Why the CBC should be more like HBO

Whatever their motives might be, the CBC’s antagonists are, on the whole, right

Why the CBC should be more like HBO

Photography by Andrew Tolson

There is an undeniably sinister quality to the apparently coordinated campaign of harassment currently under way against the CBC. Were it just occasional sniping from the Tory backbench, were it simply the Quebecor/Sun Media empire beating its favourite hobby horse, were the National Citizens Coalition merely on one of its crusades—were it even all three together—you might call it business as usual.

But when you consider the links between these different organizations—the Prime Minister’s former communications director Kory Teneycke is vice-president of Sun News Network, while the director of the NCC is the former Conservative candidate and online maven Stephen Taylor—the whole thing takes on a different cast. At what point do we conclude that this relentless public mauling at the hands of government MPs and their private sector proxies is intended not merely to expose the CBC to proper scrutiny as a public agency, but to intimidate it in its function as a news organization?

The problem the CBC faces is that whatever their motives might be, its antagonists are, on the whole, right (you should pardon the expression). They are right in terms of the immediate controversy, i.e., whether the corporation is obliged to comply with access to information requests, even from its competitors: clearly, under the law, it must. While the law makes exception for certain types of documents, it cannot be up to the CBC alone to decide which documents qualify for this exception, as a court has lately ruled.

And they’re right in their more general proposition: that it is long past time for fundamental reform of the corporation’s mandate and structure. Put simply, the case for a publicly funded television network has collapsed. It has done so under the weight of three inescapable realities.

The first is the CBC’s own woeful performance, at least when it comes to English TV. The corporation has always been unable to decide whether its mandate was to be an elite/niche broadcaster serving audiences the private networks would not, or whether it was to be a mass-audience, nation-uniting broadcaster. Trying to do both, it has succeeded in neither: its programming is not, on the whole, particularly good or particularly popular.

The second is that the conditions that once justified public funding are no longer present. In television’s technological infancy, the combination of “spectrum scarcity” (only three or four channels) and the total reliance, given the impossibility of charging viewers directly, on advertising as a source of revenue, made for monotonous viewing: lots and lots of the same types of shows, all aimed at the broadest possible audience. Advertisers had no interest in how much people wanted to watch a given show, only that they were watching it. The case for public broadcasting, then, was not so much to supplant the market as to recreate it: to mimic the diversity of choices on offer in most normal markets.

But there are hundreds of channels now, and viewers can pay directly, not only for each channel, but each show. There is no longer any appreciable divide in the range and quality of offerings on public and private television: the real divide now is between subscription channels, like HBO, and the “free” advertising-financed models. And yet this world, too, is fast becoming obsolete.

This is the third point: network television, of any kind, is doomed. Recent years have already witnessed a sharp decline in the amount of time spent watching television, while the dwindling television audience is further fragmented between more and more networks.

Fast-forward five years from now, and it’s quite clear that television will no longer be delivered in the form of separate channels, each streaming a series of programs one after the other. Turn on your TV, rather, and you’ll see a screen full of icons representing the shows you subscribe to: the iTunes model. Indeed, that’s how many people watch TV now.

Put it all together, and there is simply no case for continuing to aim hundreds of millions of dollars every year at a single point on the dial. It’s not good for taxpayers. It’s not good for viewers. And it’s not good for the CBC itself, and the people who work there. The best television, as on HBO, emerges from a partnership between creative producers and a passionate, demanding, discerning audience.

Put the CBC on pay, then, and watch it soar. It could still be a public broadcaster, and some of its services could still be subsidized. But the main English network would be a subscription channel, rather like the CBC News Network, or perhaps a constellation of them, each charging a separate fee.

Longer term, as I say, the whole network model will have to be rethought. Even if public funding were still considered necessary, the better model may well be Telefilm: i.e., just fund programs, wherever they appear, rather than the network and all its expensive infrastructure.

So big change is coming. That much is certain. The question is whether the CBC will get out in front of it, or whether it will drag its heels, hankering after a world that has gone and isn’t coming back.

Perhaps the present controversy will clinch the case. So long as the CBC is dependent on the public purse, it will always be vulnerable to political pressure and the vagaries of budget cuts. Freed from that dependence, it would be free to chart its own course, accountable neither to advertisers nor to backbenchers, but to those best and wisest of judges, its viewers.

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Why the CBC should be more like HBO

  1. Absolutely! I’m 44, I remember when we had two English channels and one French channel. Nowadays I spend my time picking programs on Netflix or watching programs online. If there is a show I like on network TV, I PVR it and zip through the commercials. Network TV is doomed as more and more specialty channels emerge. Should CBC be pay-per-view? Only if it reinvents itself for a much more discerning audience. Most of its programs are crap and we still need the CBC, just not this incarnation of the beast.

  2. TV Networks are dead anyways.  It is impossible not to see the 800 lbs gorilla in the room: the internet and on-demand services.  Both provide the gate-keeping potential  – at least for now – to let those that want to watch actually pay for what and only what they want.*  

    That being said, I do not look at the privately owned broadcasters and think that their offering is any better than CBC.  So, the real story is that network TV – all of it – peppered with commercials is just awful.

  3. What a brilliant, thoughtful article. Will miss you on these pages but looking forward to reading more of your thoughts elsewhere. Good luck with the new gig.

    • What a sloppy ignorant article.  It is easy to determine form this article that Andrew Coyne has sold his soul to the Harper propaganda machine at the National Post. 

