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If management at the CBC wasn’t taking the existential threat posed by Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre seriously before, they probably will now. After tattling on the corporation to Elon Musk, who’s busy trying to undermine public broadcasters and legacy media companies by either stripping them of their verification status or sticking a label on their accounts, Poilievre succeeded in getting the CBC branded as “government-funded media.” True to form, he took that 10 steps too far by claiming: “Now people know that it is Trudeau propaganda, not news.”

The CBC’s initial response was to “pause” its participation on Twitter, a move that echoed NPR’s response a few days earlier. But withdrawing from this fight won’t help the CBC win the bigger one it’s currently engaged in with Canada’s Conservatives — one that’s similar to campaigns being waged against public broadcasters in other western democracies. Poilievre is dead serious about defunding the CBC, and he’s better positioned to actually do something about it than any Conservative leader in a decade. CBC’s leadership can try to call his bluff and hope he doesn’t follow through with his promise if he becomes the next prime minister, but they may not like the cards he decides to play.

I have a better idea: they should stand and fight. That begins with a social media campaign that marshals all the nostalgia and goodwill that’s tied up in our collective memories of the CBC and its biggest personalities, from news legends like Peter Mansbridge and Ian Hanomansing to comedic celebrities like Rick Mercer and Mary Walsh. They should remind Canadians of the good work they do, the value it brings to their lives and the cost of leaving that behind. Tug on the heartstrings as hard as possible. This is no time to pull any punches since Poilievre and his fellow travellers certainly aren’t going to pull theirs.

The CBC’s fight should also involve a redefinition of its mandate and the programs and content it delivers to Canadians. As any number of commentators have already suggested, the CBC should get out of advertising and stop competing with smaller upstarts for those scarce dollars. It should substantially reduce the amount of opinion it produces and commissions since that’s not exactly something we’re lacking these days — or something that reflects well on the CBC’s image. And it should probably steer clear of the sort of overt advocacy journalism that’s better left to actual advocates and issue experts.

But in making these changes, it should also ask for an increase in its funding, one that would put it on more equal footing with other public broadcasters around the world. If Canada were to simply match the per-capita funding that other western countries provide for their public broadcasters, the CBC’s funding would more than double.

That money could go towards more local news coverage, an area that continues to suffer as other legacy media companies pull back, restructure and otherwise slim down. It could go towards more factual programming, whether that’s television and radio documentaries or digital explainers of key issues and events. And it could go towards bolstering the CBC’s coverage of marginalized and underserved communities that aren’t being covered by the private sector.

Bigger and better: that should be the vision presented by the CBC. After all, as legacy media organizations continue to shrink and bad-faith actors try to spread misinformation and sow chaos in western democracies like ours, we need to reinforce our bulwark against bullshit.

The CBC isn’t some ephemeral institution, as Conservatives would like to pretend, and the work it does can’t and won’t be replaced by the free market if it disappears. Instead, it’s one of the foundational pillars of a free and open society. As historian Timothy Snyder has said: “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so.”

That might suit Poilievre just fine, of course. But the rest of us should be ready to fight like hell to prevent that from happening — and to protect one of the institutions that’s standing in the way of it.

This column is featured in my new newsletter, which you can get delivered to your inbox once a week. If you want to stay up to date on my signature, no-nonsense opinion writing, subscribe here.

The CBC has retreated from Twitter after Elon Musk slapped a "government-funded media" label on its account. Here's why it needs to stop backing down and start speaking up. @maxfawcett writes for @NatObserver

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The CBC I've watched since Harper has come to power (and after his departure) feels like it is pro-Conservative. They never take PP to task on his outrageous claims, nor do they truly cover provincial politics where most of the pain Canadians is feeling is happening. If I didn't know better, it's as if the CBC still has key Harper people making decisions for it, and their job is to make sure the CBC sticks to the corporate narrative. Given the way they handled the English language debates in the last Federal election, I'd say the CBC is trying to bring about a Conservative government, one that will probably ensure those same key people are handsomely rewarded when PP comes in to finish the job.

Ya, at best a cruel joke that P.P. has his followers shouting from the rooftops that CBC is a propaganda arm of JT. Clearly, they believe what their dear CPC leader proclaims, and now they have Musk "saying it is so" therefore, absolute proof. Victory is near, freedom to convoy is forthcoming, they smell blood in the water. What or who will be dragged to the alter of uneducated political opinion for the next sacrificial offering? Juice 'em P.P., it's all you got.

