Making The Old into NewBy The Team (Apr 2nd, 2009)
There is no doubt that times are tough all over this year, with the layoffs in the auto industry, drop in oil prices and all the gloom and doom we hear about on TV and in the newspapers these days.
But right now an issue is before us that will have a greater impact on our lives in the years ahead than whether the Chinese are spying on corporations around the world (didn’t we already suspect that years ago?) or the G20 Summit conference going on in London (I think it is London – tells you how closely I follow these events).
This issue is whether or not Canada will have a national broadcaster or not as we move forward. Whether or not Canadians care about the CBC or if ‘The Mother Corporation’ is really relevant in the 21st century.
After 73 years of government nepotism and mismanagement the CBC has hit a financial crossroads, forced by the economics of our time to start major cuts in programming and services that could become the proverbial rolling snowball on the steep slope of Canadian history.
Are these cuts necessary I wonder? Would our lives as Canadians be any the worse if Hockey Night in Canada or The National faded into oblivion or were taken over by private broadcasters? Certainly in a market driven economy divesting some of these valuable assets would make sense and I am quite sure than TSN et al would love to get their hands on HNIC. But what about the less well known programs like ‘Land and Sea’ or ‘The Point’? Are they less valuable to us as Canadians?
And what about the environment of innovation that CBC has created in Canada? Was it private broadcasting companies that introduced FM Radio to Canada in 1946? How about the first television broadcasts in 1962? Was it a private broadcaster that first produced colour broadcasts (for the record the first colour series in Canada was ‘ The Forest Rangers’ in 1963 – one of my alltime favourite kids programs)? Or even today which private broadcaster offers services in BOTH official languages?
I think we would all agree that over the past 15 or 20 years the CBC has moved away from what it does best – connecting Canadians with stories about OUR country, both rural and urban – towards competing head on with private broadcasters in urban markets where the CBC signal gets lost amongst the background noise. And even though we, as taxpayers across Canada, fund two-thirds of the CBC, the corporations focus has become narrower and narrower.
But does that mean the CBC has become less relevant than in the past? Hardly. It is times like this where we need the CBC more than ever to gives us stories and news that uplifts us and gives us hope that there is a better life ahead. After all the CBC was founded in the middle of the Great Depression and it was voices like Foster Hewitt that brought families and communities together like no other medium that this country has ever seen!
Does the CBC need to change? ABSOLUTELY!
This country NEEDS a strong national voice that is not going to pre-empt stories about rural Canada for American Idol or Grey’s Anatomy. This country NEEDS to know that the small businesses and rural communities are still on the map and in many cases doing a whole lot better than our urban neighbours!
And losing the CBC now over simple financing would be much more than our government would lead us to believe. It is not about fiscal accountability or financial stability in the future. It is about whether we, as Canadians, are willing to give up a HUGE part of who we are.