      • “form” eh? And you have the nerve to spout off about ignorance. Coyne is merely echoing the sentiments of the declining viewership. Just because you faithfully watch doesn’t mean everyone else in Canada should. The CBC and the CRTC have been the elephant in the room for far too long now. Either compete for our attention or be gone. This isn’t 1965, and personally I’d like to see a little more creativity than a Rita McNeil special on for every special occasion or holiday even if your family sets your schedule by it.

      • Go read to Coyne’s 2011 endorsement, and think about what you said. 

      • Right, shoot the messenger. You wouldn’t have a political bias, would you?

      • It appears there are 2 points that aren’t getting across to the public.

        The first is that in economic bad times it’s the governments responsibility to adjust budgets for the whole country irrespective of what budgets may have been in past “better” times.

        The second is that the government is responsible for making sure taxpayers are getting “value” for heir money. Even if someone has a “favorite” crown corporation, that corporation still needs to be accountable and efficient.

  4. If we take away funding from CBC, then we should take away funding from all private networks and still require them to have, at a minimum, 30 percent Canadian content. If they can’t fulfill that requirement, then they don’t get to operate. But we all know that Harper will never do anything to hurt the private broadcasters, especially Quebecor.

    • CBC get funding beyond the 1.2 billion for production of Canadian content just like the other private networks. Lets just claw back the 1.2 billion and be happy about it.

    • why would you want to require private networks to air 30% crap? They’re private they should be able to air what they want, and if Canadian television wants more air time it should start producing something that isn’t total garbage.

      • I’d like to know what you consider to be watchable?  What isn’t garbage to you?

      • Exactly. The CBC produces nothing that’s even remotely on par with other tv offerings. Even hockey night in Canada hasn’t changed much. Time to change or go.

      • Actually, it worries me that Canadians probably don’t watch too much Canadian TV, and that much of it isn’t worth watching. 

        Consider the state sports viewership in Canada.  More and more guys at work or in the locker room only talk about the NFL, pure Americana rebroadcast by TSN.  Not that many people talk about hockey anymore.  And then you have the decline in kids’ hockey enrollment in the GTA by 40%. 

        Other signs too point to our gradual cultural assimilation – the polarization of our politics into extreme left and right, our newfound military boosterism, etc.

        Without some sort of action to keep our cultures separate, Canada will soon disappear as a sovereign country.  I don’t mind a public broadcaster, in fact, I think one is critical for maitaining our distinct culture, but they have to appeal to more than the Toronto elite with their programming.  The CBC needs to be more centrist and balanced, and it needs funding to keep Hockey Night in Canada competitive with Monday Night Football.   

        • Cultural assimilation is indeed occurring. But to cite the CBC as a solution to that is wishful thinking at best and naive at worst. The million channel universe has splintered viewer ship. There are few common cultural touch stones anymore.(the Olympics perhaps) A change to CBC’s mismanagement and more episodes of “Little Whatever On The Prairie” will not change that. I’ll bet the guys around the water cooler probably all talk about the latest You tube viral video more than the lackluster Leafs and that will not change. Even in the US if a show gets 5-10 millions viewers its a hit, that still leaves 300 million who did not watch, perhaps there is something else to maintaining a counties distinct culture beside a shitty TV network. Common goals, ethics, lifestyles…obviously I don’t have the answer but I don’t think some over paid CBC producer does either.

  5. I like the idea of funding Canadian shows rather than broadcasting them.  However, CBC Radio is apparently indispensable.  I don’t listen to it myself, but I have mainstream musical tastes and a lot of options and everyone in the country can’t say that.  Plus, people who like CBC radio REALLY like it.  It is something that isn’t provided by other stations.  And I shouldn’t say I don’t listen–I just don’t listen out of a radio.  I have been known to listen to a show on the computer.

    • CBC Radio used to be worthwhile but, like CBC TV it has started trying to compete toe to toe with the private stations by bombarding us with s–t. Who, I wonder, actually looks forward to listening to “Q” or “The Debaters”?

      • Q actually has a very big and very loyal following and is also enjoyed by a lot of people in the States (does that make it better for you now?).

        The Debaters can be pretty funny on the radio but is absolutely horrific on television.

        • Yeah that is odd. Debater’s is very funny on radio – on tv it mostly sucks.

      • I do. Q is so good the American public broadcaster carries it every day. Gomeshi is a talent.

  6. Some really great points here but we have to remember the whole oeuvre of the CBC and how it contributes – you could argue that the main function of the CBC is not to produce network television shows – so therefore, just because they cannot produce good network TV does not mean that they should not be publicly funded. With regards to news content and even sports content, I think it’s pertinent that the CBC remain publicly funded.

    Quite possibly, the CBC should move away from producing these shows (though they give opportunities to Canadian actors, writers and comedians that many other content producers would not give opportunities to) but under no circumstances should they be taken off the public purse. Though something does need to happen and change, perhaps they should look at the BBC model for production and funding? Or maybe there needs to be some form of subscription service?

    • Perhaps, Heather, if they could provide good, unbiased news coverage there would be a lot less of a backlash against the CBC.

      As for producing Canadian shows that give opportunities to Canadians, most of them are awful.  Insecurity and Little Mosque are travesties.  It’s frustrating to watch your tax dollars go to things like Fred for Mayor, which make Canadian television a joke.

      • Fred for Mayor was produced by CTV.

        • And it was Dan.

      • Yes,Mack … because the news coverage provided by privately owned Faux News North is so-o-o-o unbiased … that backlash against the CBC you mention obviously comes from Harperites who are averse to truth, facts and science. CBC listeners are well aware of that when listening to the equal access discussions featuring elected Conservatives fighting against anything with communitarian values. They seem to know the cost of everything but the value of none. 

