I am trying to be hopeful about the changes to the CBC. It’s been reported that over 600 jobs are being cut, that the network will reduce its sports department in the wake of the highly publicized loss of Hockey Night in Canada. This is not surprising, but a consequence of budget cuts in 2012, one of a series. For years, the Conservative aim has been to reduce the size of the CBC. I believe their concerns are far different from mine.
Their concern? Public affairs programs, news, all allegedly with a left-wing slant.
Ha… Ironic! The network has been drifting closer over the years to being commercial, in its sensitivity to public taste. Where its 1960s and 70s programming seemed immune to such concerns, nowadays? Not so. But the irony is that the hard-core news function is not driven by ratings. The radio programming, ditto. CBC will cut back on its comedy and drama, and especially its sports programming long before they stop being a pain the conservatives’ collective butt.
But –speaking of butts—that’s not at all what bothers me. I see the CBC in an entirely different context.
For me the CBC is the network of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. I remember CBC orchestras and think of the Glenn Gould studio as a magical place for classical music programming. I always understood the CBC to be the broadcaster who would do what the public could not or would not do. They were the ones to help identify and create Canadian culture by commissioning and recording. I am not as confident about the future of classical music on CBC as I am of news & public affairs. I do feel strongly that this could be an election issue: if the other parties would identify it as one. The conservatives will never do so, as the party who have been systematically killing the public broadcaster through a series of cuts. The other two parties don’t need to promote the CBC as a cultural issue –even if it is so—because it’s also an economical one as well. Arts funding gives a great return on investment. The proof is relatively recent, and needing to be shouted from the roof-tops. Some –notably Tom Hudak—still think that austerity works, even though economists have discredited trickle down and supply side economics as fallacious. Pumping money into the CBC creates jobs, and not just the immediate ones working for the corporation. Artists are not to be compared with other disciplines such as law or medicine, where immediate payback is expected & required. A classical composer can be a guy driving a cab (like Philip Glass did at one time) working in insurance (as Charles Ives did long ago) or teaching music. A commissioned composition trickles down to the performers and to the audience who might otherwise not hear a new Canadian piece (admittedly an intangible). Trudeau & Mulcair should take positions on this right away. I am under no illusions. Harper won’t rescue the CBC, although he might temporarily soften his position if there were an actual conversation on the subject. But let’s make sure there is such a conversation.