Maxime Bernier: I will stop the CBC competing with private media, and the CBC will be better for it

Financial Post
CBC's downtown Toronto headquarters. Financial Post | James Alexander Michie

CBC's downtown Toronto headquarters.

The CBC should stop doing three quarters of what it still does, which any private broadcaster can do, and concentrate on what only it can do

The following is adapted from an announcement Wednesday by federal Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier

When it was created 80 years ago, CBC/Radio-Canada was meant to give a voice to Canadians in the new world of radio broadcasting. It did the same later when television became a mass media.

At the time, there were only a few private channels. There was an obvious role for a public broadcaster trying to reach all Canadians in big cities or small and remote communities; to connect them to the rest of the country and the world; and to bring them together through a shared expression of ideas and culture. It worked very well for several decades and had a profound influence on how we see ourselves and the world.

Fast forward to 2016. The media landscape, with its hundreds of channels and its millions of sources of information and culture, is radically different. Yet, CBC/Radio-Canada seems frozen in time. It tries to occupy every niche, even though it doesn’t have and will never have the means to do so, with the result being lower-quality programming. The viewership for its English service in particular has reached new lows. To stay relevant, it reinterprets its mandate every few years, going from crisis to crisis.

What should be done? If I am elected leader of my party and prime minister, I propose to implement two fundamental reforms. First, the role and mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada have to be refocused. Do we need a public broadcaster that does game shows and cooking shows? Do we need a public broadcaster involved in sports when we have all-sports channels? Do we need a public broadcaster that runs bad Canadian copies of American popular shows? Do we need a public broadcaster that offers music streaming on the Web when there are thousands of music channels available? Do we need a public broadcaster that now has a website devoted to opinion journalism that competes with newspapers and magazines? The answer to all these questions is clearly no.

The CBC should stop doing three quarters of what it still does, which any private broadcaster can do, and concentrate on what only it can do

I believe there is still a role in our media landscape for a public radio and television network. But it has to be something other than what the private sector already offers. We should not reinvent the wheel. Already, the mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada states that it should be predominantly and distinctively Canadian and contribute to our national consciousness and identity; it should reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions; it should actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression; and it should reflect the needs and circumstances of our language communities, and also the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada.

CBC/Radio-Canada has the widest network of journalists and correspondents across the country. That’s one of its unique qualities. Yet, over the past couple of years, when it had to adjust to a smaller budget, it cut back on its regional stations and concentrated more resources in the big towers in Toronto and Montreal instead. It should have done the opposite. Canadians don’t want to see their world only through the eyes of Toronto or Montreal.

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Source: Financial Post

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