Speculation has run rampant that Stephen Harper’s majority Tory government would spell certain doom for Canada’s public broadcaster. In light of this fear, former (and presumably current) Heritage Minister James Moore has stepped in to assure Canadians that funding for the CBC will not be decreased.
While it seems likely that a Conservative majority government would have crosshairs firmly planted over the corporation’s exploding pizza, Moore has said that CBC funding will either be maintained or increased in the near future.
“The CBC is the infrastructure around which Canadian arts and culture is built, so of course it is central and it is key… It is essential for respect for all of our official languages and all of the regions of the country — broadcasting in aboriginal languages in the North.”
While he has (rightly) criticized the broadcaster for failing to adhere to freedom of information requests, he has been known to advocate public broadcasting and support their mandate and increasing investment in the station.
Meanwhile, Kirstine Stewart, the new head of the CBC’s English language operations, has also announced a reduced reliance on imported American programming in the near future. While this is essentially the same promise that the station seems to make every decade, it does at least suggest that the station has a future beyond simulcasting episodes of Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.
Whether or not federal support for the CBC will continue for years to come is still in the air, but it will likely depend on how strong the NDP opposition continues to be under Jack Layton. Harper is intent on retaining majority control for more than just four years, so it is unlikely that his government will make any drastic moves when it comes to divisive wedge issues like funding for a public broadcaster. If anything, the party is likely to toe the centre on matters like these.
Increasing funding to the CBC may actually be in this government’s best interest, especially now that Sun News has, unsurprisingly, proven to be a catastrophic failure right out the gate. Despite all of the hype and endless fear-mongering from critics that the right wing news network would serve as a mouthpiece for the Conservative government and forever warp Canadian news media into a Fox News-style sensationalist frenzy, the Quebecor-run station actually saw a drop in viewership after its first week. The station’s incredibly low production values certainly hasn’t helped matters.
While it’s possible that this is all a big partisan game, the fact that Canada simply does not have enough of an audience share to support yet another 24-hour news network may shed some light on the benefits of public broadcasting to its biggest naysayers.