…Though I’ve spent a good part of my National Post career railing against the CBC’s left-wing bias (anyone remember a noisy 2003-era op-ed feature called “CBC Watch”?), I listen to The World at Six and As It Happens every day during my evening commute. My listening habits have nothing to do with cultural nationalism. (When I’m at home, and have the chance to log on to Internet-streamed audio, I usually switch over to Washington-based National Public Radio.) Rather, it’s journalistic elitism: CBC Radio simply delivers smarter, more substantive news than any other Canadian on-air alternative. If the CBC disappeared tomorrow, I’d miss it — which is another way of saying I don’t mind seeing Barbara Budd and Bernie McNamee getting paid with my tax dollars.
The counterargument is that if the CBC had any real value, the private sector would step in to offer the same service. But I doubt that’s true. As the proliferation of shallow, angry, sensationalistic news programs on U.S. cable television and radio networks shows, a totally private media market often yields nothing more than different flavors of ranting. For Americans looking for something more moderate and intelligent than Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann, the only option often is NPR or PBS, CBC’s (approximate) radio and television equivalents.
This is not a knock on the angry men of the airwaves, and their call-in enablers. Obviously, millions of Americans and Canadians love to hear umbraged everymen reiterate the same half-dozen bumper-sticker solutions to the nation’s problems (“Kick the bums out,” “lock ’em up,” “trade for Ovechkin,” etc.). But those of us looking for a meatier alternative need a radio network, too — and the CBC is it.
I think Kay is right about CBC Radio, but I can’t remember the last time I watched our publicly-funded television network.