What kind of person do we need as the next president of CBC/SRC? If we were talking about one of Canada’s private broadcasters, the answer would be easy – someone who can run a profitable broadcasting enterprise. But in the case of the country’s national public broadcaster, the normal criteria of corporate success scarcely apply. Of course, the new CBC/SRC president must keep the Corporation within its budget and ensure the efficient use of funds. S/he might even be expected to have some innovative and politically feasible ideas about alternative sources of funding. But we don’t need an accountant to steer the CBC into the new millennium. What we need is someone who can imaginatively adapt the Corporation to the rapidly changing media environment without forsaking the cultural and democratic values that it has effectively promoted in the past.
For this reason, the new president must be someone who can immediately command the respect and allegiance of CBC/SRC’s employees by virtue of his/her substantial knowledge of the daily workings of broadcasting and clear commitment to the specific purposes and objectives that are best served by public broadcasting in Canada. CBC/SRC cannot at this time afford to have even the most well-intentioned novice or outsider at the helm; it needs strong leadership immediately and this can only come from someone who understands both the creative process in broadcasting and the necessity of having a solid regional foundation to the Corporation’s national programming. Above all else, the next president of CBC/SRC must be someone who understands that, whatever the purposes for public broadcsting generally, in Canada the need for CBC/SRC is not simply to provide quality space for Canadian voices and contribute to a healthy public sphere. It is also, more specifically, to reflect the different cultures and regions of Canada to themselves and to each other in ways that are only possible through a unified and extensive broadcasting operation.
Bridging the gaps between our solitudes without creating a stultifying, homogeneous, or stereotyped image of ourselves is not a challenge that commercial or publicly-subsidized private broadcasters can realistically be expected to achieve or even pursue, especially given their increasing fragmentation in the multi-channel universe. It is only through the dedication of an adequately-funded national public broadcaster that we can reasonably hope to have radio, television, and multi-media services that respect and celebrate the many layers of our Canadianness. What CBC/SRC needs in its next president above all else, therefore, is someone who could bring the Corporation into even closer touch with the inherent nature of Canada and thereby convince Parliament of its continuing necessity in the new millennium.