Tomorrow's CBC by Glen McGregor

Sep 20, 2008

Source : Ottawa Citizen

In the event of a Conservative majority government, what, if anything, might happen to future funding for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation? Small-c conservatives have long complained about what they believe is an editorial bias against the right from Mother Corp. Last year, the Tory blogosphere went berserk over revelations that a CBC reporter on the Hill fed a question to a Liberal MP to ask of former PM Brian Mulroney during a committee appearance.

Mr. Harper was asked yesterday by a reporter if he believes the $1.1-billion annual parliamentary appropriation for the CBC is a good use of taxpayers' money. The question was apparently inspired by a fundraising letter sent out before the election from Conservative campaign Rasputin Doug Finley. The letter includes a survey that asks the same query.

The Conservative leader replied to the question with telling brevity. "All I can say is I support government budgets."

Next question.

What he meant is open to interpretation. A Conservative party spokesperson said later that Mr. Harper supported a budget that included an allotment for the CBC.

The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, which first released the Finley letter, wants Mr. Harper to clarify his position on the CBC. They point to remarks Mr. Harper made in 2004 in which he mused about putting CBC English TV and Radio 2 on a commercial basis.

"It's interesting that he would not disavow comments that he has made about CBC in the past," the group's spokesman, Jim Thompson, said yesterday.

"We would be worried that those statements Mr. Harper made in 2004 would form the basis of government policy."

Mr. Thompson said there could be political risks for Mr. Harper in taking a public position against the CBC, because his organization's research shows strong support for the broadcaster among older people and the crucial swing voters who rate the Tories as their second choice.

Odd coincidence: The CBC twice lost its satellite feed from Mr. Harper's campaign events yesterday. He was interrupted in mid-sentence by colour bars.

© Ottawa Citizen