CBC is a state-sponsored outfit engaging in what can only be called imitation journalism
Is a television series shot in St. John’s about a police dog Canadian content?
Is a Hallmark romantic series shot in Toronto Canadian content?
Is Schitt’s Creek, starring top Canadian performers, Canadian content?
Is a Kevin Costner series shot in the Alberta foothills Canadian content?
For the purposes of attracting funding from federal, provincial and municipal governments, they all qualify as Canadian content. Why? What distinguishes these popular entertainment vehicles as emblematic of the modern nation whose taxpayers fund the projects?
Look, we have no issue with Canada hosting a variety of profitable, popular film projects. We have family members who draw a paycheque from them. A healthy TV/film/ theatre industry has much to recommend it.
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Then why do we need to shroud it in the garb of Canadian culture? When it was Anne of Avonlea or even The Beachcombers, there were recognizable Canadian themes and performers. Now, however, with the success of international marketing, Schitt’s Creek and Hallmark films are exemplars of a uni-culture, a smash-up of comedic tropes, romantic plots and cop shows that could come from anywhere.
Yes, they sell. But do they sell anything Canadian? Hardly. But that will not stop the gravy train of subsidies, grants, and funds for Can-Con. If Canadian culture is now like Canadian oil or Canadian cars – indistinguishable from one another – who’s to stop it?
Which brings us to the one exemplar whose entire raison d’être is reflecting the country. CBC. Yes, the Mother Corp, conceived in the flush of young nationhood, coming of age. Reaching from sea to sea-to-frozen-sea, the mandate of CBC is to reflect the fragile ribbon of a nation-state hovering north of America. To get to the nooks and crannies no profit-based company would dare.
And, for a long time, CBC seemed to fit that mandate. CBC made shows that reflected the peculiarities of Canada. God knows no one else would do documentaries about ships passing through the St. Lawrence Seaway, the spring breakup in log-rolling season or lonely freight trains chugging through the Crowsnest Pass. It was earnest, dull. But it was Canada’s first marriage. These things happen.
But then Canada’s eye was caught by the sexy harlots of the entertainment industry in the 1960s. Like the love interests in Pierre Trudeau’s life, they were irresistible. Who had ever paid attention to Canada outside William Shatner as Captain Kirk? Suddenly Canada’s purveyors of culture dropped the first marriage and either headed south to hang with the cool kids or tried to make American-looking programming. Street Legal. DeGrassi Jr. High. DaVinci’s Inquest.
Gradually, CBC management began to see its real audience as a market like Hollywood or New York City, not Thunder Bay. It became obsessed with making saleable uni-culture entertainment. Often with Canadian actors and Canadian backdrops. But not so much that they would annoy Americans.
As the entertainment department morphed in the era of Trudeau the First, CBC clung to its news and current affairs departments as the tease when they went to Ottawa for funding. To be distinctive, the news division recorded the boring bits of Canadian-ness: our multi-party systems, our healthcare, our equalization schemes. We give you notwithstanding clauses. You give us millions. (Then billions.)
But then CBC was overtaken by an emerging private broadcast side and social media. There were others who could do election nights and November 11 memorials, sifting through the stuff that had always been CBC’s exclusive. By the time Trudeau the Second emerged, CBC television was a husk, a shell to be filled in as budgets allowed. Hell, they sold the Hockey Night in Canada brand to Rogers.
In this state, Trudeau the Second saw an opportunity. Many Canadians still had affection for CBC long after they stopped watching it. Why not promote his globalist garbage and Woke insanities inside CBC? Shove aside trusted names and reputations? Pump the unions’ agendas? Disguise what had once been journalism with a veneer of government DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) policies?
For good measure, have the CBC executive director do her job while working from New York City. Oh, and cut the regional outlets to the bone.
Only problem is that people are finally noticing that CBC is now a state-sponsored outfit engaging in imitation journalism. Twitter supremo Elon Musk applied a state-funded tag to CBC’s account. (In response to CBC huffing and puffing, Musk reduced CBC government funding from 70 to 69 percent in the tag.) Unlike the Canadian content racket – that makes money – it serves no purpose.
Now, Conservative leader Pierre Poilièvre has made it an article of faith to take a blade saw to the CBC budget, hacking as much as a billion from the operating funds. Let the private side have an open shot at filling the gap. Get CBC’s foot off the neck of social media and advertising.
Unsurprisingly, there are howls of protest from those who contend that CBC is still relevant. National Observer columnist Sandy Garrasino sniped on Twitter, “Remember that Poilièvre would give his eye teeth to have the notorious liars at FOX reporting on Canada. He doesn’t hate bias at all. He hates real reporters.” Here’s Max Fawcett, also with the Observer, taking one for the team: “Pierre Poilièvre wants to destroy the CBC … Why? Because as recent polling shows, the less informed Canadians are, the more likely they are to support his party.”
Strongly worded memo to follow. Problem is that the time servers in Ottawa are the last to know it’s over. Two percent of the population considers CBC still relevant after stunts like shivving Wendy Mesley in public. Keep radio. Take a hammer to CBC.ca. Can the Can-Con. Let the other guys have a chance.
Bruce Dowbiggin is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book by bookauthority.org. His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best.
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