On the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., its quality—and its future— were already matters of heated debate.
The CBC was meant to be, and in its happiest moments has succeeded in being, the strongest single voice of Canada’s nationhood. When it’s performing well, it expands and lifts the nation and affirms its identity as does no other force in our daily life. At its best the CBC can put a priceless mixture of sights and sounds within the viewing or hearing range of at least ninety-five Canadians out of every hundred—honest, well-reported news, first-rate documentaries, pretty singing girls, pretty dancing girls, lucid commentaries and knock-down debates on our past, present and future in a thousand fields from the British North America Act to teenage sex. At worst it offers something quite different: lapses from objectivity and accuracy in the news; cliché-ridden or embarrassingly “daring” plays, badly written, badly directed and badly acted by any standards; spectacularly ordinary variety artists, masters of ceremonies and “personalities”; adenoidal pundits striking poses; a parade of Westerns, wrestlers and tired situation comedies from the big U.S. networks.
So far as the vast majority of its audience is concerned, it’s of small consequence who owns or bosses broadcasting in Canada or how the various pieces of the total appa-
ratus are fitted together. The thing they’re interested in is what their receiving sets bring into their homes; everything else seems like a side issue.
But in fact there are no side issues in Canadian broadcasting. Every influence—political, economic or administrative—that comes to bear on any part of it also comes to bear in some degree on the programs. And as of now all these “incidental” factors are working together not only to challenge the nature of the CBC but, quite possibly, its existence.
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