THUNDER BAY – POLITICS Canada depends on public broadcasting to reach remote communities across our vast country. With little incentive for private broadcasters to provide services outside of urban centres, the CBC was established to provide Canadian content to all of its citizens. As our national public broadcaster, the CBC has told Canadian stories and enriched our democratic life. It is a vital component of Canadian society, but it has been severely weakened by huge budget cuts.
Public funding of the CBC has dropped by 40 per cent since 1991, and things are getting even worse under the current government. In 2011, Conservative Heritage Minister James Moore promised to maintain or even increase CBC funding. The government has not kept his promise. Since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, they have steadily dismantled the CBC by squeezing its budget. More than 2000 jobs have been cut from the broadcaster since 2008. This year, $130 million will be slashed from their budget, and 657 jobs along with it.
In response to budget pressures, the CBC released its five-year plan on June 26. They say that an additional 1000 to 1500 CBC employees will lose their jobs in the next five years – one-quarter of their workforce! The CBC will now focus on “digital content,” limiting their platforms, and they will reduce documentary production. These cuts will permanently change public broadcasting in Canada.
We have felt the effects here in northwestern Ontario, even before the latest announcement. CBC Thunder Bay recently lost two positions from their already small staff of 13. Its longstanding “Voyage North” afternoon radio show was cancelled entirely, and will be moved to Sudbury.
This latest move is part of a troubling pattern to consolidate broadcasting into larger urban areas, at the expense of smaller communities. Sudbury’s issues are not the same as ours. Just as broadcasting in Toronto falls well short of representing the views of all Canadians, one city does not accurately represent the diversity of concerns in northwestern Ontario. More and more, Sudbury is assumed to stand in for our region, even though they are just four hours from Toronto – and a full day’s drive from us!
Thunder Bay-Superior North is an extremely diverse region with particular local concerns. It is enough of a challenge to represent the voices of First Nations and all our residents with just one station in Thunder Bay. Moving our programs to Sudbury will make it even more difficult to tell our local stories. And with hundreds more jobs to be lost across the country, there’s no telling what will happen to local broadcasting. Some of Thunder Bay’s best reporters have been told their jobs may be at risk.Stephen Harper knows Canadians won’t stand for axing Canada’s public broadcaster all at once. So the CBC is dying a slow and painful death at the hands of the Conservative government. We must stand up to Harper and defend the CBC, before it’s too late. Visit brucehyer.ca to sign a petition in support of the CBC and have your say. Let’s tell this government loud and clear that we won’t stand by while our local voices are silenced.