Pierre Poilievre has trotted out a recurrent theme in Conservative election platforms—he will “defund” the CBC. (Is “defund” a steal from woke-speak?)
This is hardly surprising. The CBC is the only national mass medium that isn’t owned by the corporate sector, a generally conservative and excessively influential entity.
Here in Calgary even the press is the captive of the corporate/conservative perspective. We have four daily newspapers—two national, two local—all conservative. Three are owned by Postmedia, a subsidiary of Chatham Asset Management, an American hedge fund known for its close ties to the Republican party. It’s rather like Henry Ford’s offer on his Model Ts: any colour you like as long as it’s black. In Calgary you can get any philosophy of newspaper you like as long as it’s conservative.
This may have something to do with why the city inclines to the right. (Are we being indoctrinated?) Maybe no other city in the country is in greater need of the CBC.
It is our only truly independent mass medium, the only one that belongs to us, our national public forum. Marketplaces, we are told, are a good thing because they provide choice. Well, the CBC is the only choice outside of corporate media, the only fully democratic voice.
Some insist its most important functions are to serve as a stage for Canadian culture and talent and to unite our broad, diverse country. I’m inclined to believe its service as a voice outside of corporate control is at least as important.
Conservatives complain about having to pay taxes to support a medium they don’t much like. But we are also forced to pay for private media whether we like it or not. We pay via advertising. If you find you have a need to buy food, clothing, shelter, etc., a portion of the price you pay will fund the vendor’s advertising.
You can no more avoid it than you can avoid your income taxes. Indeed, it could reasonably be considered a tax. The last time I did the math I found that we pay about four times as much for private broadcasting via advertising than we pay for the CBC via income taxes.
And we pay far less for a public broadcaster than most other countries. According to a study by Nordicity consulting group, on a per-capita basis the CBC received $33, 17th out of the 20 countries studied. The average was $88. Funding for public broadcasting in the U.K. was $104 per capita, in Sweden $120 and in Germany $149. The CBC is a bargain.
At a time when disinformation and misinformation have become a threat to democracy, it would be a tragedy to lose the CBC, arguably the country’s best source of reliable information. Poilievre’s threat must not be taken lightly.