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Do we really need the CBC any more?
June 12, 2012
QUEBEC CITY, QC, Jun 12, 2012/ Troy Media/ – In an era of austerity and budget cuts, Canadians are going to have to make some painful decisions about how our government spends, especially for expenses made in the name of national identity and culture.
The CBC was created as a national radio broadcasting system in the 1930s, and has since developed into a media empire in its own right. With operating costs heavily subsidized by taxpayers and in the age of the Internet and subsequent changing media consumption, what is the point of having a national broadcaster? Do we really need the CBC any more?
Here are 6 reasons why the CBC is irrelevant.
1. Peter Mansbridge
In 1988, Knowlton Nash stepped down from his anchor position with the CBC in order to keep Peter Mansbridge from leaving the network to take a job in the United States. Twenty-four years later, he still hasn’t left. His booming, distinctive cadence might be reassuring for other balding Baby Boomers, but for anyone under 40 his presence is a symbol of the generational lethargy keeping young people from meaningfully participating in the national discourse. Although George Stroumboulopolous, former Muchmusic VJ, is being groomed as a successor, the process appears from the outside about as enjoyable (and consequential) as passing a kidney stone.
2. Old Media/New Media Divide
When the CBC was established, Canada did not have a national flag and could not amend its Constitution without the consent of Great Britain. For crying out loud, we didn’t even have Newfoundland.
In this context a national broadcaster seems like a justified expense, simply in order to able to conceive of a grouping of people across such a vast distance as a nation. Seventy years later, this is no longer the case. The Internet has made Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Kahnawake and Kelowna next-door neighbours overnight (not to mention Bogota and Bombay).
Moreover, television and radio are just not as important to a younger generation raised by multi-media. What the CBC seems unable to comprehend is that, in the New Media age, its experience actually counts against them. A model of centralised, widely-diffused programming based on a vague notion of public interest that tries to satisfy everyone ends up pleasing no one. Furthermore, trying to adapt an outdated model to an incompatible new medium such as the Internet is a formula for losing money, with taxpayers picking up the tab.
3. Hockey Night in Canada
I realize that this is going to be a tough sell, but hear me out. The CBC has happily perpetuated the stereotype that Canada = Hockey, but to what end? More and more Canadians are showing interest in ‘non-Canadian’ sports such as rugby, American football, and soccer. The NHL is a largely American-owned organization that treats Canadians as a devoted, almost foolishly loyal financial base – a role that Canadians have been only too happy to play. It’s not as if we’re getting a lot in return. In 2012, all Canadian teams were eliminated after the first playoff series. The league is losing millions of dollars trying to keep a hockey team in the desert even as fans from Quebec City cross borders by the thousands to fill empty American arenas to no avail. Don’t get me started on why Southern Ontario can’t get another hockey team – maybe one that actually has a chance of winning the Stanley Cup.
4. Lazy Television Programming
Why are they still broadcasting episodes of This Hour Has 22 Minutes from the 2008 general election? Who the #@*$ watches Coronation Street? And what is Ron James doing on national television? The last time I saw his show, the biggest cheers came when he left the stage.
5. Institutional Agenda
As a governmental agency, the CBC has a wide-ranging mandate to promote national identity. In more practical terms, their first priority is securing and protecting their sources of funding. This makes for awkward relationships with governments, whom they are supposed to hold accountable, despite the fact that these people are the ones signing their cheques.
As an institution that came of age during the Trudeau era, the CBC’s notion of national identity has in many ways never moved on. This makes for a portrayal of Canada tied to high public spending and centralised government. This institutional bias cannot help but carry over into its coverage and programming.
I do not question the sincerity of those who work for the CBC in fulfilling its mandate, or that they have contributed to a sense of national unity through their work. I do question whether their approach is the best one possible, or is fair to taxpayers. Their ability to influence public opinion puts them in a position where they can only be in a conflict of interest. Again, I am not calling into question their motivation, but simply pointing out that when an institution simultaneously has the duty to define, and at the same time to promote culture, they will have difficulties distinguishing between the two.
6. Jian Ghomeshi’s intros to Studio Q
Just stop bro.
Nelson Peters is a law student at Universite Laval in Quebec City.
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