The new budget announced by the Harper government will hit Canadians in several ways thanks to the new word of the day “Austerity”. Austerity has failed in Ireland, failed in England, failed in Greece, Spain and Portugal…so it seems we will try it here because? Well, our government must technically be insane, based on the definition that if you try something that has been done again and again with the same result but you assume you will get a different outcome well you might be a redne…er insane.
Seth Klein of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives stated it best “None of these spending cuts are actually necessary. A balanced budget could be achieved just one year later than Flaherty’s target, without inflicting any of the damage.”
BUT I will suspend my usual rant about whether we should be stimulating an economy during a recession…something all but the most ideologue Friedman-ittes recommend…no, I would like to look at what was cut and its potential impact on the skeptical community.
First, it is no secret that Harper personally and the conservative movement in general has always considered a corporate-independent source of news unacceptable or at least uncomfortable. To this aim, Harper has (and to be fair Paul Martin as Liberal finance minister and leader before him) constantly attempted to undermine the financial base of the CBC.
The CBC has gone from a completely publicly funded institution whose primary aim was to provide an independent source of news and promotion of the uniquely Canadian culture to an emaciated version of its goals.
As funding for the CBC was cut, the CBC has become more and more dependent on corporate advertising. It is not coincidental that as politicians have attempted to starve the CBC out of existence its ability to be both effective and independent of its advertisers has diminished.
The worst effect this has on the CBC is not only the reduced funding but the unpredictability of such funding. Prior to the election Minister of Canadian Heritage James Moore stated that “We have said that we will maintain or increase support for the CBC. That is our platform and we have said that before and we will commit to that”.
Of course now that they no longer have deal with being a minority in parliament, this majority government doesn’t care. Harper’s group has shown time and again they don’t give a damn what the people want…what is best for Canada…their main, (dare I say) only concern is promoting their own agenda.
So, why should we care? I did say I would be taking a skeptical view of this issue. Well as Ethan has mentioned many times on the show before, his favorite CBC show…I suspect maybe one of his top 10 favorite show currently on, is Marketplace. Market place has taken some very tough stands that annoy corporations.
Now, as the CBC becomes more dependent on advertisers there will be pressure put upon shows like the CBC now airs to not ‘agitate’ its funding base. It is common operating practice for CTV and Global which has no show like Market Place or the Nature of Things…they know who pays the bills and jump to that master.
There is more than the independence angle. The CBC will be shedding almost 700 jobs. These are the people who do the interviewing and investigations around the world…or who will not be soon. The CBC’s ability to be a source of international independent (that is independent of other agencies like FOX news or CNN) is being destroyed. Soon the CBC will be a re-tweeter of news from other agencies or worse. Lacking the manpower to produce news, they will rely on a practice common in the USA now (and I suspect on our corporate news channels) where corporate press-releases and faux-news videos are broadcast as real news simply to fill the space and cut down on cost.
The loss of jobs also means whole regions of this country will lose their CBC presence, notably the Maritimes this time, after the prairies were decimated in previous budget cuts. We are a large county and one of the things that bound us together…created a Canadian identity was the CBC. As more and more of our voices are silenced, regionalism will grow and Canada will cease to be a culture but merely a warehouse repository for American/Asian raw materials.
And of course, let’s not forget the support the CBC gives to the Canadian arts. Regional programing like This Hour Has 22 Minutes…the Red Green Show…artist like the Barenaked Ladies, OLP, Nickelback would likely have never been if it were not for the CBC. Now most ‘young’ people don’t think of the CBC as a cultural incubator…when was the last “hit” show produced by the CBC?
This is part of the fallout; the cutting of the CBC has been occurring since the Mulroney years…to live up to its mandate of serving public interest, the CBC first strangled its child “the arts”…in the hopes of keeping the rest of the broadcast family alive. Kids today don’t think of the CBC as entertaining because that role has already been cut to irrelevance; now the Harper government wished to finish the job…and it may well succeed if we remain silent.
Part of the problem is unreliability of the funding. The CBC never knows what its budget will be year to year. The CBC MUST play politics to ensure, or more often limit loses to, its budget. We could adopt a funding scheme like they have in the UK for the BBC.
In the UK every household watching TV must pay a licence fee…about 230$ a year. Canada, does not have the cultural history of such a licence, but a simple guarantee of a certain percentage of tax revenues as little as 0.08% or even a surtax could suffice. This would allow the CBC to know what it could expect long into the future and plan expenditures and development accordingly. It would also free it from both playing politics and being a target of politicians.
Why should we as skeptics care? As skeptics we rely on factual information from a variety of reliable sources. As Canadians we take pride in our culture. This is why we should care…why we should remember when the time comes to elect a Canadian government.