Readers might not be aware, but Harper’s $115 million in budget cuts over three years to CBC-Radio Canada are hurting it enormously, perhaps irreparably unless something drastic is done.
For example, CBC Television’s award winning, in-house documentary unit has been disbanded, and its brilliant, innovative, and productive executive, Montreal’s Mark Starowicz is no longer there. This is the same Mark Starowicz who reshaped As it Happens and made Sunday Morning into essential radio that deepened our understanding of Canadian and world affairs even as we were entertained.
He took Barbara Frum from radio to TV when he created the lamented post-news program, The Journal, then produced the great documentary series, Canada: A People’s History.
On the French side, investigative reporter Alain Gravel, who headed the Enquête team, has returned to radio as the morning show host on Ici Radio Canada, his former team slashed by budget cuts.
Gravel famously once met corporation boss Hubert Lacroix at the elevator and told him to watch the evening broadcast, which had some spectacular revelations.
Lacroix responded, as reported in Alain Saulnier’s excellent Ici était Radio Canada,: “Can’t you do something positive for a change?”
Lacroix disputes Stephen Harper’s claim that low ratings are the cause of CBC-Radio Canada’s financing woes, but fails to point the finger at the main culprit: lack of political will and government support.
Both Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau have promised to restore the $115 million in cut funding, and Trudeau has said he’ll add an additional $35 million a year to its budget, while Mulcair wants an independent process to select CBC board members, rather than it being filled with political appointees.
Yes, CBC-Radio Canada needs more than just money to stay strong and relevant, but increased funding and a recommitment to an arms-length relationship with government will go a long way toward reinvigorating this essential Canadian institution.