According to close colleagues of Canadian Prime Minister Harper, CBC funding is a “critical issue” – one of the top ten questions facing Parliament in the current session. The government seems to be mulling over the idea of a “referendum” or some other form of public consultation on the future of the CBC. It goes without saying that the Conservatives are ideologically closer to private broadcasters than to the CBC.
It is English CBC television that is primarily under discussion, not CBC radio, nor Radio Canada in Quebec.
It is rumoured in Ottawa that the government is contemplating depriving the CBC of its revenue-producing programs, including Hockey Night in Canada.
There may be some members of the Tory caucus who would not go along with so drastic a move. They might argue that the many forms of public subsidies now received by the private sector should be given to the CBC as compensation. Others might say that Canadians don’t need a CBC at all and that a cable service might well choose to carry high-minded Canadian programs for the benefit of those who wish to pay for them.
Any debate about the future of the CBC must deal with the question what its primary, basic functions should be.
Here is a list:
1. Presenting mostly Canadian programs.
2. High-quality productions of integrity not usually seen on the private stations, including analyses of public affairs.
3. De-centralized reflections of the country from coast to coast.
4. An appropriate focus on the arts.
5. A possible link to provincial educational broadcasters.
A great deal of thought must be given to the question of how to maintain a news service at arms-length from the government. Both Liberal and Conservative governments have disliked intensely being criticized by CBC News. One model that has not been discussed that will be proposed by Richard Nielsen, president of Norflicks Productions, is to form a news cooperative on the model of Canadian Press, which would serve and utilize both private and public broadcasters.