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Don’t count on tuning into a local CBC station any time soon by Luisa D’Amato

Jan 28, 2012

Source: The Record

Something is not quite adding up.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation says it plans to open a radio station in Waterloo Region this fall. But I’m beginning to think it won’t happen.

First, there aren’t enough details. My colleague, Valerie Hill, was at a news conference last week with the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, who had released a poll that said 68 per cent of Waterloo Region residents think it would be a great idea if CBC had a local radio station.

(Which is sort of like asking five-year-olds if they would like more cake, isn’t it? Why wouldn’t we want our own radio station? But I digress.)

Valerie called CBC for a comment about the proposed new radio station. But Susan Marjetti, CBC’s managing director of Toronto and Ontario regions, had no details to give.

She said there would be a physical presence here, but couldn’t say how big the news operation would be, how many reporters and producers, what kind of programming we would get, or where the operation would be located.

That seems strangely vague to me. Considering that the operation is supposed to be up and running later this year, I would expect the executives to have a clear picture of what it would look like.

We’re told that the station in Kitchener-Waterloo would be part of a larger expansion of CBC services into regional centres such as Kelowna, Kamloops and Victoria. But why are they planning this, when there are federal budget cuts coming for the CBC that would bite off between five and 10 per cent of its $1.1-billion budget?

There’s a big disconnect here. When you or I think we’re getting a pay cut, we hunker down and try to trim our existing expenses. We don’t decide that now is the time to build a swimming pool and sauna in our backyard.

The CBC has undergone cuts before. But not from this Conservative government. These cuts are coming only as part of a nationwide restraint strategy. Heritage Minister James Moore has said the broadcaster will bear its fair share of the burden, no more and no less.

Even if they only have to take a five-per-cent cut, I don’t see how they can make these expansions happen unless there is also a massive restructuring of the whole operation. And there has been no sign of that.

I have a love-hate relationship with CBC Radio. I believe that much of the music, news and commentary it offers, keeping Canadians connected to one another, is a national treasure that’s well worth my tax dollars. Sometimes it’s so riveting that I’ll sit inside my car long after I’ve finished driving, unable to get out until I’ve heard the last of a documentary or interview.

Unhappily, I also remember two occasions when I wrote to them, once to protest the gutting of classical music programming several years ago on Radio Two, and another time to express my concern that their interviewer was biased against Israel. The letters I wrote were polite, respectful, and made it clear I was a loyal listener. In neither instance did I receive even a cursory reply.

That experience tells me that there’s either massive disorganization or a culture of arrogance and elitism around the place. Either way, I suspect the CBC is in complete denial about the axe that’s about to fall. And, after having our hopes for our own station raised, we will end up being bitterly disappointed.

© The Record