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Harper blueprint embedded in Senate CBC report

Jul 20, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ottawa – The Senate Transport and Communication Committee’s report on the challenges facing the CBC released this morning would fundamentally change the national public broadcaster for the worse, according to the watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

“This report faithfully reflects the Prime Minister’s well-known hostility towards Canada’s national public broadcaster,” said Friends’ Spokesperson Ian Morrison.

The Committee’s proposals to divert a portion of CBC’s parliamentary grant and to convert the CBC to a user-pay service are a thinly-disguised cut to CBC’s parliamentary grant that could never be implemented without a major contraction of the services that our national public broadcaster offers to Canadians every day.

But, at the same time as stripping resources away from CBC, the Committee calls on CBC to undertake additional expensive initiatives such as increased regional programming, coverage of amateur sports, and Canadian history.

“All seven Conservative Senators on the Committee were appointed by Stephen Harper.  As loyal servants, they are doing Harper’s dirty work, proposing a hostile agenda that would lead to the end of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as we know it,” said FRIENDS’ spokesperson Ian Morrison. The hand of Harper can be seen in the Committee’s wish to reduce the role of government in financing CBC and to introduce user-pay models such as the American PBS.

If the Committee’s recommendations were to be implemented, the result would be remarkably similar to ideas Harper himself floated back on May 19, 2004 when, as Opposition leader, he said:

“I’ve suggested that government subsidies in support of CBC’s services should be to those things that are not... do not have commercial alternatives.”

He then added:

“When you take a look at things like main-English language television and probably to a lesser degree Radio Two, you could look there at putting those on a commercial basis.”

Although the Committee calls for the Board of Directors to hire and fire the CEO, what confidence can Canadians place in a Board of Directors appointed by patronage where all but two Directors have financially contributed to the governing political party?

The report is silent on reforming the current Board patronage appointment process and also on the massive concentration of ownership in Canada’s private sector media companies, that makes an editorially independent national public broadcaster even more essential. It also conflates viewing of US programs with Canadian programs by basing its evaluation on ‘ratings’.

Although the Committee appears to target CBC’s English Television network, it will adversely affect all of the CBC’s services, English and French. Eviscerating English Television would mean that the 80% of Canadians whose first language is English, and who pay taxes to support public broadcasting would receive inferior service from CBC compared to what their francophone fellow citizens enjoy.

“At least one Senator on the Committee appears to have absorbed the evidence placed before the Committee during its lengthy study.  The minority opinion published this morning by Senator Art Eggleton is an eloquent defence of our national public broadcaster and an articulate statement of the need for a vibrant and strong national public broadcaster,” Morrison said. 

Morrison added: “While SRC Television competes with Pierre Karl Péladeau’s empire, CBC Television competes with the full force of Hollywood. It needs and deserves strong support from the Canadian government to do its job. We call on the vast majority of Canadians of all political stripes who support public broadcasting to use the coming election to ensure that Harper’s hostility to the CBC ends up on the scrap heap of history.”

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For information: 

Jim Thompson
613-567-9592
jim@friends.ca

Related:

May 19, 2004 - CBC News: Harper Comments on the CBC
Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper suggests his party may revisit government funding of CBC English television and Radio Two.

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Research detailing local, Canadian and foreign programming for Canadian TV stations in 10 cities across the country.