After decades of being whittled away by budget cuts under successive Liberal and Conservative governments, the corporation has become so threadbare that when it was cut by an additional $115 million a year in 2012, it was forced to shutter bureau’s, cancel shows, and even introduce ads on CBC Radio Two, something that many say endangers the very spirit of public radio in this country.
Add to that the loss of NHL hockey broadcast rights to Rogers on the television side, and the gap in both prime-time programming and revenue that will follow as a result, and things have never been more bleak for the CBC - a distressing reality for those of us who care about public media, and feel that the CBC plays an invaluable role in this country as one of the few spaces we have as citizens to discuss the ideas, debates, and questions confronting us as a country.
But as the adage goes, in crisis lies opportunity, and that is certainly the belief of Wade Rowland, the author of a short, and passionately persuasive book, called Saving the CBC.
And that title ‘Saving the CBC’ is not meant as an exaggeration, or metaphor, but rather an accurate description of just how high the stakes have become. Rowland believes that it is no longer a matter of decades, but mere months, that will determine whether the CBC is around in anything more than name in Canadian society.
The book cogently lays out the context and factors behind the dire straights that the CBC currently finds itself in, and while the picture is certainly grim, the book also offers hope - that the CBC can once again become a true public service broadcaster, and serve as an invaluable social and cultural institution for future generations of Canadians. Or at least it can if Canadians, who care about the CBC and believe in public broadcasting, seize this opportunity and mobilize to make their voices heard.
Wade Rowland spent decades in the broadcasting field himself, and held senior positions at both CTV, as well as the CBC - where he was a senior executive in the network’s television news division.
You can find his book Saving the CBC here, or visit his website for more articles he's written on the CBC and public broadcasting.
I spoke to Wade Rowland at the CIUT studios in Hart House at the University of Toronto. And just a note, the interview was originally recorded in August, before the NHL rights were awarded Rogers, which is why in the interview it’s still an open question.