As we welcome a new Conservative Party leader, we've heard an old Conservative talking point crop up again: Defund the CBC.
Erin O'Toole said if elected prime minster, he would cut funding to CBC English-language TV and news by 50 per cent and close CBC Digital, but keep Radio-Canada, the French service of CBC, and CBC Radio. He said the reason was that CBC television wasn't needed due to online streaming options and many other sources of Canadian content in Canada. He also said that CBC's original mandate of working to connect Canadians through media wasn't as relevant as it was when the CBC began in the 1930s.
He couldn't be further from the truth.
First, the CBC has already proven it can produce quality Canadian content, with Schitt's Creek cleaning up at the Emmys this year, Anne with an E picked by Netflix, and new shows like Trickster and Kim's Convenience, plus classic content like Murdoch's Mysteries. The CBC is responsible for the lion's share of Canadian content.
The CTV/Global Network is not as flush with Canadian content as we think. The prime time and daytime lineup is full of content created in the U.S. Looking at CTV's TV lineup shows that Canadian content needs to be protected more than ever.
Online content doesn't help with Canadian content much, with most of it coming from the U.S. and the U.K.
O'Toole seems to think the U.S. should dictate what we watch and our voices don't matter.
Second, the CBC still fulfills the mandate to connect Canadians, especially outside of large cities. In the Canadian North, CBC Radio, TV and news networks are vital to informing small communities. Shuttering and cutting budgets to English language services will also affect First Nation language services, which are broadcast on the same radio and TV channels.
Third, and most importantly, is the value that the CBC gives us in a Canadian point of view and Canadian news. Just as Stephen Harper and other politicians before him, O'Toole doesn't mention of the journalistic value of the CBC. A well funded, independent CBC, which has and continues to win awards for its balanced approach to journalism, ensures political transparency and holds our elected officials to their promises. This is the greatest threat to cutting the CBC's budget: the threat to the average Canadian's right to be and stay informed.
The CBC is not perfect. It certainly has its faults and its mandate should be looked at and updated for our post-COVID society, but it's still one of the most respected and balanced news gathering agencies in the world. The cost of this service is just thirty dollars per Canadian. A well funded, independent and respected public broadcaster is something that benefits every Canadian.