The CBC, our national broadcaster, is usually justified on the basis of two fundamentally important services it provides: it serves as stage for Canadian culture and it unites a broad, diverse country. I suggest it serves us in yet another way that is equally important: it is the only national mass medium that is not owned by and accountable to the corporate sector, i.e. the only truly independent voice. And, I might add, as the only national medium we own and is accountable to us, the only democratic voice.
Despite the invaluable service it provides us, we have not been serving it too well for the past few decades. During the Liberal's term in office, the CBC's Parliamentary appropriation fell from $1.6-billion, in 2014 dollars, to $1.3-billion. Since the Conservatives came to power, it has dropped further to $1.0-billion. Per capita, each Canadian pays only $29 per year for public broadcasting, a paltry sum compared to the average for Western countries of $82.
It is more than a bargain, it's a steal. While we pay the appropriation with our taxes, we pay for commercial broadcasting via advertising. Every time we buy a dozen oranges or a pair of socks, we pay a few pennies for advertising, a portion of which goes to private TV and radio. What we pay private broadcasting via advertising works out (I've done the math) to five times what we pay for the CBC with our taxes.
The Conservative government has done more than squeeze the CBC financially. In 2013, it placed the broadcaster under the supervision of the Treasury Board, thereby undermining its editorial independence from government, contrary to the Broadcasting Act. The current 12-member CBC board has been appointed entirely by the Conservatives, nine of which, including the president, have been financial contributors to the party.
Restoring funding and editorial independence to our national broadcaster should be a key priority for any government elected next month. Canadian culture, Canadian unity, and Canadian democracy deserve and demand it. Those who agree can join a good friend of the CBC here and vote in the best interests of the corporation on October 19th.