        • Emily you’ve completely missed the point. It’s not the bias, although that is a major irritant. I want them to be completely free to be 10,000 times more biased than Sun news if that’s what they want. I just don’t want to pay for it and I don’t want it branded as a Canadian government entity. 

        • its probably hard for you to see emily, but the CBC is completely biased leftwards, and those of us with fiscal common sense who vote right don’t want our money wasted on their jibberish

          • And you like what it is being wasted on?

          • Maybe

          • Sorry, reply fail. Some CBC shows are biased towards the left, like The Current, or As It Happens.  Or more correctly, their hosts are. Still, I listened to NPR a short while back and that was nothing but a Democratic party mouthpiece, so the CBC’s not so bad, relatively.

          • Once again I ask, how can you excuse CBC bias by stating that some other station (in this case in another country) is biased. AND I believe you are wrong, NPR is watched so closely by the religious radical tea party crazies that they walk a very fine line of evenhandedness.

        • Emiliybmad, you can not excuse CBC bias by stating that Sun news is also biased, anymore than you could excuse Paul Bernardo of murder because some guy in Norway was worse. Yes SunTV can be very one sided. Glaringly and ridiculously so! But what does that have to do with the price of tea in china? It seems to me that the CBC should have even more impetus to be fair and unbiased so they would shine by comparison. Especially since they are publicly funded.  Imagine if you will, SUN TV quoting a CBC item as evidence of the validity of a position due to their unblemished record of bias free reporting. Not likely at the moment but something to strive towards perhaps.Lead by example.

      • CBC news is not biased my opinion.  The backlash you speak of is coming from where?  Somewhere biased?

        • Sadly it is not an informed opinion.

      • If the CBC weren’t politically biased then they might be a trusted source. That said, the CBC is extremely biased, which is inexcusable for a publicly funded channel.

        • So do you prefer the obvious bias of Sun News, CTV & Global?  Exactly how do you define bias?  Please provide specific concrete examples.

      • If you’re going to complain abou CBC shows, maybe you should make the effort to learn the correct showname & the correct network.  “DAN for Mayor” was a CTV show.

    • The problem is the politics of CBC and its leftist and elitist agendas. They seem so “we’ll tell you what’s good, what’s right, what to think” like they are lecturing, more than they are reporting.Their take on everything seems to come from the perspective of a fat well-paid civil servant. That only appeals to a limited group of Canadians. They’ve strayed a long way from the Don Messer’s Jubilee days when it could be said they reflected the sentiments of a larger group of Canadians. Not that I’m saying bring back Don.
      But really, putting George Strom-alphabet on the air with his smarmy ‘guy in the know’ attitude, and mind-numbingly boring interviews does little to encourage anyone to say “Hey spend more of my paycheque on that for me, will ya.”

  7. It’s naive to believe an information service can fund quality journalism without public support.
    Western democracy needs such a service more than ever – witness the opinion broadcasts which pass themselves off as journalistic when their purpose is to allow audiences to feel good
    about their beliefs without factual challenge.  The money required to staff reporting – as in
    providing factual coverage of events is fast drying up,  which makes the value of publicly funded
    media all the more important.  Citizens need a reliable source of information to make
    rational decisions and unfortunately these sources are shriveling in today’s world with
    advertizing dollars deserting traditional print media and TV.

    • I concur. Without David Suzuki, I’d be forced to watch broadcasters with obvious biases and opinions.

      • you forgot your “sarc” tag Garnet

  8. Andrew, you are entirely off-base and clued out on this one! You say that “the case for a publicly funded television network has collapsed.” When did that happen? We need it more now than ever and it serves us with increasingly greater value and content by the day. Spoiled by the CBC/SRC, I am no longer able to listen to commercial radio, because of the incessant commercial interruptions and the low-brow quality of the programs. I don’t have cable television, but of the six local stations I can receive over the air, the CBC is the only one providing any kind of programming with some level of quality, interest and intellect. The news reporting is also the best (yes, I do watch CTV news as well, but Global is a remote third). How you can call this exceptional programming “woeful” is incomprehensible. Perhaps you should look at the alternatives. The CBC offers a nice mix of high quality entertainment and informational programming for free. The hundreds of other channels you refer to are all ‘for pay’, either by subscription to cable or satellite services, or directly through the internet. And even there, you must pay for 90% junk to get 10% of what you actually want to see/hear. If one were to pay for each program individually on the internet, as you imply, then the costs would soar out of reach of any sane person. The CBC has moved to establish itself as a major presence on the internet, by providing video on demand and radio podcasts of quality, as well as the internet-only commercial-free music streams. Who else is doing that and offering the same level of content and meaning? With the move to internet programming and the fragmenting of the audience, there might be less need for those other networks, but the bilingual Canadian voice that is available from coast to coast to coast and around the world is all the more relevant. Yes, I don’t understand the CBC’s move to cable-only services, such as the dedicated news network and bold, documentary tv, etc. By consolidating the best of all these into the primary over-the-air network, they would be providing a unique package of the highest quality anywhere, to rival or surpass PBS or ARD, etc. Moving forward five years from now, as you indicate, I will be clicking on the CBC programs from the choice of icons. I don’t want to watch stupid American sit-coms, violent cop shows, trashy ‘reality’ shows, etc. My radio dial has four positions: CBC 1 and 2, and the two SRC stations, and my television rarely moves from CBC, except for the nightly CTV local news broadcast. I watch little television, but I watch programs of interest. I do not like the subscription fee model you propose at all. I don’t subscribe to services. I use the airwaves and the Canadian voice should be available to all Canadians. By making the CBC programming a subscription service, paying for individual programs, like Telefilm, as you mention, will mean the disappearance of the Canadian voice from the global media. Media consumers, such as I, will be forced to consume free programming of vastly inferior quality, much of it not of Canadian origin. Gone will be the in-depth interviews and news and documentary investigations the CBC is famous for, to be replaced by cheap, superficial 3-minute clips from around the world, or from amateurs via YouTube. If this is your idea, Andrew, of a better media environment offering programming of higher quality, then our viewpoints are as diametrically opposed as any could be.

