He promised to leave some areas of the CBC as-is.
The "reality" of public broadcasting, in principle at least, is that it exists precisely in order to provide a service that is not a commercial, for-profit undertaking. It is intended to be distinctive, to be free from the influence of vested interests either commercial or governmental, and to serve its audiences as citizens rather than as consumers.
The CBC's decision to air the Tragically Hip's farewell concert Saturday was a stroke of public broadcasting genius. Better than almost any event one could imagine, it demonstrated the power of a national public broadcaster to bring a nation together to celebrate its shared values, to honour its prodigies, to connect.
Bell Media's brusque announcement that it is killing Canada AM represents more than the loss of a morning news and current affairs program with a 40-year legacy. It is further evidence that private television, now in the hands of a clutch of corporate behemoths, is no longer in the business of serving the public interest.
CBC has boasted that 50 per cent of the cost of its TV services is paid for by advertising revenue. No more. In the year ending August 2015, CBC English TV ad revenue fell off a cliff and was barely $100 million, well under 20 per cent of TV revenues. Funding from taxpayers is now four times greater than ad revenues.
The president of CBC/Radio-Canada says public broadcasters are caught in a “vicious circle” of budget cuts and service reductions
Some would say, so what, it's the best the CBC can do in an era of shrinking budgets and audience fragmentation. Besides, that's what the audience wants. True, people love sports but has CBC ever asked the audience if all the sports programming could be found on other channels, would they prefer a CBC focused more on quality drama and entertainment?
Canadians of all political stripes have voiced their overwhelming support for the public broadcaster. But the voices of advocates are all but absent from mainstream media. Unless the parties themselves and their leaders are prepared to engage in open, competitive debate on the future of our public broadcaster -- our single most important cultural institution -- there is no hope of anything more than the minimal measures of support being offered in the Liberal and NDP platforms from being realized. And the Conservatives will continue to dream of dismantling the institution which has for generations appealed to our better angels, and done so much to make us who we are.
In an election campaign that is extraordinary in so many ways, one of the more noteworthy changes is that there could be as many as five English-language leadership debates. More surprising and perplexing still is the way the CBC has abdicated its obligation as our public broadcaster to provide coverage of these events. The CBC, with its unparalleled household penetration, was not among the motley assemblage of television and web outlets that carried the initial Rogers-produced debate last week, nor will it be involved in the Globe and Mail/Google/YouTube effort next month.
As the BBC approaches its 100th anniversary, the venerable broadcaster is in a pitched battle for its future. The Canadian experience provides a lesson on how not to fund the BBC. Canada abandoned the licence fee in the 1950s on the premise that TV was too expensive to be funded by individual households.