The CBC’s unlikely champion

Jonathan Kay!?

…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.
Damian P.

8 thoughts on “The CBC’s unlikely champion

  1. Ray K. says:

    He definitely has a point, that is, as long as you define “real value” as something other than what the customers are willing to pay for themselves.

  2. Dr.Dawg says:

    I’m paying for it, and I agree with both Kay and Damian–if radio is what is being discussed.
    Even with Stursberg’s dumbing-down of CBC as a whole, programes like As It Happens are the aural equivalent of a good read.

  3. Phil says:

    The difference between Jay Kay is that he’s a political and media junkie whereas the average Canadian isn’t. While he may like the CBC, the fact is the average Canadian shouldn’t have to pay to subsidize his lifestyle choices. If he wants it, he should pay for it.

  4. jake says:

    A lot of people comment on Rush’s show, the majority have never listened. I believe this is the case here. CNBC purports to be a news outlet, sort of like the CBC on steroids. Cheers Jake

  5. Chris says:

    I really wouldn’t object to the CBC if I thought that we got much by way of value for our money. Were the CBC a sucessful provider of original and interesting content like the BBC, I could probably deal with the fact the taxpayers plow over a billion dollars a year into its programing. On the other hand most of the CBC’s ratings earners are slowly being lost, curling, football, TSN and Rogers Sportsnet have taken over a good portion of the hockey market. I don’t watch it myself but I hear they aren’t going to carry baseball any more.
    Outside of hockey the only things I find worthwhile on the CBC are Rick Mercer who is genuinely funny and the Tudors. Given that the Tudors is made in conjunction with Showtime I’m guessing that the CBC’s involvement in that is rather minimal and they’re just ponying up some cash for some decent programming. But not to stray from my point I don’t really see it as particularly likely that either of these programs need the continued existance of the CBC to remain on the air. If the CBC turned out the lights tomorrow Global, CTV, TSN, and Rogers would loot its corpse of its few worthwhile bits of programming and the rest of the lefty artsy non-sense wouldn’t really be missed.

  6. Dara says:

    “When I’m at home, and have the chance to log on to Internet-streamed audio, I usually switch over…”
    There’s trouble brewing in that statement.
    It’s only a matter of time before we all have that chance in our pockets and the CBC is just as accessible as NPR, KCRW, BBC1, or Radio Kazakhstan. The CRTC is looking just far enough forward to want to try to limit it, but I don’t think that they will be the gatekeepers.
    The CBC has at least shown some interest in 21st century broadcasting. They’ve released a few shows in torrent format last year.
    It’s too bad that the major ISPs have already decided to do what the CRTC only dreams of: blocking traffic that they don’t approve of, e.g. throttling bittorrent or blocking ports.
    The implicit reason is that they do not wish you to use their service as a dumb pipe. The business reason is that they can spend money on equipment to restrict your full(by default) internet access and then recoup the money by selling it back to you piecemeal.

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