    • You used so much ink to exhibit your naivety and smugness. So you don´t want to pay for anything and you are above listening to commercial advertisements. You proudly limit yourself to CBC1 CBC2 CBCTV RDC and claim to know the media landscape. Telefilm does not diminish Canadian programming, it funds and incentizes homespun productions. You have already made your mind up, there is no room for improvement and no need to consider alternative and additional funding mechanisms. Such a tidy closed world you actually live in.

      • He’s clearly 80. Cut him some slack lol.

  9. Kory Teneycke and Sun News put out the bait and you all swallowed it.  He doesn’t care about the CBC, he wants to create a network war like in the US to drive up ratings.  Looks like he’s going to get it

  10. I hate the CBC, but I want it to survive.  I’d rather advocacy of big government come from a defined institution of big goverment than from a media outlet of corporatist oligopoly.

    $1,000,000,000 per year, however, is too much for the the un-watchable and un-listenable product we get now.   For much less, a video service could show news and an audio service could JUST PLAY MUSIC.  If the dual services were excellent, I would be pleased and proud to donate them on-line to viewers and listeners around the world, and one measure of success would be how many non-Canadians tune in.

    • Part of the CBC’s mandate is to provide local news coverage for the whole country.  How would they continue to provide that under your plan?  The private broadcasters are providing less and less local news coverage- despite their “save local television” campaign a couple of years ago. (Of course the “save local” wasn’t about saving anything – a more accurate title would have been “give us more money, ’cause we’re greedy”)

  11. I cannot believe that Andrew Coyne would not support transparency and accountability. He wants the government to do it but when it comes to his part time employer. Not so much.
    It does not matter where the questions are coming from. The fact is the CBC collects $1.1 billion annually from all taxpayers. We have no idea how they spend it and whether there is value for money. However, suddenly the government and Sun News are being accused of being in a conspiracy to destroy CBC. The CBC is not helping their cause by hiding behind shortcomings in the legislation. They are breaking the law. I am surprised at you Andrew.

    • I heard that all the money goes to the top brass and their flunkies and that they spend it on champagne baths in gold bathtubs while being fed grapes by oil-rubbed servants at secret locations (yes! more than one, duh) in the Caribbean.    

      • I guess we may never know if the dollars are lumped under misc expenses. Auditors don’t decide if an expense was useful or justified, just that it conformed to the rules management set in place. If management say olive oil only  in the secret Caribbean hideout then no Auditor will insist they use corn oil……..  

        • I heard it is really just a clever ruse to create an in-house scandal that can then be broken by their own reporters in an exclusive.  Yes, they are that fiendishly clever.  

          PS: they would get extra tax breaks if the specified canola.   

          • Yes and those found responsible will be dealt with but because it is an HR issue, we can not know how.

      • I think we agree :-)

    • I guess you don’t see a problem with Quebecor hiding behind access to information legislation to obtain information about a competitor? 

      • Frankly I don’t see Sun TV trying to obtain proprietory information. They want CBC to be accountable for the $1.1 billion they spend annually. Why did CBC waste $64,000+ having a party for hollywood stars at the TIFF. How many cars and chauffeurs do they have? The government placed them under access to information so they will be more transparent about what they are spending their money on. As a taxpayer I would have thought you thought that to be a good thing.
        Given the way the media is defending the CBC and the way CBC is fighting releasing information I think they are terrified that Canadians will find out how much of our money is being wasted.

        • “Frankly I don’t see Sun TV trying to obtain proprietory information. They want CBC to be accountable for the $1.1 billion they spend annually”


          • They want the channels on basic cable.

  12. Sorry, Andrew.  This is a glib summation that misses too many key points.

    First, private sector news solely serves corporate interests.  Not much has changed since The Brass Check, as the US networks beating of the war drums so graphically illustrated.  CBC television news services and documentaries, while needing improvement, are far and beyond anything except the BBC. 

    Second, it is clear that you have not compared the offerings on the radio dial.  CBC Radio 3 drives me to countless local shows by Canadian artists that I would never attend if my listening was behest to the sour interests of commercial radio’s Nickelback-every-hour rotation.  Radio 2 provides me with Canadian music – not screaming DJs and bouncing spring sounds interspersed with *hilarious* gag phone calls.  Radio 1 provides me with news, not frothing right-wing lunatics granted a corporate pulpit on public airwaves.

    Third, the prime-time lineup on CBC is actually very high-rated.  It hasn’t been since the ’80s that I have been able to engage in water cooler talk about CBC prime-time programming.  Compared to the schlock offered (rebroadcast is a more apt description) on the other networks, I’ll take the CBC any day.

    More than ever, Canadians need the CBC as a transnational forum to bring us together. ROC would turn into a black hole in Quebec without the CBC, while the rest of us would turn into a rebroadcast zone for US schlock. 

    My Canada includes – no, needs – the CBC.

    • J Money, 1970 called, they’re expecting you for dinner……..

