“Playing The Part Of Old Yeller Today Is CBC News.”

I cannot believe I am saying this. A few years ago I would have never believed that I would be writing this post. CBC News is completely horrible and has lost its objectivity. Somewhere along the way, the politicization of the news division has eroded it’s standards and it has passed a point of no return.

While I truly believe in Radio 1, 2, and 3. I think CBC Television follows the mandate I would expect from a national broadcaster. CBC Music is an amazing platform that provides new Canadian music a showcase to the world. The CBC News division seems lost in the world of new media, and at worst has become untrustworthy.

At one time CBC News was my window to the world, Barbara Frum, Knowlton Nash, and Peter Mansbridge were the trusted voices that brought me my daily news. They did so without editorializing, but added context to what I was seeing. The mid to late 1980’s were a tumultuous time for a preteen becoming aware of the world around him and CBC News was an excellent guide. Some news stories actually spurred me to action, and broke my heart – like this 1984 Brian Stewart story alerting the world to famine in Ethiopia. That story changed the world. From the Challenger Disaster, to the Berlin Wall, to the Quèbec Referendum, to 9/11 – the CBC was the steady voice offering information, context, and a balance to editorial content.

The Journal on CBC was my introduction to long form journalism that introduced me to documentary film making. The advent of CBC Newsworld was exciting and important, it felt like Canada had arrived into the future for me. There were many niche current affairs shows that provided opinion and debate. CBC News seemed open to evolution, and not afraid of failure.

What the hell happened?

Yes, the Stephen Harper Conservatives changed CBC News. Conservatives did what Conservatives will always do. They looked to find ways to use CBC News to generate revenue, or to make it less dependent on public money, to modernize it, and to make it competitive with other news media organizations. Free market baby! Yes Stephen Harper appointed an all conservative board to run the CBC, but it isn’t because CBC News is beholden to it’s board that it has become mediocre. It has become mediocre because it is beholden to mediocre journalists. Yes, they still have a roster of amazing journalists, but for every great journalist like Saša Petricic, you have a mediocre one like Robyn Urback taking CBC News two steps back.

How about balanced reporting? How about unbiased reporting? I expect news out of CBC, not Rosie Barton’s editorial opinion and spin on the news. CBC has turned into a beehive news organization, looking for the same honey as the other organizations. I expect better from the journalists of CBC News, not click-bait and provocative tweets for the sake of driving controversy. I am not looking for news reading drones, but anchors and journalists who report the news and provide context without speculation, spin, or sensationalism bordering on gossip. I do not want manufactured outrage, I want the news.

I have a few thoughts about what I would like to see happen at CBC News:

  1. Pull the plug on CBC Opinion, or at least the sensationalist aspect of it. Why are we giving a platform to National Post retreads like Robyn Urback? Why are Rebel Media and Daily Caller alums like Barbara Kay and David Krayden being given a voice on CBC Opinion? If we keep CBC Opinion, lets use it as a platform for new voices to develop. There is no need to compete with the Toronto Sun for who can make the bigger impact or scream loudest. The CBC needs to be a relevant voice for all Canadians, and not just the controversial ones. There is no need to take part in an echo chamber.
  2. CBC News should not be competing with other Canadian news organizations for advertising money. It should be wholly funded by the Canadian taxpayer. Yes, an unpopular choice, but necessary to ensure revenue is available for private news organizations. It also ensures that CBC News isn’t beholden to advertisers.
  3. Spend more money on actual journalism. This is no time to cut back, or to close news bureaus around the world. The CBC has become more insular, focusing on fewer and fewer stories, and relying on outside news organizations for content. If we want journalism in Canada to thrive, opening up more opportunities for Canadian journalists to develop is a must. We want to have a Canadian perspective on world events, not watching a CNN or NBC simulcast with spin.
  4. CBC Politics needs a radical overhaul. Power and Politics has become a spin cycle with such a small, incestuous pool of voices and pundits that it has become tired and predictable, nearly unwatchable. Power and Politics and CBC Politics in general needs to be re-imagined. It has become self-serving and is failing the viewers.

