CBC next target on Tories’ political ‘hit list’

The Harper Conservatives are using the current economic crisis as an excuse to reshape the CBC in ways that were unthinkable just a few short weeks ago.
They are using the current crisis as an excuse to starve our national broadcaster and reduce its ability to provide us with local and national news, weather, sports, and cultural broadcasting.
Almost all of us have watched one of the fine programs on the main CBC channel or CBC Newsworld, listened to one of its six radio stations for local weather and news, or visited www.cbc.ca for national news and information.
Some of the most popular television programs in Canada are on our national broadcaster, including “The National,” “Hockey Night in Canada,” “The Mercer Report,” and “The Border.” CBC Newsworld broadcasts 24 hours a day, and features a wide range of public-interest stories, internationally-acclaimed documentaries, news, and weather.
The CBC family of radio stations, meanwhile, broadcast in-depth local news, weather, and music.
For some here in Thunder Bay-Rainy River, it’s the only broadcast news and information they have access to. I, myself, consider CBC Radio to be an indispensable part of my weekly trek across the riding.
Despite all the great programming on the CBC, though, there is a catch–the broadcaster is a not-for-profit Crown corporation that gets 60 percent of its funding from tax dollars.
Because of their ideological commitment to slashing government services and spending, and their conspiratorial belief that the broadcaster has a left-wing bias, the Reform, Canadian Alliance, and Conservative parties have long made dismantling the CBC a subject of fundraising letters, blog postings, and partisan speeches.
(My own opinion is that their hostility is born out of the fact that the broadcaster’s content is moderate, popular, and reflective of the values of a majority of Canadians, but I digress).
Whatever the reason, the CBC has been in the political cross-hairs of the Conservative Party for quite some time.
The Harper government already has used the current economic crisis as cover for unpopular policies like their Liberal-supported budget attack on pay equity for working women—and it appears our national broadcaster is the next target on Mr. Harper’s political “hit list.”
The opportunity to cripple the CBC has arisen largely from the collapse in advertising revenue throughout the media industry. Ad revenues account for the other 40 percent of funding for the CBC, and the industry-wide decline in revenue has been so severe that some large private broadcasters are weeks, if not days, away from bankruptcy.
This temporary decline in ad revenue has created a $60-million budget shortfall for the CBC and forced its board of directors to ask for a small advance on government funding which would be paid back in future years.
To this modest request, the Harper government said “no” and instead is preparing to offer a large assistance package to private media outlets like CanWest that depend heavily on American programming and also have the ability to raise private capital.
So where does this leave the CBC? Well, because the Conservatives have chosen to feed private broadcasters and starve the CBC, our national broadcasting icon will have to cut about 10 percent of its work force, sell several large assets that may include local stations like the one in Thunder Bay, and eliminate some of its Canadian-produced original programming like “The Mercer Report” and “Hockey Night in Canada.”
I don’t know about you, but I depend on local and regional news coverage, and like the television and radio programming on CBC just the way it is.
As the New Democratic Party’s critic for the CBC, you can count on me to lead the opposition against these ideologically-motivated cuts and to stand up for local news, weather, sports, and cultural broadcasting by ensuring our national broadcaster is able to get the flexible financing it needs to get through this short-term crisis.

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