The Sunday Edition

The Liberal Party of Canada's vision for the CBC - Stéphane Dion

No prime minister in recent memory has voiced support for the principle of public broadcasting in this country. In fact for decades, complaining about the CBC, accusing it of political bias while cutting its budget, has been the modus operandi of whichever party is in power....
Listen22:24
No prime minister in recent memory has voiced support for the principle of public broadcasting in this country. In fact for decades, complaining about the CBC, accusing it of political bias while cutting its budget, has been the modus operandi of whichever party is in power.

The most recent cuts were announced in the federal budget in 2012 - $115 million over 3 years, with a loss of 657 jobs. In addition to less money from the government, advertising revenue has shrunk, and costs have increased. In June, 2014, the CBC said another 1,500 jobs will disappear over the next 5 years.  

On CBC Radio, there are more repeats than ever. Some programs - like the international affairs program, "Dispatches" - have been cancelled. Radio drama and recordings of live musical performances are but a memory. In television, all production, with the exception of news, is being outsourced. The CBC is evolving into a commissioner and distributor of content, instead of a creator.

Then there are the self-inflicted wounds: the firing and subsequent criminal charges brought against former "Q" host Jian Ghomeshi, and the outcry over paid speaking engagements by CBC journalists. Outside, even those who care about the CBC are appalled. Its critics - and there are many - say it's time to turn out the lights. Inside, morale has never been lower. All of this is taking place against the backdrop of a technological revolution that is devastating traditional media around the world.

It is a challenge to wade into the murky waters of "covering ourselves", but the CBC remains, arguably, Canada's most powerful and important cultural institution. Certainly, it is one of the most polarizing. We are planning a series of interviews over the next few months about the CBC.

We invited the federal minister responsible, the Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, to talk to us about her government's vision for the future of the CBC. She has declined. Her press secretary sent this statement:

"Our government provides the CBC with over $1B every year. Like Hubert Lacroix said himself, there are challenges in this rapidly changing media environment to which no mainstream broadcaster is immune. CBC is responsible for its own operations, and it is up to the CBC to provide programming that Canadians actually want to watch and listen to in English and in French."

We will continue to invite Ms. Glover to speak to us about the future of the CBC.

We extended the same invitation to the NDP's Thomas Mulcair, leader of the Official Opposition. He will be on the program in a few weeks' time.

Stéphane Dion is a former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and has been the Member of Parliament for the riding of Saint-Laurent-Cartierville in Montreal since 1996. Mr. Dion is the Liberal critic for Canadian Heritage; he spoke to Michael from a studio in Ottawa.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.