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CBC news is no longer serving the needs of all Canadians

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We learn more from what is not reported than reported

Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre recently reflected on a very important question, “Why are people so angry?”

He stated that Canadians have a great deal to be angry about. The standard of living for many ordinary people is falling, and our government leaders are doing nothing but trying to please their corporate donors and lobbyists.

He makes a good point, but Poilievre fails to explain how he would be different from Justin Trudeau, as his party also has a history of pandering to corporatists.

Others, like Poilievre’s predecessor Erin O’Toole, feel that people are becoming more aggressive because rage has become normalized. This could also be true. Our political parties have become more aggressive toward one another, and the media has discovered the profitability of allowing anger to ferment in distinctive information silos.

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We become angry when we feel threatened and don’t see a way to resolve our issues. Anger frequently turns to rage when our concerns are not heard. Rage dissipates, however, when we feel that our opinions matter to others. Anger can turn into a sense of purpose when we are able to channel it into a cause for good.

Knowing this, how do we draw people out of their encampments and create a better country?

First, we need to recognize that corporations will not save us. Their bottom line is, and always has been, profitability. Sometimes citizens need to pool their resources and create institutions that will serve their communities and their nation.

In essence, this was the original purpose of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. No private institution could reach all Canadians with broadcast media content relevant to Canadians, so in the 1930s, our government organized and funded our public broadcaster with English and French services.

Much has changed since the 1930s, and so has the CBC. Unfortunately, largely due to budget cuts and dependence on advertising, our public broadcaster has grown irrelevant to Canadians. I watch the CBC news in both English and French and listen to radio broadcasts in both languages as well. I have come to realize that I do this not so much to find out what is going on but to learn the centrist neoliberal perspectives on events in Canada and around the world.

Much is learned by noticing what is not reported. While right-leaning media outlets showed Justin Trudeau screaming in the House of Commons last February, accusing members of the Conservative caucus of “standing with those who wave swastikas,” the CBC reported very little on the issue. While the non-profit American news outlet Democracy Now! provided extensive coverage of RCMP SWAT teams attacking a peaceful Wet’suwet’en encampment in northern British Columbia in November of 2021, CBC coverage was quite limited.

Of course, CBC executives will tell us that they are underfunded and can’t cover every event. They are correct. At the same time, critics of the CBC will tell us that it shouldn’t get any government money. In a country like Canada, however, a weak or nonexistent public broadcaster is dangerous to our democracy, as commercial media outlets tend to kowtow to their largest advertisers and will do anything to create a spectacle.

Perhaps the answer is to provide greater funding to the CBC while holding it fully accountable to Canadian taxpayers of all political views.

Canadians have good reason to be angry, and they need to see respectfully articulated perspectives that resonate with them heard and discussed in a public forum. It would be quite enlightening, for example, to listen to a conversation between Canadian scholars Jordan Peterson and Gabor Maté where they would be free to challenge and respond to each other’s views.

The CBC can and should be reformed to become a platform that will bring Canadians together. That is the role of a public broadcaster in the 21st century.

Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages, genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.

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