Opinions
Bridgette Badowich/the Gauntlet

Clobbering a national stream of culture

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The future of Canada’s national public broadcaster is up in the air again as the Harper government attempts to choke the cash-strapped Canadian Broadcasting Corporation of its meager parliamentary funding.

Conservatives from across the country debated the future of publicly-funded media at the 2013 Conservative convention in Calgary — and it doesn’t look good for the CBC. The embattled broadcaster is on the chopping block and risks losing its public funding to the Conservative’s right-wing economic agenda. Eliminating this veteran crown corporation would be a disservice to the Canadian people both culturally and economically.

For more than 75 years, the CBC has been one of Canada’s greatest cultural institutions and has helped proliferate Canadian culture by creating original Canadian content.

The CBC is an essential public institution that cannot be fulfilled by the private sector as the Conservatives would claim. Independent musicians, filmmakers and documentarians who would be ignored by the private sector for financial reasons are introduced to the public via not-for-profit CBC broadcasts.

CBC gives Canadian artists opportunities to succeed in the cutthroat entertainment industry, which builds Canadian culture and identity. The CBC introduced the world to Canadian success stories such as Shania Twain and Alanis Morissette.

CBC News sends journalists to the far reaches of the globe to provide a Canadian perspective, reporting from remote places where other broadcasters refuse to go because there is little money involved. The CBC informs the nation by delivering content to Canadians from every corner of our nation and the world. We risk losing important stories by axing the CBC.

The CBC unites Canadians from coast to coast with Canadian content made by us, for us. From Jian Ghomeshi and George Stromboulopoulos to Rick Mercer and Red Green, the CBC is responsible for some of the most recognizable Canadian cultural icons that have helped define our own distinct image in an increasingly globalized world.

Deloitte reports that the loss of CBC funding would result in a significant outflow of programming expenditures to foreign content makers, effectively crushing opportunities for Canadian content over our own airwaves. The Canadian arts, media and entertainment industries would suffer immensely.

While the Conservatives love to rant about saving the consumer from oppressive television channel bundling, they continue to suffocate the consumer’s best media deal in the nation. For merely 7.8 cents per day, Canadians in every part of the country receive a wide range of Canadian content on local and national television channels, three radio stations and fully accessible web services.

Each month, 23 million Canadians access CBC’s radio, Internet and television services.

The CBC also provides vital services and media content in rural areas that are simply unprofitable for the private sector. Almost anyone in Canada can enjoy cbc’s extensive lineup of Canadian news, sports, comedy, arts, drama and music. Our public broadcaster is part of the common cultural fibre that connects us by spanning the physical vastness of our nation.

If the thought of losing cultural institutions such as 22 Minutes and Hockey Night in Canada isn’t enough to convince you of cbc’s importance, consider the potential economic impacts of a privatized or eliminated CBC.

In the event that CBC was privatized, its currently commercial-free radio stations would require ad revenue to operate. A private CBC would have to compete with other radio stations for declining advertising dollars. Media giant Astral Media and small private sector broadcasters alike have already expressed their distaste at the idea of competing for advertising funding with the CBC.

According to a report by Deloitte, the CBC contributed $3.7 billion to the Canadian economy in 2010 by “improving competitiveness and providing opportunities for exports in the independent production sector” and “creating depth in the production sector by commissioning a wide range of genres.”

CBC faces an additional 10 per cent funding cut, and conservative wolves are already circling a hobbling CBC, parroting phony free-enterprise economics arguments. However, eliminating Canada’s public broadcaster would deny Canadians a fundamental piece of the culture that connects us.
It’s time to work at keeping the CBC on the air, not up in the air.

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