      • Brilliant response, platty.  It’s just missing a “boing” noise in the background after the punch line, and it would be perfect for most commercial FM radio morning fare.

    • You can have CBC but pay for it yourself not with my taxes.

    • You’re making a reasonable case for why you like what you like. But why does everyone else have to pay for it? Certainly there have to be enough like-minded people who would be willing to pool their money and voluntarily fund the service, right?

    • Your Canada, in your view, sure. I find CBC news to be exceptionally shallow and their morning programming to have as much schlock as any other network, only wrapped in a cheap average Joe  Canadian banner. I don’t care for it, and i wouldn’t pay for it by choice. In fact, as a family we pay more for your CBC than we do for our entire satellite service. I don’t know or care where you get the ‘high rated’ from but CBC ratings are pretty damn low. Your comment about frothing right wingers suggests you are not really all that familiar with networks other than CBC or that you are a left wing loon who would naturally see anyone to the right of the CBC (ie most people) as a right wing frother. Explain please the ethical superiority of a left wing frother, granted a publicly funded pulpit on public airwaves over the corporate version, especially since the public funding in question is extracted against my will.

      • So your satellite service is under $35.00/YEAR?  Please tell me who your satellite service provider is – that’s a GREAT deal!

    • Times have changed. The CBC has not. Ever. Given the number of dollars the country spends to keep this going I expect much much more then you driving to shows you wouldn’t normally see. At the end of the day all those bands want to be on commercial radio too, and they still aren’t even though the CBC got you interested.

  13. My TV is in storage in my spare garage. I expect when I take it out, it will be because I intend to take it to the local recycling place where they now take electronic equipment. TV is history. It was good once, but that was so long ago, most Canadians weren’t even born yet.

    Given that context,  it’s mind-boggling that we still have a publicly funded broadcaster.

    • Given that context, it’s mind-boggling that we still have any broadcaster.  What you’re failing to note is that that CBC offers a full slate of services through web and mobile applications, making them a full-service 21st century broadcaster.

    • drag it out again, it makes a great monitor when the whole family wants to watch netflix….

  14. That is all that conservatives are asking for. A level playing field where the CBC is funded by the people that watch it.

    • I don’t want a level playing field where the CBC competes with private broadcasters. I want the CBC to do what it is supposed to do, inform and unite Canadians. Not compete with CTV for bidding rights to hockey broadcasts. Let the CBC toil away on children’s shows, local, federal and international news, documentaries, election coverage, deep discussions of timely issues and the like.(see TVO for examples). There should be no blatant bias, just a presentation of FACTs. With their schedule emptied of crap and ideologically blinded hosts fired, there might even be time for a more complex presentation of multiple viewpoints. 
      (not leftest preaching, like the rest of us can’t possibly understand the complex subjects unless we breast fed at Maggie Atwood’s grizzled teat)

      • Blatant bias on CBC?  I raise you Sun News, kevintoo. You seem to be another one opposed to truth facts and science…maybe  part of  an anti-elitist bunch with overtones of vulgarity and ignorance to any but their OWN bias? ‘Rightist’ preaching, I guess.

        • Which is why I choose not to pay for Sun News.

        • Truth, facts and science…….as defined by Emily herself no doubt. How tiresome can you get? Typical rant from an uncritical CBC supporter. What’s next? Perhaps you can type something equally intelligent like “FOX LIES!!!!”.

        • Emily,
          Nope, not opposed to truth or facts. Sun news is often so far out there it strays into parody.(foolish Michael Coren among others for instance…..) Reread my comment. If you can not see a left of centre bias at mother corp you might suffer from the affliction you accuse me of having. Having Don Cherry rant like a maniac does make the CBC less left leaning.

  15. “The problem the CBC faces is that whatever their motives might be, its antagonists are, on the whole, right”

    Gawd, Coyne, what the heck is wrong with you these days?  The CBC has been untouchable for decades.  Finally, Quebecor manages to do what countless others have failed, which is to try to bring the CBC to some small measure of accountability, and you implicate Quebecor for doing Canada a favor?  You call it “sinister”?  Are you out of your tree?  We should be handing them a medal.

    “There is an undeniably sinister quality to the apparently coordinated campaign of harassment currently under way against the CBC”

    No, there isn’t! Not even by a long shot! Nothing else would work. Nothing else has ever worked. In fact, look at how difficult it has been! The CBC has taken it to court! Only a campaign like this could ever have succeeded! And you call it sinister? Is that a synonym for “effective”, or “something not doomed to failure”? Pray tell, how else would the CBC EVER be held to account? Programming on the network has been dismal for many years. Ratings have been abysmal. And every year they get their billion dollars. Many Canadians have been complaining about this state of affairs for a very long time. Finally someone comes along, someone who isn’t in cahoots with the CBC over some financial arrangement (as are all other networks), and starts a campaign to do something about it, something that many Canadians have long wanted. And to you that’s sinister?

    Of course Quebecor has a financial interest in this, as a direct competitor. But so does the rest of Canada. And why does that make it sinister?

    Due to an unlimited number of anti-competitive financial linkages to every other network and publication, the CBC has managed through media corruption to avoid this sort of thing til now. Finally a new competitor comes along, one that is willing to, you know, compete! And you call that sinister! Now we all know why we needed the Sun network, because it’s obvious they do fulfill a huge demand that was previously unsatisfied.

    • I wholeheartedly agree, and I am beginning to wonder if part of the problem might not be that Coyne is affiliated with the CBC.

