Canada's cultural elitists are getting mighty nervous these days.
Because word has it the Conservative government may trim the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's budget.
Now for regular TV consumers, who mainly watch non-CBC programming, the possibility a CBC budget cut probably ranks somewhere below getting a hangnail on their list of things to worry about.
Indeed, if it wasn't for Hockey Night in Canada, 95 per cent of Canadians probably wouldn't even notice if the CBC suddenly disappeared.
But for this country's urban intelligentsia (the kind of people who think subsidizing Margaret Atwood books should take priority over buying military helicopters), a reduced CBC budget is more terrifying than a Don Cherry rant.
To understand what I mean you really need to look at it from the CBCphiles' perspective.
And from their perspective the CBC is more than just a mere broadcasting corporation, like say Global or CTV. Those private entities, after all, seek to make money, which they do by airing shows which entertain us.
The CBC, on the other hand, is different. It isn't supposed to be about mundane things like making profits or winning over viewers.
No, the CBC operates under the guidelines of a government sanctioned "mandate."
And what is that mandate, you ask?
Well, as near as I can figure it out from first-hand observation, the CBC's mandate seems to be this: "We will seek whenever possible to present Canada's left-wing elitists with a picture of the world not as it is, but as they imagine it to be."
In other words, the CBC designs its programming to reassure Canada's chattering classes that Americans are indeed imperialistic and warmongering, that corporations are greedy and evil, that western Canadians are gun-toting reactionaries, and that Conservative party leader Stephen Harper is, in fact, the anti-Christ.
And oh yes, the CBC also plays the vital role of ensuring comedian Rick Mercer remains gainfully employed.
Some, of course, will say this sort of programming is evidence of "CBC bias" or "socialist propaganda," but to those with the proper ideological viewpoint, it's called "protecting Canadian culture."
And without that CBC cultural protection the high-society set would be forced to watch the same crass, mandate-less networks as the great unwashed masses. It's like asking them to shop at Walmart.
This is why I expect outraged elitists will soon launch a "Save the CBC" campaign featuring teary-eyed celebrities who will plead with the public to oppose any budget cutbacks.
The pro-CBC crowd also will play the nationalist card saying a public broadcaster helps to maintain Canadian unity.
That's certainly true: According to the ratings, Canadians are united in their desire not to watch the CBC.
Still I doubt Canadians will buy all these pro-CBC arguments.
I mean maybe it made sense to have a government-run network back in the days when you needed tinfoil-covered rabbit ears to pick up a grainy image of Wayne and Schuster, but this is the satellite and Internet age.
These days there are all-news channels, all-sports channels, all-arts channels, all-comedy channels, all-business channels all available for a reasonable price.
So why should taxpayers pay $1 billion a year for an all-socialist channel?
But having said all this, it's probably still cruel for the Conservatives to kill off the CBC with a death of a thousand budget cuts.
A more humane approach might be to privatize the network and sell it off to the public.
True, that would be a nightmare solution for some, such as the group "Friends of Canadian Broadcasting" whose mission, according to its website, is to fight for a "strong CBC," and by "strong" they mean government-operated and taxpayer-subsidized.
Just like Canada Post is "strong."
If the CBC were privatized, it would probably lose these "Friends"
On the bright side, however, a private CBC would make many new friends -- they are called stockholders.
Follow Gerry Nicholls on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@gerrynic