Yes it is fair to call CBC the state broadcaster

- February 27th, 2011

CBC is funded by the state and the government appoints the board and president. Sounds like a state broadcaster to me.

Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen seems bothered that I and others continue to refer to the CBC as the “state broadcaster.”

I presume that McGregor would prefer we use the more cuddly “public broadcaster” that CBC has adopted in recent years. Well, no. Our use of the term state broadcaster is accurate and factual.

It was an article by Sun Media/QMI Agency’s Ottawa Bureau Chief David Akin that sparked McGregor’s comments. The report notes that the state broadcaster’s ombudsman found that a December 2010 report claiming the Harper government was shelving new cigarette warning labels for packages was not entirely accurate.

“The National’s conclusion of a causal relationship, in which the lobbying seemed to be the reason for the shelving, was insufficiently supported to meet CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices that call for facts and evidence to arrive at conclusions,” CBC ombudsman Kirk LaPointe wrote in a carefully worded nine-page report released late Friday.

On Twitter McGregor claimed that “state broadcaster” seemed to originate with Sun News Network’s Kory Teneycke back in June 2010. He then points out that since then the term has been used 39 times in Sun Media articles, mostly by me.

A few points here.

As Akin has pointed out, if CBC were a public broadcaster then the public would give them their money similar to the way PBS is funded in the US. Instead when CBC wants more money they ask the government, aka the state, to pony up.

The board and senior executive are also chosen by the state in the form of appointments made by the prime minister and his cabinet. The state funds it, the state controls who runs it, it is a state broadcaster.

Meanwhile, McGregor has been listening to me refer to CBC as the state broadcaster for years. Prior to joining Sun Media I worked for five years as the Ottawa Bureau Chief for Astral Radio/Standard Radio. My desk was two rows over from McGregor in that part of the press gallery known as “The Hot Room.”

It is an open office environment so I know that McGregor heard me calling CBC the “state broadcaster” on air. In fact we discussed my use of the term more than once. Privately owned radio stations broadcast to the public but do no receive money from the taxpayer, that is reserved for the state owned broadcaster, CBC.

So my use of the term is not new to McGregor and neither is his annoyance at its use.

Neither however is it a new term in the Canadian media.

McGregor is a whiz of a reporter at using databases and few I know can touch him in that area of journalism. So I’m surprised that while he could say that Sun Media has used the term 39 times in the last few months, that he didn’t look and see what others have done.

Here’s what I found with a quick Google and library database search.

Paul Wells, Macleans, July 8, 2010.

“Now look at the last four governors general. Michaëlle Jean and especially Adrienne Clarkson were non-partisan but they seemed custom-built to set cultural conservatives’ teeth rattling: lifetime tenants of the state broadcaster, patrons of the taxpayer-subsidized arts, beloved within certain cliques (what Robert Fulford sometimes calls “Deepest Annex”) and not elsewhere.”

Norman Spector whose blog is now carried by the Globe and Mail has questioned my use of state broadcaster as well but he himself used it in a Vancouver Sun piece back on May 21, 2004. Spector was bashing then CBC boss Tony Burman for his decision not to report polls and telling show hosts not to discuss them either.

“If signs of thought-control at the state broadcaster are not sufficiently troubling, what can one say about the Supreme Court decision to uphold a law curbing your expression and mine during the election campaign?”

Others in the media more prone to writing odes to CBC than I have also used the term.

Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star, August 25, 2006.

“Heritage Minister Liza Frulla yesterday said the government had no intention of cutting back CBC’s funding while the strike is on – a suggestion that has been floated as a way to make sure that the state broadcaster isn’t using the lockout simply to save money.”

John Doyle describing Irish television in the Globe March 16, 2002.

“There are four TV channels. RTE (Radio Telefis Eireann) is the state broadcaster, like CBC or the BBC.”

And yes to answer the question of many, I do call BBC the state broadcaster in Britain. So does one of the world’s largest news services. Reuters, October 19, 2010.

(Reuters) – “The fee levied from British taxpayers to fund the BBC will be frozen for six years in an effort to restrain spending by the state broadcaster at a time when other parts of the public sector face stinging cuts.”

Montreal Gazette, October 5, 2005.

“Does it make sense for Canadians to spend $900 million a year to subsidize an official state broadcaster, in this era of media diversity?”

Colby Cosh in the National Post, April 30, 2004.

“In recent years the CBC has spent millions rebranding itself and trying to make us forget that it is, in fact, a state broadcaster.”

Rondi Adamson, Toronto Star,  October 2, 2005.