      • You may have a point. I was thinking it might have to do with the Toronto crowd he surrounds himself with – too much time in certain parts of Toronto can have an effect on people. But it could be as simple as you make it out to be – with Coyne collecting paycheques from the CBC on a regular basis, it’s tough to bite the hand that feeds you.

  16. The CBC does not produce ‘intellectual’ programming.  It provides pseudo-intellectual programming.  And heavily biased to the Left as well.  EVERY Quirks and Quarks feature, will undoubtedly swerve the topic to climate change, regardless of the topic.  But actual debate about climate change never occurs on the CBC, it is a foregone assumption that climate change is caused by Man-made CO2 and it MUST be a bad thing.  

    The CBC must be completely severed from the taxpayer and become privately owned.  Then I won’t care about their extreme left-wing bias.  

    • grok, lest we fall into the leftest trap, the debate should be on causes and the veracity of the evidence. Climate change is not in question. The question is how much, how long and why(natural/cyclical or sunspots).They present graphs showing ice decline so simply illustrated only a fool could disagree. CHANGE is occurring—as it may always have been for billions of years. But to then go straight to “we caused it by selling oil sands and dropping the kids off at school on snowy days” is asinine. Especially the cure they prescribe- send a hundred billion dollars a year to “needy” countries and everything will be all better. Isn’t that right Miss Lizzie May.. 

  17. nice intellectual rant andrew, but a sell out rant nonetheless

  18. If the CBC wasn’t as obviously politicaly biased in most of their news , or what they consider news events , I wouldn’t mind some public financing going their way . They have some very good programs and presenters that I make a point of watching and listening to but then they always slide off on a Liberal or left wing slant and that realy annoys me , present programs in an unbiased manner and I am sure more support would be forthcoming .

  19. “At what point do we conclude that this relentless public mauling at the hands of government MPs and their private sector proxies is intended not merely to expose the CBC to proper scrutiny as a public agency, but to intimidate it in its function as a news organization?”
    If you recognise that it’s being “intimidated” TO function as a news organization, rather than being intimidated in its role as a news organization the whole story takes on a different take.

    One only needs to look at the push polls online and on Evan Solomon’s show to recognise that there’s an underlying left-to-centre-left editorial bias in everything that comes from the CBC.

    • and even more so when you examine what is not shown or discussed.

  20. While you are correct in identifying the legion problems you are not proposing a realistic solution. Owing to the tiny size of the Canadian population your HBO, premium cable programming notion would require as much, if not more, subsidy.  There simply aren’t enough potential subscribers to provide any approaching the revenue stream production would require.  The cable services you admire are marginal in the US and they already own the international marketplace.  You’ve not done the math. If Canada wants homemade storytelling (I argue they need it more than almost any population in the world given our adjacency to the greatest cultural imperialism in history) then they will have to pay a lot for it. 

    •  If the CBC can’t compete, or support itself by attracting an actual audience, by any model other than public money…. maybe it should shut the doors and sell off the assets. 

      Taxpayers of this country are taxed enough already.  Governments past and present squander enough billions on asinine things like gun registries, G20 summits and the like, why can’t we save an additional BILLION dollars and sell off the Ceeb and it can sink or swim on it’s MERITS.  Subsidizing  garbage is not going to improve the product.  If the CBC tries to stand on it’s own two feet and expects advertising revenue from the junk they pawn off on us now, they will be out of business in weeks.  And if they can’t succeed as a private broadcaster with the current programing, then they don’t deserve the funding from the taxpayer.  

      • Well put  Artic.  I resent it when my  taxes help fund CBC  and I can’t tune into CBC without my blood pressure going through the roof because
        of their biased, one sided spin on issues.  I say we stop funding 
        the thing and sell off all assets.

      • Let me try to be clearer. Given the cost of producing television of competitive standard and the size of the Canadian market an operation with the mandate to tell Canadians their own stories cannot, CANNOT stand on its own two feet.  It is one of the many problems that cannot be sorted by market forces alone.  It is a perfectly sound proposition to say “we will not subsidize it” but then it will not exist.  There will be low production cost local coverage in the largest markets but there will not be a national institution. 

        I am not particularly enamored of Confederation so don’t much care for its preservation. For good or ill shutting down the CBC will hasten the dissolution of the country.  If you took on “nation building” there are going to be costs to maintain what you’ve built.

        • Dede,
          The height of hubris to state confederation would collapse if the CBC was gone. That has to stand as the most ridiculous comment I have ever read on this board. You MUST be a CBC exec to believe such codswallop. 

          • “hasten” it said. 

          • no impact at all he replied

  21. Andrew – do you actually know the meaning of the word “sinister”?

    To think I once used to respect your views …………..

  22. All things being equal, your arguments seem sound.  

    But the reality is that this country now has a majority government with the power to, among other things, make decades of census data worthless so StatsCan is no longer charging for it, not only scrap the long-gun registry but toss the data in the trash so it cannot be used by anyone, and pass an omnibus crime bill that will toss people who grow 6 pot plants in one of the new megaprisons that the government of the day will require provinces to pay for. 

    If we ever needed a national news agency with its network of local stations to inform the public about the changes the government of the day is inflicting upon their country, it’s now.

    • In other words, you want to maintain the leftist-biased network, to be paid for by all Canadians, in order to promote the views of a segment of the population including yourself.  How self-serving.  Exactly why the subsidy must be eliminated.

      Some other people like yourself try to deny that the CBC is biased, but in this comment you are admitting it directly and openly.

      • s_c_f –
        What I’m ‘admitting directly and openly’ is that the CBC is responsible for informing Canadians.  Period.

