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LOEWEN: Canada’s public broadcaster and the drubbing to come

Image Credit: Contributed/Jeffrey Loewen
November 26, 2014 - 7:27 AM

For those of us able still to remember a Canada lacking endless opportunities for distraction as a result of a seemingly limitless selection of “TV channels” on a dizzying array of media platforms, and an even greater number of traditional and internet-based radio stations, there was always the presence of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

At times over its history, the television division of the “Mother Corp,” as it came to be known to so many accomplished journalists and producers, could seem a little antiquated in comparison to the glitzy signals beamed to the Great White North by our friends to the south.

But the radio division seemed always to showcase a diverse swath of interests to its listening public; and through our interaction with the medium, Canadians could often feel a sense of connectedness to the rest of the country as a nation.

Over the years, so many of CBC’s radio personalities have come to seem like friends. The voices of hosts like Peter Gzowski, Barbara Frum, Mary Lou Findlay, Carol Off, Michael Enright, Rex Murphy, Stuart McLean, Lister Sinclair and Paul Kennedy, Eleanor Wachtel, even Sook-Yin Lee and, yes, recently-fallen star Jian Ghomeshi, have shepherded successive generations through some of the toughest issues our country faces.

CBC radio has elevated the medium of talk- and information-based radio to great heights, making the CBC an example that many other public broadcasters the world over have attempted to emulate.

One might even see CBC radio as a modern day railway that truly binds a nation in all its diversity and difference.

Unfortunately, the CBC has always been a lightning rod for federal governments that feel they are too closely scrutinized by their public broadcaster. And even before the current crises falling upon the CBC, the Mother Corp suffered great cuts and still managed to evolve to the institution that it is now.

But it’s under attack, yet again, by the federal Conservatives, and a Prime Minister who has proven to be uniquely hard-hearted towards journalists generally and the CBC in particular.

Personally, I begin to experience paroxysms of panic as one year comes to a close, and a new year promises the throwing down of yet another federal budget. This year the budget will come in the dark days of March. And while you can be certain that PM Stephen Harper will influence the budget to include some superficially attractive baubles for his voting base (the election looms large on the horizon), you can be equally certain that packed into the unreadably large omnibus bill that the budget will be, the CBC will be forced to endure yet another blood-letting.

You just know that PM Stephen Harper loathes the public broadcaster. No doubt he would prefer to see the entire enterprise wither and die. But instead, he will revel in his lordship like a malevolent toddler, and subject the broadcaster to a torture akin to extracting the agitated appendages from an unfortunate insect. Limb by limb.

It’s a shame. In a world as distracted as ours is today, CBC radio has managed to keep us informed, and our minds attuned to the issues of the day like no other broadcaster available. The level of discourse is literate, it attempts endlessly to engage the public it serves in debate. The CBC is perhaps also one of the country’s greatest proponents of literacy, offering programming that highlights our own, and the world’s, greatest writers and thinkers.

To think that one man, at the head of one government, could do so much to imperil the mission to represent this country in all its diversity and nuance, is truly a shame.

Public broadcasting is an ideal. It is not something to be snuffed out by partisan politics.

But it could go the same depressing way of our democracy and parliamentary traditions if this man and this government continues to have its way. And once this man and this government have their way yet again, there may be nothing left of our cherished broadcaster. And we will be poorer still in our ability to speak to one another and understand ourselves.

Irrespective of the contemporaneous scandals on display at our broadcaster, it’s time for us to put up a fight for our CBC. Canada will not be the same without it.

—  Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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