April 15, 2023
Pierre Poilièvre this week continued his attack on the CBC by asking Twitter to list them as a government-funded media company.
Outlets where the government provides some or all of the outlet’s funding and may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content.”Twitter
Let’s be clear: while CBC is publicly funded, its editorial independence is protected by Canada’s Broadcast Act.
Twitter has applied the government-funded label to NPR (who is only 1% funded by the US Federal Government) and BBC (which is, like the CBC, guaranteed editorial independence under British law and is funded by TV licenses).
A Bit of History
Poilièvre’s Parliamentary mentor, former PM Stephen Harper was no fan of the press. He rarely talked to the Parliamentary press gallery, only answered questions approved by his staff, and, in 2007 plans were revealed to create a government run media centre to “put in place robust physical and information security measures to protect the prime minister and cabinet.”
Information Security Measures.
The media centre would film events and pass the recording along to journalists. Only certain journalists would be allowed to attend press conferences.
Poilièvre has shown that he has learned well from Harper’s media aversion. He shuns… no, he regularly insults… traditional media and loudly calls for the defunding of the CBC and has promised to disband it as his first act as PM. He has refused to answer questions from journalists who work for the CBC.
He is now working to reinforce the mindset that the CBC is just a mouthpiece of the Trudeau government. Drawing sketchy lines between the CBC, a publicly funded media outlet, and state-run media in despotic countries.
It is a very, very dark place, to have a possible (likely?) leader of this country actively working to undermine legitimate media.
Poilièvre makes a seductive argument that Canadian consumers already have plenty of choice in media. This is particularly true in television and Internet news – although definitely not the case in terms of printed press where Postmedia owns 90% of the daily and weekly print papers in Canada.
That said, all of those other choices are for-profit corporations. The profit incentive carries with it an obligation to generate money for investors and to sell advertising. Which means creating content that draws viewers in.
We don’t have to look very far to see where the profit imperative can lead. Fox is currently embroiled in legal battles over its attacks on Dominion Voting Systems and its apparent support for the instigators of the January 6 Capitol insurrection. It would seem that Fox personalities and executives knew they were lying and Fox is trying to make the case that it is within their rights as a news organization to present these lies because it is what their viewers wanted.
CBC, as a publicly funded broadcaster, is not subject to the same grim profit motive that has taken Fox so far astray. I’m not naive enough to believe that CBC’s reporters aren’t sometimes biased or that they don’t sometimes make mistakes, errors, or omissions. But they are not driven by profit.
In this single fact, the CBC is the consumer choice that we need to have.
Compare and Contrast
I think it is important to look at how the CPC and the Liberals have approached media policy.
The Liberals chose to put in place supports for Canadian journalism. A tax credit for individuals subscribing to Canadian journalism and a tax credit for Canadian journalism organizations to pay for wages and salaries for newsroom staff. Neither of these credits has any condition on the content of the news itself.
The goal being to encourage good Canadian journalism.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, would disband a public broadcaster that is respected around the world and treasured by millions of Canadians.
The goal here being far murkier. And much more dangerous. I think he thinks he’s trying to save us from having too much variety in media choices.
Can we please keep this man away from the seat of power in Canada?
This seems like a good place to say this:
I currently subscribe to the Winnipeg Free Press, Canada’s National Observer, and the New York Times and I’m a supporter of Ad Fontes Media – an American-based news bias and reliability analysis organization.
I, like NPR, am no longer on Twitter but am on Mastodon: firstname.lastname@example.org