Who Is the Public You Broadcast? Advocate, 28/11/2016

Or: How the CBC Fights White Nationalism by Existing

Just a few paragraphs of riffing on the politics of Canada. In part, it’s to escape to a world of news not dominated by Trump and Trumpism. But I can also see the embrace of extremity that he’s inspired. Which is depressing to me as a person.

Late last week, the complete dismantling of Canada’s public broadcaster the CBC has become an ordinary mainstream discussion. Because two leading candidates for our Conservative Party leadership, Kellie Leitch and Maxime Bernier, announced that a part of their platform is radically changing that institution.

CBC on Front Street in Toronto. For Canada's Conservatives, it's the heart
of the country's liberalism, despite its institutional corruption and the
politically conservative bias in much of its coverage.
Right now, the CBC is a public broadcaster – it’s wholly owned by the government, which provides about a billion dollars each year to run it. And the CBC sells advertising too, to supplement that funding.

It has a regional network providing local programming – for news and entertainment – from all over the country. A bureau for every province and every major population centre in that province. It runs television, radio, and internet services for each of those regions.

CBC’s television service gets less than 5% audience share for the entire country. We aren’t exactly dealing with a powerhouse of television production like the BBC. But it essentially provides a media production house and budget to every significant region of Canada.

It’s especially important for more isolated regions of the country, throughout the north and rural regions. These are lands so vast that it’s difficult to get any viable local media production happening there. Places where a private network, with its incentives to focus only on the largest, richest markets, would never have an incentive to send anyone.

Leitch and Bernier both say that the CBC is a government intrusion into the media market. A monopoly whose removal from the commercial television game would spur competition that’s now stagnant.

Kellie Leitch has become Canada's leading standard-bearer for the global
white nationalist political movement.
How the disappearance of a television network that barely gets 5% audience share would spur competition is anyone’s guess.

Bernier would prefer that the CBC become an equivalent to PBS in the United States. There’d be a little government funding, but most of its production would come through private donations. It could probably only afford one or two studios and produce only a few, very low-budget, productions.

Leitch wants to dismantle and sell the entire network. The CBC would provide some rural radio coverage for local concerns at most.

Under all this talk of the CBC as a government “monopoly” on a media market, is a voice in mainstream discussion of long-simmering right-wing populist hatred of the CBC. A government-built network that constantly opposes conservatism, a mouthpiece for liberal and Liberal Canada.

The radical conservatives of my country have a long and colourful history of hating the CBC for its supposed liberal bias. And quite a few on the left found the network hopelessly corrupt and kowtowing to the Conservative Party line during the Harper years.

The drive to dismantle the CBC is to destroy what radical conservatives consider an ideological opponent.

Local production houses like CBC Iqaluit, for example.
And there’s an even deeper, more disgusting idea at the heart of radical conservative hatred for the CBC. Remember that regional network of local studios I mentioned? Those low-budget production houses scattered all over the country provide a channel for voices in the very rural north and wild areas of the country to speak.

The ongoing Indigenous Cultural Renaissance of Canada exploded in artistic and political vectors across the country through those channels. Indigenous voices today demand material reparations for acts of genocide. They demand control over their lands – constitutionally speaking, sovereignty within the Canadian state.

They demand recognition as equal participants in Canadian culture – not just as individuals, but as individuals whose singular character was shaped by their Indigenous culture. The Indigenous want in.

Indigenous voices reach the hearts of Canada’s biggest cities and smallest, whitest towns through the communication networks of all those CBC studios. They’re being carried by private channels now, having built these relationships with their newfound cultural power. But the CBC was the first conduit, and it remains one of the most important.

The radical conservative line on the CBC is that it’s a home for urbane, alienated, socially progressive (and Liberal sellout) elites. And there are a lot of hipster journalists working for the CBC today. Dismantling CBC will likely shut many left-wing voices out of mainstream media.

Aesthetically, my favourite expression of Canada's Indigenous Cultural
Renaissance is the music of Tanya Tagaq. Not only is it beautiful,
remarkable music unlike anything else most Westerners (and probably
most other cultures on Earth) have ever heard. It expresses the same
social and political ideas that threaten all the traditional relations of
cultural dominance of the Canadian state over Indigenous life.
But if the CBC is dismantled, it will also significantly diminish the Indigenous voices reaching the rest of Canada. It will be easier for Indigenous people to be kept silent, confined in the wilderness where proper Canadians never go. To the silent, dark, and cold.

One of the advantages Trump’s moving the Overton Window is that the enemies of racism can return to calling what we fight what it really is. Racists aren’t the only ones who dog-whistle. If you were speak in code to disguise white nationalism, we have to speak in code to call you out on it. Otherwise, we’d look extreme and lose credibility.

So thank you Donald Trump, for letting me say what seems to be the real motivations of Kellie Leitch, Maxime Bernier, and quite a few (though not all) of the folks who support exactly the sorts of proposals they now say openly.

If you dismantle the CBC, you’ll know that the Indigenous voices of Canada will lose a lot of their local media production outlets, and media communication between your world and the mainstream of Canada. It will be easier to remind Canada’s Indigenous of their proper place in Canadian society.

Absent from it.

1 comment:

  1. Tanya Tagaq! Thank you for introducing me to her! (You should listen to some Korean pansori for a similarly authentic experience.)