I vehemently disagree that opinion should be eliminated from the CBC. Why did Fawcett even make that statement, to appease right wing loudmouths? We need more opinion, not less, and a good national platform like the CBC could promote it in a respectful and professionally-moderated format. Every Saturday the Globe publishes an entire ad-free opinion section chock full of various editorials, analysis, opinions and lengthy investigative work by regular columnists and guests alike. It's stuffed with learning opportunity.

I look forward to The National's At Issue panel on Thursdays discussing the nation's top stories from the perspective of a collection of journos with various political views. It's a cross section of society. In fact, I get really annoyed that informative discussions on At Issue have to be constantly interrupted by ads for big ego trucks and adult diapers. If a TV viewer disagrees with what is said, then at least they know why and can better clarify where their own stance on issues is founded, and learn respect and patience for hearing the other side. If the conservative narrative and viewpoint was silenced, then the social democratic and liberal perspective could also be silenced one day. Hearing and understanding someone's else's disagreeable notions sharpens one's bullshit detector and helps formulate intelligent rebuttal.

The CBC brings in hundreds of millions a year in private ad revenue. Defunding the public investment in it is a stupid idea that only leads to (i), more intelligence insulting ads, or (ii) cancellation of the entire network and a run up in ad revenue for the private networks. Upping the funding enough to eliminate ads on CBC TV (there already no ads on CBC radio), coupled with perhaps a little fat trimming here and there, will force the corporation to do more in depth investigative journalism, higher quality drama, establish partnerships (i.e. pooling public resources) with top notch, world class film makers like Sarah Polley (who won an Academy for her screenplay Women Talking, which incidentally is a very powerful film based on Miriam Toews' book), Telefilm and provincial public broadcasters like BC's Knowledge Network and TV Ontario on collaborative productions.

Chris Haddock's productions Da Vinci's Inquest and Intelligence were some of the best drama productions the CBC has ever broadcast. I say up the ante to BBC World, DW (Germany), France 24 or TVP World (Poland) standards, which are 24-hour public English language newscasts and analysis of world news. The war in Ukraine, for example, gets more in depth coverage than CBC will ever provide. Some have regular reviews of scientific news and offer in depth plain language insight on climate science.

The BBC is based in a nation with a exemplary Shakespearean stage drama history. Their drama is often stunningly well written, acted and plotted. Some of the BBC's best dramatic and mysteries include Sherlock, Strike, This is Going to Hurt, Luther, The Split, Dr. Who, Killing Eve, The Fall, Line of Duty, Vera, Baptiste, MI-5 / Spooks, and Prime Suspect, one of the best ever TV productions (seven seasons over 15 years) that shot Helen Mirren's star into space. There are many, many more.

Today CBC TV has no comparison in drama, is stacked with dumb gameshows and way too many ads, and even with the private money pouring in it gets hammered by the Poilievres of the nation as being a mouthpiece for whatever party despite a lack of evidence. Instead, bring on more government funding, and more space between it and government, and start producing excellent dramas and hard hitting documentaries that will attract international attention and royalty revenue. Every TV sold on Britain has an attached fee to fund the BBC. Some -- but very limited -- corporate sponsorships could be used, but the line must be very clear that private interests will not influence editorial content. And reach out to other public media agencies to share production costs on better quality drama, musical, and investigative work.

If the conservative narrative about defunding public broadcasting over public airways gains traction, then a counter narrative could be started to rescind public money transfers to the public road network in favour of privatization and tolls on every cul-de-sac, street and freeway. Both are really stupid ideas and they illuminate the vital role government plays for the common good and the expression of a diversity of opinions in a democracy.

Note also that Poilievre is a government employee whose chin wags in favour of less government. Let's start with removing him, shall we?

