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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What a Liberal Win Means for the CBC

Be careful what you wish for.

That was a parental admonition going back some years.

During the darkest days of the Harper cuts to the public broadcaster, a prominent CBC executive told me that the only thing the CBC needed was "a return to full funding and Justin Trudeau."

So far, he's got half of his wish.

But will a return to full funding (whatever that is), actually be what is needed at the beleaguered public broadcaster?

I would argue that a return to 1990s funding levels would be the worst thing that could happen to the CBC.

Here's why:

The CBC needs more than money. It needs a vision that Canadians can support. Under President Hubert Lacroix, the lack of vision has been more damaging than a lack of funding.

Calls for Lacroix's resignation are beginning and not a moment too soon.

Under his direction, the CBC has abandoned all pretence of being a public broadcaster. It is a commercial network, with the occasional nod to public service, mostly relegated to CBC Radio. Radio has more than done its obligatory service, keeping the flame alive even while having its budgets plundered for the benefit of light entertainment on CBC Television.

Prime Minister-Elect Trudeau - once he appoints a minister to oversee the CBC/Radio-Canada, should ask for Lacroix's resignation, along with the political appointees who now fill the board positions.

The German public broadcaster has a governance model that is worth exploring.

Their board is appointed by a series of blue-panel regional committees who are asked to find the right people who support the concept of public broadcasting. This is dramatically unlike the CBC, where a number of board members have voiced opinions in opposition to the concept of a public broadcaster.

(One was quoted as saying that he wonders why the CBC spend any money at all on foreign news, when it's readily available on other networks).

Restoring the CBC to full funding would only reward the present directors and senior managers who have allowed the Corporation to be reduced to its painful condition.  

The CBC needs to make some tough decisions, ones that support the concept of commercial-free public broadcasting. In exchange for a government allocation, the CBC/Radio-Canada needs to serve the public as citizens first and as media consumers second. It also must learn to live within its budgetary means and not allow a deformation of its mission by appealing to advertisers.

Would this be enough to transform the CBC into a true public media organization that is digitally adept? It might, but it can only do this under new management.


  1. Bravo! And in the careful what you wish for department, Justin Trudeau has made noises about looking at the whole mandate and re-thinking how a public broadcaster would deliver it's content and interact with citizens in the 21st century.
    One wonders if we may see a shift from over-the-air or cable delivery, to something more digital, computer based and interactive, reflecting the habits of those Canadians who are JT's age or younger. And could the CBC become a disseminater of externally produced content rather than the creator of programs as it has been? We shall have to wait and see.

  2. CBC Radio has gone downhill. But Radio Canada radio is top notch. I rarely listen to English radio any more. Too much Shad. Not that Shad does not have his place, but he shouldn't be all there is.

  3. While we are fixing the CBC, does Canadian public broadcasting have to be hopelessly left wing?