Freedom of the CBC

By: Annalee Grant
Reporter, Cranbrook Daily Townsman

As I waited for my friend Pat at his Kimberley home a few weeks ago, the radio was on in the tiny kitchen at Cominco Gardens. Pat’s one of the lucky people who has had the chance to live in the adorable house in the gardens.

The inside of it is brightly coloured and comfortable, filled with old furniture and a record player. The bathroom is aged with a clawfoot tub and one of those wrap-around shower curtains you never see any more.

On the radio was CBC Radio, a talk show host interviewing an author. I wasn’t particularly interested in the interview itself, and our conversation turned to how myself and Pat (we’re exactly two weeks apart in age), had grown up listening to the drawl of various CBC programs over the years.

My family listened to it on car rides and camping trips. Pat’s family constantly had it on in their cozy, homey kitchen in Cranbrook. I remember Peter Gzowski’s wonderful, deep voice smoothly announcing Morningside. I have recently started listening to CBC Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence’s podcast, which features the best in Canadian indie music. He’s turned me onto wonderful talents like Said the Whale, and furthered my love of uniquely Canadian bands Tegan and Sarah, Hey Ocean and Metric. I am a frequent viewer of Canada’s boyfriend, George Stroumboulopoulos and think he brings a sophistication to Canada’s night-time television.

My visit to Pat’s house came as the federal government announced $115 million in cuts to the CBC over three years. On April 4, the corporation held a town meeting with its staff and regrettably informed them that 650 of their jobs would be cut over the next three years as it tried to find savings of up to $200 million when all is said and done.

The CBC will be adding advertising to its Radio 2 programming to make up some of the shortfall, and said 60 per cent of its budget goes towards wages. Inevitably, the savings couldn’t be found elsewhere with such a big chunk paying the people that run the broadcast company. Sports broadcasts are going to be cut – which means for me the hunt for a televised Vancouver Canucks game could get even harder.

This year alone, 243 full-time staffers will lose their jobs – probably jobs they’ve held for a very long time. Where will these people go?

The bottom line is, Jim Flaherty’s budget slashes jobs across the public sector – 19,000 to be exact – and is supposed to be about jobs and growth. I guess they didn’t specify whether that was the loss of jobs or the creation of them. It begs the question what will replace these valuable people, and whether we will see a slow-down or crippling of bureaucracy.

I think we’re already seeing a crippling of the CBC. I have admired its reporters over the years for being able to maintain unbiased coverage, and go after and uncover stories their bosses – the Canadian government – have tried to keep quiet. Reporters Without Borders, an international group of journalists that promote press freedom, ranks Canada as number 10. I think the cuts to CBC will push our number down that list further, as CBC has such a valuable hand in breaking political news in this country. Who’s going to pick up the slack right away if those jobs get cut? It takes time to build journalistic contacts and sources, and sure there are many great journalists across this country, but could this mean the shutting down of all paths of communication between government and its people?

Louis Lalande, executive Vice-President, French Services, had sad words to tell his employees at the CBC town hall on Wednesday.

“Slow down initiatives, say goodbye to treasured friends.”

For those of us who are not employees of the CBC, we too, will have to say goodbye to some treasured friends, and wonder if some of the values that make us Canadian will exists after three years.

If they take away my TV boyfriend George Stroumboulopoulos, there’ll be hell to pay.

Originally published here.

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