I agree with Max that the CBC should be working the heartstrings for all they're worth because, despite the cons often commandeering the term "silent majority," starting with Harper, (when everything went south, literally) the people for whom THEIR Canada is ever more defined by NOT being American are becoming the ACTUAL silent majority.
It's the same in Alberta where most people do NOT want to separate, or replace the RCMP, or the CPP, and the list goes on, as well as in the States where a majority of people do NOT want to deny women basic bodily autonomy, and REALLY want gun control.
So to Harper and the vile Republicans I say, "methinks thou doth protest too much...." on your wannabe claim of majority (just one of your original lies) and again propose that what we need now is some leadership in the form of a "bastard for progressivism" to shake loose the natural conflict-averse majority for whom politics is anathema more than ever before, declaring a pox on all houses as they sail beyond the fray, often feeling morally superior, and not even voting.
(Speaking of the truth, and Timothy Snyder's quote, I live for the time when atheism reaches the open majority threshold, but probably won't live long enough.)
But our tendency to value being calm, reasonable and polite, moderate i.e., above all else (we'll confine our drama to TV or the movie theatre thanks) has become a dangerous liability. So I'm with Alex on the CBC needing MORE opinion, not less, but aggressively PROGRESSIVE opinion.
How hard can it be when things have NEVER been more clearly binary, and when we're up against the numbing stupidity of FREEDUMB that has subtly sanctioned and unleashed a marked uptick in random violence like stabbing on the subways, horrible racism and misogyny, and pulling out your gun (only in crazy libertarian America mind you) when a basketball rolls into your yard.
The Convoy Party of Canada has become comparable to a thuggy gang of teenage boys on a roll, vandalizing our entire country with a smirk. Think of Putin's face. Or Harper's. Or Poilievere's. Anyone who's ever been the parent of teenage boys knows what we need to do.

Oh, and either not voting at all, or in a tribal, knee-jerk way as in I'm a guy and cons are my team because they can WIN the game (duh), or too preciously in a virtue-signalling way that will in truth just split the progressive vote, imagining voting to be primarily a form of personal expression, an indulgence we simply can't afford anymore when it's door number one or door number two, period.

Scatological pun intended btw.

I can agree with more opinion on the progressive side of the fulcrum (because that's where my heart is), but I'd also like to see 50X more reportage on scientific facts by scientists. The thing about journalism is that it often tries too hard to be a fence sitter between divided opinions. This affords not just legit and intelligently presented views to be published, but also gives a mic to charlatans posing as an opinion leader to fulfill a modus operandi to spread political rhetoric posing as "science" or "facts" to actually deny and doubt genuine science and fact. The journo also gets a sore butt and delays the formulation of her/his own ability to hold well-informed opinions and express them in clear, plain language for the benefit of the public.

Like the old saying: Everyone is entitled to express an opinion, but not everyone is entitled to own facts.

Just this week Dominion (the ballot counting machine company) won a massive defamation settlement of nearly US$800 million against the notorious Fox Network for lying about the company aiding the Dems to "steal" the 2020 US election. Rupert Murdoch flew in from his castle in Sydney, Australia, to testify under oath that yes, his Fox baby did lie to jack ratings and make money. Methinks the 800M will balance out the profits-penalties equation and put a damper on the tendency to lie for money irregardless of the consequences to others.

Brilliant response Alex, thank you. I agree.

Please consider the latest news out of the US of A: Mega-billionaires like, Rupert Murdoch, control the show. They can break the law (how many time over?), keep it hidden, & worst of all - control the national agenda. Then they power-buy-off people to make a deal & he/they don't even have to appear in court. Power, sheer power. Now we can feel this same heinous influence in Canada. Whose money is behind PP, etc.?
The question is : How do regular Canadians wake up to this? What actions have to be taken?
Redefine & put more money into CBC/NPR is a good start. And citizens have to be EDUCATED NOW as to the megalomaniacs who will fight tooth & nail to get, keep, and take over government, democracy, and the stability we now enjoy. This is a worthy cause for CBC & NPR.

And having written that, let me add: That while we are focused on this nonsense political power grab,
our attention is taken away from understanding, getting behind, and taking action on the biggest challenge of our species - Sustainability and Climate Action. Because we want to maintain quality of life, liberty & happiness, again we need educated people. Are CBC/NPR willing to take on some leadership in this area while our government officials fail to do so ( well, except the Green Party of Canada ) ?
I vote for that. Would you like it too?
We've noticed this but of course it's part and parcel of the up is down seeding of chaos engineered by the cons. After years of it and a couple of insurrections, we'd prefer the honesty of MSNBC/FOX so we could get on with marginalizing the right wing completely.