When I was still working as a reporter in Alberta, the then-governing NDP decided to bar the extreme-right-wing Rebel Media from the press gallery.
Their logic was they felt they were being slandered by a steady stream of negative coverage from the website. Regardless, when the announcement was made journalists of all stripes and ideologies, including from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, came out in protest. The reason was simple — if the government could ban one media outlet because they didn’t like what they were writing, they do could it to them all. The NDP ultimately retracted the decision.
Today we have a wannabe prime minister who has decided to make shutting down the CBC a key policy platform. The CBC isn’t only the largest employer of journalists in Canada, it’s also one of the few national outlets to fund investigative journalism on several fronts. No other major TV network bothers to fund these programs anymore — sadly stories about how grocery companies conspired to keep bread prices over-inflated don’t draw ratings like 1970s sitcom reruns.
Say what you will about Justin Trudeau — and you can — as our current prime minister has not interfered in press coverage in the many, many stories produced by the CBC and other news outlets detailing his many shortcomings and failings throughout his life, refusing to answer obviously baited questions aside. Cross reference this to Pierre Poilievre, who appears to not like the CBC because it asks questions about his motivations and his party. Rather than answer them, he’s campaigning on defund the organization and put thousands of journalists out of work.
If the Alberta NDP’s attempt to bar the Rebel Media was attacking the entire Free Press, this definitely is as well. Journalists owe it to each other to call Poilievre out on it.
Let’s be realistic — if a political party gets elected by campaigning on shutting down a news agency because they dislike the coverage they get, they could shut down the Inuvik Drum, Yellowknifer, Cabin Radio or anyone else just as easily — or at least bully them into self-censorship. If Poilievre is allowed to close down our national news outlet, none of us will be safe. Even if he limits his ambitions to shutting down the CBC, the precedent will be open for any government to target other journalists in the future.
If our objective is to improve the CBC’s overall effectiveness, we should be funding it properly and not expecting it to find its own revenue.
Commercial news outlets compete with the CBC for advertising space and viewership. This is the result of a long, slow bleed of funding over decades. For a while, CBC was able to cover its costs with Hockey Night in Canada — until Rogers bought it. Since then, it’s been trying to find ways to main service, which has obviously not been easy.
Were the CBC to not have to seek out advertising revenue and was able to focus on content, its negative impact on the commercial news industry would be largely resolved. As for their so-called left-biased coverage, recall the CBC has given interviews to right-wing figures such as Dr. Jordan Peterson, Rob and Doug Ford and numerous others. They are no more or less biased than any other news outlet in Canada. If anything, the fact CBC routinely upsets both the political left and right with its coverage should signal they’re probably more objective than most news organizations.
Always remember, politicians tell you things because they want your vote.
Journalists tell you things to ensure you are fully-informed.
Correction – the discussions are about defunding CBC, divorcing CBC from public money and not shutting it down. I fully support this as CBC has become a very one sided, woke and intolerant reporting agency.