The Canadian Media Guild (CMG) is saddened but not surprised to learn that a Conservative-dominated Senate committee has proposed a smaller, more privatized CBC contrary to the views of the vast majority of witnesses that appeared before it.
“The Senate document is reflective of Stephen Harper’s government’s decade-long efforts to diminish CBC/Radio-Canada. It’s clear that the mandate for this committee came from the very top,” says Carmel Smyth, National President of CMG.
Rather than seriously consider the mountain of evidence brought forward by numerous Canadians, experts and organizations that appeared before the Committee, the Senate report calls for several, often contradictory measures that would have the effect of cementing the current government’s efforts to weaken the national public broadcaster.
The Senators – some of whom are named in the ongoing Senate spending scandal – suggest that CBC/Radio-Canada reduce its programming, align itself with private broadcasters, and yet give even more power to PMO-appointed CBC Board of Directors, many of whom are party donors.
In a minority report, Liberal Senator Art Eggleton notes that the Conservative-dominated report bears no resemblance to the evidence that Canadians placed before the Committee during the hearing, and describes the process as “a lost opportunity”.
For example, Eggleton points out that some Senators “seemed skeptical of the CBC having a news service. They questioned whether the CBC should get out of the news business because the private broadcasters also provide a source of such news.” Eggleton writes that “witness after witness disagreed with this sentiment”.
“It’s probably no coincidence that this Senate report is coming out on the eve of a federal election. The Conservative party may be looking for some ammunition – no matter how flawed – to counter the obvious and passionate support for CBC/Radio-Canada that’s coming from the Canadian public and federal opposition parties, ” Smyth said.
CMG appeared before the Committee in October 2014 and argued for guaranteed independence and increased funding for CBC/Radio-Canada. Many of the improvements CMG has championed are reflected in the Minority report.