“But even if I weren’t the type to laugh when a friend of mine calls the CBC “an Al Qaeda cell,” I would wish for the privatization of our state broadcaster, on principle.
Why should Canadians be forced to pay for a state network?”

There are many more, that’s just a search via Google and Canada Newstand via the Ottawa Public Library. A friend with access to a stronger media database tells me there are hundreds of references to CBC as the state broadcaster.

Some people may not like the term because it evokes images of TASS, the Soviet Union’s official state television news outlet. That doesn’t mean that state broadcaster is not accurate. Which is more than I can say about my competitor’s descriptions of Sun News Network.

Categories: CBC

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24 comments

  1. William Campbell says:

    A “state” broadcaster is one that spews forth the propoganda of the government of the country which is not the same as a “state owned” broadcaster, which is owned by the state but whose message is not controlled by the state, as is the case with the CBC.
    Journalists using the term “state broadcaster” to describe the CBC are dead wrong and should perhaps more closely define what they wish to say before putting it into print.

  2. Gabby in QC says:

    “Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star, August 25, 2006″

    Shouldn’t that be August 25, 2005? The Conservatives came into power in Jan. 2006.

    In a way, I agree with McGregor the CBC shouldn’t be called the “state broadcaster” for the simple reason it doesn’t present the “state” POV.

    The “national” doesn’t cut it either, because it may not truly represent the various “nations” that constitute this vast land.

    The “opposition broadcaster” may be more accurate, since that’s the POV it usually promotes.

  3. hollinm says:

    I don’t understand McGregor’s dislike of the term state broadcaster. Virtually all Canadians know that the CBC is controlled by the government in power given it is a Crown corporation and the government appoints its Board of Directors and most importantly decides to give CBC $1 million+ of taxpayers’ money. How is that not a state broadcaster?
    Obviously McGregor doesn’t have enough to do with his time.
    Like in the United States where they are going to eliminate funding for NPR that is what should happen to funding of the CBC in Canada.

  4. Natasha says:

    It absolutely is accurate to describe the CBC as a state broadcaster for the very reasons you present here. It is NOT a public broadcaster or we would be given the choice of funding it through donations — just like PBS. Instead, all Canadians are forced to fund it through our extorted tax dollars.

  5. Mary HInes says:

    The only problem with the CBC – all the appointments have been made by the previous liberal Government – and that is why all news is slanted to the liberals and promoting their agenda. I refuse to ever watch the CBC news – to listen to Peter Mansbridge – you might as well classify it a liberals ads. As the example just shows, if they can’t bash the Conservative Government at least 2 or 3 times every night – they haven’t accomplished their purpose… if they can’t find a wafergate or an odagate – they make it up with cigarette package false stories….

  6. Ian says:

    State broadcaster is a fair term for the CBC when the bulk of its funding is from the Canadian state. The CBC and Friends of CBC are stuck with the term until the CBC starts to rely on non-state sources of funding.

  7. Jerry Prager says:

    Yeah, let’s have Rupert Murdoch own it like he owns most of the media in the world to promote his fascist agenda. Get rid of the CBC and get rid of liberal democracy, replace it with corporatism, that’s why RB Bennett created the CBC in the first place, so the Conservative Party could promote fascism at home and abroad.

  8. Observant says:

    Perhaps a more accurate description of the CBC is:

    …. “state-subsidized broadcaster”

    $1.2 Billion – annual state subsidy to CBC
    $120,000 – annual state subsidy per CBC employee
    $1,200 – annual state subsidy per CBC user.

  9. Johnny says:

    Mr. William Campbel you have to realize that the CBC is a “State Broadcaster!” Facts,the state (tax payers) owns and operates the CBC! Secondly the CBC broadcasts! Thus making it a “State Broadcaster!”

  10. canuck23 says:

    1. A public broadcaster has its independence from government guaranteed in law (broadcasting act). A “state” broadcaster does not.

    2. Canada’s Broadcasting Act calls CBC “the national public broadcaster”

    3. And what do you call it when the Sun has the Prime Minister’s former director of communications making editorial decisions?

  11. Jonas says:

    It appears that a few folks need to go back and review their high-school social studies notes on what is a public good.

    CBC is owned by the public and accessible to the public. It is a public broadcaster.

    PBS follows a model much closer to community broadcasting for its funding model.

    As well, a re-read (or rather an initial read) of the Canadian Broadcasting Act, and perhaps a read of McChesney’s The Political Economy of Media may help cure this myopia. It’s clear this discussion is based in an ideological vendetta against public goods, loosely cobbled around a few flimsy definitions for justification.

  12. Mark Wickens says:

    The government could resolve this question forever very easily: Sell the CBC.

