Last week’s federal budget was disappointing on several levels. There was the lip service paid to innovation and technology – a couple mill here, a couple there – but no sign of the long overdue and desperately needed digital strategy. One can only hope against hope that such a plan is forthcoming now that the big stuff has been dealt with, but one can also be forgiven for expecting Canada to continue to languish as the only G7 country without one.
More disappointing however, are the drastic cuts that are coming to the CBC. With its budget being slashed by 10%, or higher than the overall 6.9% across-the-board cut, some are rightfully suggesting the government specifically targeted the public broadcaster with its chainsaw.
Of course I’m biased because I used to work there – the cuts will doubtlessly affect many friends and former colleagues. But they’re also bad given the climate they come in.
Simply put, if you’re a journalist in Canada today – especially in broadcast – there aren’t a whole lot of independently owned places left to work. Newspapers, magazines, websites, radio and television stations have all been snapped up by telecom companies, to the point where there are few big ones left. The CBC is the notable exception.
This doesn’t just affect journalists’ career options. The more significant effect is on the information the public gets. There have been countless studies done and column inches written on the effects of media concentration. Few have found anything good about it.
Rather than slashing, the government should be adding to the CBC’s budget. It’s the only way the sole independent broadcaster can stay relevant against the deep-pocketed competition.
CBC bashers would do well to imagine a country without it. In such a place, all of our information is controlled by a handful of telecom companies. Does anybody want that?