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Top 10 Reasons Public Broadcasting is Awesome
By  CMG  •  Posted on  October 7, 2015

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I am often asked to speak to groups about the media business and the future of public broadcasting. Recently I was invited by the community group Why Should I Care to talk about the value public broadcasting and the challenges it faces.

Before a full house of many CBC fans, (and a few skeptics),  well-known host of TVO’s The Agenda Steve Paikin, and I shared our views on why public broadcasting is as crucial today as ever.

Below a brief summary that may help when neighbours ask you what makes CBC so distinct.
photo Also nice PUBEvery advanced democracy has a public broadcaster.  A coincidence? Definitely not.

Decades ago, visionary men and women realized that democracy has to be protected and nurtured. They understood how important it is to hold the powerful – elected or not – accountable, and to ensure citizens can make choices with real information.

Public broadcasting is one of the best tools we have to achieve those goals because it offers a trustworthy source of information that is not dependent on commercial or business investments, and therefore is not influenced by  wealth or private interests.

It is also available to all citizens regardless of income or geographical challenges. In other words, public broadcasters are set up to serve the public good.

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That’s a somewhat simplified explanation, but you get the picture. British writer Anthony Smith said it better, referring to the BBC……”it has probably been the greatest of the instruments of social democracy of the century”.

In addition to that key role, in Canada, public broadcasting includes a component of care against being smothered by our southern neighbour and cultural giant.

When the government of Conservative Prime Minister R.B. Bennett set up the public broadcaster, he was prompted in part by the recommendation that “public ownership of broadcasting is necessary to protect Canada from American  cultural penetration,” and to “foster a national spirit and interpreting national citizenship.”

That was 1932.  Some things never change.

Here’s how UNESCO describes public broadcasting:

-Neither commercial nor state –controlled, public broadcasting’s only raison d’être is public service.  It is the public’s organization.
-It speaks to everyone as a citizen
-Encourages access to and participation in public life
-Develops knowledge, broaden horizons and enables people to better understand themselves by better understanding the world and others
-It’s a meeting place where all citizens are welcome and considered equals
-An information and education tool, accessible to all and meant for all whatever their social or economic status.

photo cs standingSix good traits. And given Canada’s unique challenges, (many languages, huge geography, smaller population), we have even more reasons to care and fight for public broadcasting.  Here are my top 10 reasons why CBC is more important now than ever.

1. It builds shared values by producing local news and programming in all provinces and territories (57 locations,) and reflecting our stories, history and issues to each other.

2. Interprets the world through Canadians’ eyes via correspondents and overseas bureaus reporting on world events.

3. Builds unity between French and English Canadians by providing French programming outside of Québec and English programming in Québec.

4. Broadcasts in eight Aboriginal languages, sharing language, culture and values across the country.

6. Creates original Canadian programming so generations of actors, artists, musicians, designers and more, can build careers and a body of original Canadian work.

7. Actively promotes amateur sports, contributing to generations of athletic excellence.

8. A leader in adapting new technology, CBC built the transmitters and broadcasting infrastructure across Canada that allowed the industry to develop. Today it continues to be an early adopter of new technology.

9. Promotes diversity in coverage of news, events, as well as in programming and staffing.

10. It is not dependent on or influenced by commercial interests.

And finally, my top ten reason why CBC is more important than ever: It brings together the second largest land mass in the world with the largest journalistic organization serving the most communities, at a low cost.

photo 1cs spCurrently, we receive all CBC/Radio-Canada’s services for just under $29 a year per Canadian – This price is less than almost every developed countries spend on public broadcasting.

The reality is the CBC can’t continue to provide the services it does at this price.  It desperately needs better funding.  How much?

The average amount developed countries spend is about $87 dollars per citizen. CMG has recommended just half of that – $43.50 to start moving in the right direction – And it still sounds like money well spent.

Carmel Smyth
National President, CMG

 

 

 

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