  13. William Campbell says:

    The state, the gov’t of Canada owns the CBC but it does not tell the CBC what to report or what to show on their TV network. It is thus a state owned broadcaster. If it were directed by the government, then would you not think that the present government would be using it to distribute it’s message and censoring the message of the opposition. If they were wouldn’t there be a loud and thundering hue and cry from the public who own it.
    It is a state owned broadcaster in every sense of the word but it is not a state broadcaster dominated by the government in power.

  14. Rose says:

    CBC is a state broadcaster for the Liberal Party on our dime. We the taxpayer are forced to fund CBC which doesn’t represent the people of this nation but CBC does represent the progressive regressive liberal Canadians. CBC will not allow we the people to view their financial books, they won’t allow the AG to audit their books, they drag their feet on freedom of information request. The CBC holds we the people in utter contempt, they’ve become above the power of the state or the people.

  15. Andy W. says:

    PBS was getting all public funding once, and was called Public Bradcasting System. The CBC gets funding from the government and it is Public, not State, as it is the taxpayers money, which is the government..,,,,,which is PUBLIC!

  16. CBCWatch says:

    The CBC is a state broadcaster by definition because its mandate is set by the Broadcasting Act and it includes prescribed objectives that go beyond news and include promotion of the state… see for example:
    (l) the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as the national public broadcaster, should provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains;
    (m) the programming provided by the Corporation should
    (i) be predominantly and distinctively Canadian,
    (ii) reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions,
    (iii) actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,
    (iv) be in English and in French, reflecting the different needs and circumstances of each official language community, including the particular needs and circumstances of English and French linguistic minorities,
    (v) strive to be of equivalent quality in English and in French,
    (vi) contribute to shared national consciousness and identity,
    (vii) be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means and as resources become available for the purpose, and
    (viii) reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada;

  17. William Campbell says:

    Re CBC Watch
    And where does it say that it follows the wishes of the state as prescribed by the governing party. If it were a state broadcaster then it would be required to do so. It is owned by the state and that is as close as it comes to being a state broadcaster.

  18. Kim Kierans says:

    If CBC is a “state broadcaster” why do Stephen Harper and the Conservatives hate it so much? Maybe because it’s a “public broadcaster.”

  19. Craig Smith says:

    “In a way, I agree with McGregor the CBC shouldn’t be called the “state broadcaster” for the simple reason it doesn’t present the “state” POV.”

    Ah – but this is entirely dependent on who is in power at the time.

  20. Boris says:

    @canuck23

    >3. And what do you call it when the Sun has the Prime Minister’s former >director of communications making editorial decisions?

    I call it a private company choosing to hire the Prime Minister’s former director of communications as an editor. Nobody is forcing you to pay for the Sun, and they have no obligation to do anything other than try to sell newspapers. We are all forced to pay for the CBC, and as the state broadcaster they owe the public responsible and impartial coverage. Do you not see the difference?

    The CBC in its current incarnation stifles free discourse in (and on) the Canadian media. When I learned about “crowding out” in first year economics, the first concrete example that sprung to mind was the CBC.

    Only hardcore leftists consider CBC coverage even remotely impartial. For an increasingly rare example of balanced public broadcasting with class, see Charlie Rose. Notice that for billions per year we receive not one television program of the same calibre.

    The CBC has certainly contributed to my sense of national consciousness and identity. Even the worst intentions can have unintended consequences.

  21. Rick says:

    Using “State Broadcaster” is a brilliant move by SunTV. CBC lovers clearly despise the term, but they were only too happy to characterize SunTV as “Fox News North”.

    I agree the CBC is not the typical communist state broadcaster spouting utopian propaganda for governing party. They are merely the Canadian state broadcaster spouting big government propaganda for the Liberal party.

    The CBC does have a definite political persuasion toward big government solutions and against private enterprise. It naturally follows that with $1.2 B of taxpayer lucre per year, how could they be anything but big government proponents.

  22. Rick says:

    The way I see it: The CBC is not a broadcaster, they are simply a left wing political organization with only a broadcast license and $1.2B of taxpayer money.

    Perhaps they should be called: “state left wing political organization with only a broadcast license and $1.2B of taxpayer money”.

  23. UNFRAIL says:

    The CBC shows us the joke really is on us, the suckers who fund this liberal propaganda machine.The CBC is an aspect of a country that has yet to grow up.

  24. cbcExposed says:

    This subsidy is $1.1 billion and has to stop! Create a level playing field for all Canadian Media Companies and stop the madness! Does it make sense to subsidize one and not all?

    Linda
    http://www.cbcExposed.com

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