CBC, read by our own, local newsreaders (a mix of ‘professionals’ on loan from the CBC in Canada and volunteer soldiers, mostly DJs) and we got BBC News from the British Forces Broadcasting Service. We got print news, daily, from a local service that subscribed to several Canadian newspapers and to the wire services. We got several of the London papers and the International Herald Tribune every morning, and we got American news from the military owned and operated Stars and Stripes daily newspaper. News and opinion were divided everywhere in the media. One was not surprised that Stars and Stripes put brave face on what was, already (1967-70), evidently a losing cause. Some of the quality press were critical of the the war and America’s involvement in it ~ as was most of the public outside of the USA and Australia ~ but tried to report fairly and honestly. The CBC was, even then, an exception: America, we were told, every morning, by the CBC ~ it was midnight when The World at Six was was recorded, the tape was cleaned up and went on air the next morning, at 6:00AM when we were all up, getting ready for morning physical raining and breakfast ~ was evil and was oppressing the “peace loving peoples” of the world. Even then, when I was in my 20s, my friends and I wondered aloud if the CBC’s news wasn’t written in Hanoi or Moscow.

When I got home, got married and started a family, CBC Radio was still my favourite, especially on Sundays …

… but the news and some of the ‘opinion‘ programmes remained, above all, resoundingly anti-American ~ one could still believe that the scripts were written in Moscow, not Toronto, but, in the 1970s, ’80d and ’90s CBC Radio was, truly, world class. Then CBC‘s management decided that ratings mattered and that they needed to attract a younger, more “hip” audience. But they were 20 years t00 late. Competition, initially from CTV and later from Global had already eroded their “market share.” Then came cable TV and the Internet and all conventional broadcasting models were smashed ~ and I don’t know how to put them back together.

The CBC still produces some wonderful radio programmes; there are some first rate journalists doing excellent reporting for the CBC. But too many journalists are regarded, with good reason, by too many Canadians …

… as being little more than well-paid stenographers on the Trudeau PMO’s payroll.

The CBC needs to change … strike that, the CBC needs to be changed, because it appears to be unable to see, for itself, what its proper role is in the 21st century. In my opinion, CBC Radio still needs to exist to serve all Canadians, but especially those in rural and remote areas, with news, weather, public affairs and cultural/entertainment programming. Maybe we need one or two “programmes” (one or two in each of English and French) on each of the AM (500kHz to 1600kHz, for long distance reception), FM (88-108MHz) and satellite (2.3GHz) bands. All CBC over-the-air TV licences and all CBC TV production studios need to be sold to the private sector ~ in effect, CBC TV needs to end and, with it’s demise, the government subsidy needs to be dramatically slashed. CBC Radio (including Radio Canadian International on short-wave and on the Internet) needs to survive and that will require subsidies. There is still room for CBC audio-video, including news and public affairs on the Internet but how it should be funded is an open question ~ not, in my opinion, by taxpayers. As I asked, before (link above), “How do CTVGlobal and the CBC compete with e.g Netflix or Amazon for entertainment or e.g. the Hoover Institution or intelligence² for commentary and discussion?

I don’t have answers to my own questions, but I am certain that the CBC, in 2020, is:

  • Not living up to its mandate; and
  • Not worth the $1+ Billion dollars that taxpayers like you and me give it every year.

It needs to be changed. That means that Canada needs a new government with a whole new suite of policies for media support ~ which should begin with zero.

For the CBC, proper, my, personal, prescription involves:

  • The end of CBC TV ~ all 27 (14 English and 13 French) over the air broadcast licences to be sold off or, if there is no viable commercial market, surrendered. I understand that some minority language communities will miss stations but almost no one watches them now. At some time economics must count for something;
  • Most CBC TV production facilities to be sold ~ unless they are needed for CBC Radio. The remaining production facilities can be shared with potential online services;
  • CBC Radio, English and French, including what’s left of Radio Canada International, to be fully publicly funded (no commercials) and to operate in ALL regions using the AM (600 to 1,600 kHz) FM (88-108 MHz) and satellite (2.3 GHz) bands with multiple ‘programmes’ to serve a variety of tastes, but all using Canadian produced news (including first class weather reporting) and, in so far as possible, using Canadian produced music and other programming; and
  • The CBC to try to develop a commercially viable online news, sports and entertainment service that receives no direct public funding, at all, but may share some publicly funded staff and facilities (studios, etc) with CBC Radio. I am doubtful that this can happen but, it seems to me, that private broadcasters already meet 95±% of the demand so it may be unnecessary … but worth a try.

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

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