This isn’t a hit piece on the CBC itself, but rather a cry for help from a life long fan and supporter of CBC News.

The CBC is a national treasure. The stronger the national voice can be heard and transmitted, the stronger we are as Canadians. I do not want to give fuel to the anti-CBC neanderthals that merely hate the symbol it represents. But dammit, do better CBC News. Aspire to be more than yet another voice in the echo chamber.

Not everyone in Canada lives in an urban area with access to high speed internet, with access to cable, or has the financial means to afford them. We have an obligation to provide Canadian broadcasting to all Canadians. News is a vital component of that.

According to the right wing Fraser Institute, the CBC cost Canadians $1.04 billion in the 2016 audit year, out of a 311 billion dollar national budget, or 0.344% of our national budget, or $29.71 per Canadian/year. As a matter of fact we pay less per person for CBC services than what the British people for BBC. They provide services far more efficiently than NPR and the BBC on a per-capita basis.

There is a reason the right hates the CBC. I understand that conservatism only succeeds when you keep the electorate dumb and afraid, and the concept of ensuring all Canadians have access to unbiased information and news – scares the right on a macro level. Access to the CBC is an essential right to Canadians. But a CBC that isn’t serving the needs of Canadians, especially the news division, will continue to erode public support in the CBC until Conservatives get what they want – a defunded or privatized CBC.

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5 thoughts on ““Playing The Part Of Old Yeller Today Is CBC News.””

  1. I agree with the opinions stated in this article. i am a life-long CBC watcher and I belong to the “Friends of the CBC”- I do not like the pablum offered up on the National or the countless repetitions of useless information on the Network news. Please go back to when CBC was accurate and fair in its reporting. Hire real journalists , not opinion people.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I did a stretch in CBC newsrooms in Ottawa in the 70s before winding up in law. That was the era of the Davey and Kent commission reports on Canadian journalism. We ignored those, clearing the way for the rise of the corporate media cartel usually in the form of concentration of ownership and media cross-ownership where one company dominates TV, radio and newspapers in an urban market. I suspect the gravitational pull of that cartel was enough to draw the CBC into its orbit. The CBC lost me around the time Mansbridge became anchor. I haven’t followed television news for more than a decade and, when I do catch a broadcast, it’s usually the BBC.
    Corporate media change the news process from information to messaging. Information, the stuff of what was once known as “hard news,” is public domain. It belongs to everyone and no one. Messaging, however, well that’s proprietary. It has value. It can be monetized. If I can transform information into messaging and I have an adequate dominance in markets coast to coast, I have something of enormous value to a certain type of entity that can reciprocate in a number of ways. Why did Harper intervene to permit foreign lenders, New York vulture capitalists at that, to acquire control of PostMedia? That sort of thing happens when a media outlet goes from being the watchdog of government to become the lapdog of government.
    In the 70s we did strive for objectivity and those who strayed were rebuked. A lot of the reportage today back then would have been called a “blowjob” story. Can you imagine sitting in a newsroom and your colleagues congratulate you on a nice blowjob piece? I’ve seen people wither under that humiliation. From what I’ve seen in recent decades those days must be long gone.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You might want to check the math in “…the CBC cost Canadians $1.04 billion in the 2016 audit year, out of a 311 billion dollar national budget, or 0.00344% of our national budget…” Or was that calculation done by the Fraser Institute?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I came across an article today that resonated with this post. It concerns the advent of robotic journalism, AI programmes that generate publishable quality content. The Washington Post is said to have used its Heliograf technology to create 850 articles in its first year. The early stuff was the rote stories that rookie reporters cut their teeth on. The paper, however, is looking to use this algorithmic scribe to advance into substantive reportage.

    Around 1990 I began muttering that there were few great minds being wasted in the newsrooms of Canada. There may be fewer still once the robots generate the front page.

    https://digiday.com/media/washington-posts-robot-reporter-published-500-articles-last-year/

    Liked by 1 person

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