Source: Wade Rowland, Department of Communication Studies, York University, in The Globe and Mail, August 23
On Saturday, August 20, the CBC pre-empted its Olympic coverage to broadcast on television the farewell concert in Kingston of the Tragically Hip rock group. This is the conclusion of his op ed piece.
…The Hip concert may have been the most subversive program the CBC has ever aired. Subversive, because it has shown Canadians in their millions what public television can be when it’s doing its job of serving the people rather than corporate advertisers – what it’s like everywhere else in the industrialized world, with the sorry exception of the United States. Subversive, because it happened just as the broadcasting industry is about to enter into a period of basic restructuring.
Before last March, when the Trudeau government began to restore the $115 million removed from the CBC budget under the Conservatives, taking that kind of a bath on ad revenue would have been unthinkable.
Saturday, we had a taste of what it feels like to live in a grown-up country where the public broadcaster lives up to its public service mandate.
The audience was huge; the ambience unforgettable; the experience unprecedented. Yes, ad revenue was sacrificed – perhaps as much as $5 million by one estimate. And the broadcast rights must have cost a bundle.
But it was an investment in the country’s future, in its social infrastructure, in its cultural cohesiveness. And it could be a prologue to a future in which we join the rest of the industrialized world with a well-funded, commercial-free, public broadcaster that cares about who we are rather than where we shop and what we might be persuaded to buy.
This fall, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly will launch a federal broadcast policy review in which, she says, “everything will be on the table.” That includes the role CBC/Radio-Canada might be asked to serve in today’s chaotic media environment, in which private broadcasters are in full retreat from their traditional public service obligations.
Saturday’s Tragically Hip concert on CBC Television should be Exhibit A.