        Since you don’t take issue with my three examples of what the Harper government is inflicting upon this country I’ll play along with your convoluted logic by pointing out that you admit ‘directly and openly’ that they are all negatives.

        • If the CBC restricted themselves to reporting on the tire wear on their huge fleet of limos it would meet your requirement of informing Canadians.Period.  I think many posters are complaining of exactly that. The CBC is not reporting on a whole universe of opinion, ie both left and right perspectives. Yes Harper is governing like he has a majority. Yes he has that right. Yes you have the right to be outraged. Yes you can and presumably will work to change that in the next election. Unless you are among that group of whiners who do not bother to trot down to the polls and vote. Just don’t argue that the CBC is not biased. It strains credulity.  

        • That’s the thing. They’re not negatives, even with the ridiculous spin you’ve attempted to put on their sensible policies. They’re all part of the platform that got them elected. For the third time. With a majority this time.

          If you want your own propaganda network, then pay for it yourself.

        • Informing Canadians is in no way limited to ‘reporting on tire wear…’, much as the present government would prefer that to be the case.  What strains credulity is when a majority government tells Canadians a series of versions of why its Defense Minister took a SAR helicopter out of service for  the ‘urgent government business’ of a photo op that was arranged days (if not weeks) before, or when a majority government tells constituents that their MP is about to retire when he is not, and claims it was merely ‘freedom of speech’.  

          • Funny, a couple of the techs on board thought the flight was very appropriate. What better way for the Minister of Defense to get a feel for our capabilities than to utilize them from time to time. And as far as taking something out of service. Be assured that if a call came in for a rescue Mackay would have been left standing on the dock wondering where his ride went. 

          • Whether or not MacKay’s flight of fancy was appropriate, what stretches credulity is that the paper trail contradicts what he told Parliament.

  23. 1:  I support a publicly funded CBC because I am very intelligent.
    2:  People who oppose public funding are stupid and like reruns of Married With Children.
    3:  Sun TV is Fox news north and is a biased extreme neocon right wing radical hateful network.
    4:  CBC is not hateful or biased. I can tell because I agree with all it’s views and I am smart.
    5:  Not like right wingers who are stupid and quite probably racist and misogynist.
    6:  I use phrases like “transnational forum”, ROC, and “My Canada includes…”
    7:  Without the CBC, I could never admit to watching television because everything else available is for stupid people…and I am smart and intellectual.
    8:  We need public funding for CBC because most Canadians, especially outside of Toronto (ROC), would not choose to pay for it because they are not intellectual enough and smart people shouldn’t be penalized just because redneck hicks in Saskatchewan and Alberta don’t want to pay.
    9:  David Suzuki and Margaret Atwood are national treasures.
    10:  Oh, regarding point 5 I forgot to include homophobic.
    11:  Harper is evil and clearly has a hidden agenda.
    12: Hmmm, should I get snow tires for my SmartCar?

    • lol hahahahahahah

    • Oh and on item 12, don’t bother, global warming from oil sands development will prevent any snow falling ever again

    • ^ Winner.

  24. Andrew, who would watch it if they had to pay for it?

  25. Who let you in on this Coyne? I thought you were cut off after your little endorsement.

  26. I’m from the Peasant Vision set.  We had two over-the-air channels offered to us the CBC and CTV. We did this primarily to save money. 

    At the end of August the local CTV channel analogue broadcast converted to digital and is now available over-the-air as a digital channel.  We can no longer pick up a CBC signal.  Not sure why, but I was told CBC didn’t feel obliged to convert it’s analogue signal to digital.  If that is true I don’t want to take it up with anyone because I would not want to be confused as in some way supporting more tax money going to the CBC.  This conversion sealed my switch from broadcast television to that which I can get over the internet.

    We also give up my internet service for long periods for financial reasons.

    To me the 1.2 billion per year would be much better spent on providing a basic, secure, high speed internet  service to Canadians for a small annual registration fee.  Let us get our Canadian content from whatever service is available on the internet.  Sell the CBC and buy the Videon, Bell, Telus, Shaw internet networks.  Focus on access and not on content.

    • I like your post, however I disagree with the opinion that government should provide internet service.

      For one thing, government does not have the expertise. Government does not have the expertise to hand over such money to private entities, and crown corporations have always been uncompetitive (government is selling off AECL as an example). There is a long line of government interventions in the economy, from the postal service to nuclear power to VIA trains to CBC, and in general they have never been necessary.

      Secondly, whatever is provided will be completely obsolete in 10 years. Just like dial-in internet access, which was prevalent 10 years ago, is almost inexistent today, the same will be true of today’s technologies.

      Thirdly, it is likely that internet access will become easier and cheaper on its own, because private companies have every incentive in the world to bring their products and services to all customers.  What may be uneconomical today, they are working to make it economical tomorrow.  If government steps in, then they will no longer have any incentive to do so, and innovation will be thwarted.

  27. Harper, being truly evil and quite possibly actually possessed by SATAN, will not get rid of the CBC. He will, instead, usurp its fantastic powers, replace Hubert Lacroix with Ezra Levant and St. Peter Mansbridge with GLENN BECK and merge with FAUX NEWS, rebrand The National as The NAZI-ONAL and use the state broadcaster to totally CON Canada and rule forever. Yes, forever since spawn of SATAN are immortal. As is the CBC, apparently. Are you scared yet?   

    • you paint a pretty picture indeed. But to be sure we must ask the most reverend Lizzy May to make sure he is possessed, as anyone watching her posturing, head spinning and spitting when ever “carbon” is mentioned surely knows SHE is possessed.

