Tuesday, March 03, 2009

New Petition for the CBC

I don't know how effective online petitions are, but people seem to like them. When the CBC funding issue first came up I created an event for it on Facebook. This has caused some confusion but I created an event rather than a group because there is a finite timeline. The current funding crisis will be decided one way or another in the short term and I already have a group for long term issues. Next some CBC spokesperson made the colossal mistake of bringing throwing Radio 3 into the mix, muddying the water and dividing people's efforts. So I created a separate event for that.

Supporters of both groups eventually convinced me to create online petitions there are currently over 800 signatures on the Radio 3 petition and the CBC petition launched last night. In short it asks Parliament to implement the recommendations of the Heritage Committee which were made last year after long and careful study and which would resolve the current crisis.

John Doyle at the Globe has a piece about the CBC's situation this morning in which he says the CBC needs to decide what it wants to be. He points out that the CBC has been using two definitions recently. One that says
"CBC/Radio-Canada is Canada's national public broadcaster and one of its largest cultural institutions. With 29 services offered on radio, television, the Internet, satellite radio, digital audio, as well as through its record and music distribution service and wireless WAP and SMS messaging services, CBC/Radio-Canada is available how, where and when Canadians want it."
That the CBC uses when it wants public support and another that it has been using recently "a publicly subsidized commercial network,". If it's the former then it needs to be supported and funded, if it's the latter then the CBC is on it's own.

The CBC has certainly not been acting like our National Public Broadcaster in recent years. CBC execs do not seem to understand that a public broadcaster needs public support. They have slowly been alienating their core audience in favor of larger audiences. While they may now have larger audiences, most of those audiences are passive. They may watch CBC programming but they won't fight for the CBC with their members of parliament which makes rallying the troops in a crisis like this much harder. With the Radio 3 it's been relatively easy. Radio 3 knows who they are, what they want to do, and how they want to do it and their audience is nearly rabid in their support. With other parts of the CBC though I have to convince people of the potential, of what the CBC used to be and what it might be in the future. The present of the CBC is not a strong selling point.

The reality is that Canada needs a well funded national public broadcaster. It does not need a publicly subsidized commercial network. If that is what the CBC wants to be then it is hard to make the argument that it needs the funding it currently has. Mr. Doyle is wrong about one thing though. The CBC does not need to decide who they are and what they want to be. The parliament needs to decide that, which is what the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage tried to do last year. It can not be left up to CBC management to decide what the CBC should be, that has to be decided for them before they take the job. CBC managements role is not to define the CBC, it is to make the CBC work.

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