We are at a critical turning point for public broadcasting in Canada. CBC/Radio-Canada is a neglected national institution that has been left largely to fend for itself in a rapidly changing media landscape. Canada remains near the bottom of the list of countries that fund public broadcasting.
Why should we care? For decades, CBC and Radio-Canada have put resources into news, current affairs and documentaries that have challenged citizens and the government to improve the quality of our lives. It’s the only broadcaster that operates in English, French and Aboriginal languages, in cities and isolated rural areas, north and south.
But government neglect means CBC also needs ad revenue. And that draws the criticism from other media, who don’t like the competition for ad dollars. At the same time, CBC/Radio-Canada sometimes comes under fire from governments and political parties that don’t like the way they are covered. In other words, some of the biggest criticism of CBC comes because it does its job well.
Enough of the short-term thinking and nickel-and-diming. Public broadcasting is an important federal responsibility. CBC/Radio-Canada has long set high standards for journalism and broadcasting and is a crucial supporter of arts, culture and amateur sport.
The Canadian Media Guild has sent the questions below to the top five federal parties to gauge their commitment to public broadcasting. We urge you to ask the same questions of your local candidates before you vote:
“Does your party commit to:
1) Maintaining and enhancing the various services of our national public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada?
2) Maintaining no less than the current level of public funding for CBC/Radio-Canada?
3) Developing a new mechanism for a stable arm’s-length relationship with CBC/Radio-Canada that provides for adequate long-term funding so the corporation can meet the needs of Canada’s diverse population?”
Closer to election day, the Guild will provide an overview of where the parties stand on public broadcasting and their track records. If you have any information to add, contact Karen Wirsig (email@example.com) at 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149.