  28. I don’t care whether it’s “sinister” in Coyne’s mind, just stop funding this public disgrace we call the CBC.  If a network wants to push leftist ideology that’s their affair; but if they’re going to force me to pay for idiotic distortions of my worldview, it’s my affair.  

  29. In all fairness to the CBC, it probably has the best original Canadian content of all the major networks. Shows like Dragon’s Den, Strombo, the fifth estate (watch The Code or The Legacy of Brendan Burke) and Q are genuinely good by any standard.   

  30. c.b.c. communist broadcasting corp. too left wing for me.

  31. Like our all levels of Canadian gov’t’s the primary purpose of the CBC is to balance and serve the greater good of all Canadians which unlike the current “Harper” government, the CBC has a long and illustrious history of doing just that. Money well very spent I would say. 

    Fighting the current tide of conservative self centered privilege and divisiveness as reflected in this MacLean’s article may well be a loosing battle for the CBC. Certainly all signs point in that direction. Unfortunately like the rampant inequality that now plagues our democracy here at home and democracies around the world, killing the CBC will only have the effect of killing the only institution in Canada that reasonably reflects and gives voice to all points of view rather than catering to the interests of the limited and privileged few who mistakening believe they built and own this democracy.

  32. Wow. Look at the firestorm you’ve unleashed AC? As someone who’s witnessed similar “we’re mad as hell and why should i be forced to pay for it,” attacks on the state funded BBC, i’m not entirely surprised. Sure the CBC [tv] is crappy and the private broadcasters are even worse, and sure tax payers who don’t like the compulsion have a point; but the degree of venom directed at the CBC is notable. The war on elitism and anti-intellectualism continues apace…what you gonna do about that Andrew?

  33. Mr. Coyne: Telefilm is a disaster that strips away the ability for an investor to make any money on a film, and is the single most destroyer of a profitable Canadian film industry. If that’s your suggested solution — for the CBC to follow their model — than may I suggest studying the facts underlying this. The last time I checked the average Telefilm film returns a paltry 5 cents on the dollar. It’s awful, and it’s actually counter productive to the industry.

    I am not sure what the answer is — the BBC is publicly funded and arguably the most important network in the world, so perhaps we should follow their model.

  34. By using the HBO example you are basically saying you want rid of CBC News. Then we’ll have the fair, unbiased views of SUN TV and Charles Adler on radio.

  35.  The  “relentless public mauling at the hands of government MPs and their private sector proxies”??

    It’s the other way around for our current Petro-dollar, pro-health-privatization, misogynist, homophobes on the Hill:

    Their Tea Party Con MPs are themselves proxies of the Private Sector”—not the other way around!

    Just look down south and see where we are heading. Obama hesitated to regulate his benefactors when he should have, right after the meltdown, but didn’t.   He allowed the Healthcare debate in his country to be dominated by the Repugnants and Americans are suffering as a result.

    Give the Tea Party in Ottawa time….soon, the RBC and Scotia and all the usual suspects (who were bailed out by our government to the tune of $120 billion recently–CMHC et al) will be rationing our food stamps….God help us!

  36. Since Mike Duffy left CTV to be annointed as Senator (and CTV forced to publicly broadcat its “ethics” code in the Dion scandal and clear biased viewpoints), I guess Andrew baby has had time to think which side his bread is buttered on, eh? 
    Yet it was Andrew who wrote last Xmas in the Ottawa Citizen that Harper’s wife had left him and was living with her paramour at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa…..Dear dear, how fortunes seem to change hands, eh!

  37. Harper has cremated parliamentary debate, corrupted  our democratic institutions, blackmailed civil servant to march to his heil, dismantled Canadian profitable enterprises, demolished any opposition to Heil Harper (the only opponents he likes are the dead kind) Doctrine, transformed his MPs into obedient trained seals, and promises now to destroy the CBC—the last refuge for those who just don’t like what he’s doing to our country and don’t feel, as He does, we are a ” Failed Scandivanian-type socialist republic!!  Au revoir, Canada….Helo, Newt and Michelle and Ron…

  38. If Coyne doesn’t see a clear need of a national broadcaster like the CBC to exist, then our source of news (those of us who like old-fashioned TV networks), will be the end result of poisonous spin from Ottawa.  Surely Mr Coyne doesn’t advocate the dismantling of Canadian viewpoints, the ones that have enabled himself to thrive?
    Why is he changing his tune?  It certainly cannot be because of the “technological” debate….Whose interests is he the proxy of, recently…..?

  39. There is nothing wrong with having a public broadcaster.
    The problem with the CBC is it is inefficient. Lately it has been spending to much time and money trying to convince everyone that it should not have to be accountable. I’ll bet the cuts are going to be less than what CBC spends on PR and spin doctoring. I believe the CBC should stay around as Canada’s broadcaster but it badly needs an overhaul. CBC has proven that it will not do this overhaul on it’s own unless it is forced to do so. Unfortunately trimming it’s budget and forcing it to be more efficient looks like the only way to go.

  40. I don’t think the model is dead yet. There are millions of people that are simply accustomed to the TV show distribution model.  People don’t WANT to look up and episode of Friends but if they throw on the TV and it’s on the desire to switch to find something better or do something else isn’t as powerful as the lazy familiarity and accustomed behavior associated with ‘Watching TV’. It’s a mix of randomness and average quality, coupled with laziness, which is why the  TiVo model is working so well right now, the on demand nature of netflix type distribution coupled with the random programming streams of traditional TV.

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