2012 Villain: CBC Funding Cuts
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2012 Villain: CBC Funding Cuts

Nominated for: weakening one of our national institutions.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

We invite them into our lives every day. They entertain us, they know where we come from, they tell us the truth even if it’s hard to hear, and we always feel as if they have our best interests in mind.

So when the journalists at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation were hit with a devastating funding cut, it felt like an attack on some close friends.

The biggest blow, perhaps, was foreign current affairs program Dispatches, with host Rick MacInnes-Rae. It got the axe this April when Kristine Stewart, executive vice-president of English services, announced a list of changes to CBC Radio, CBC Television, and Radio-Canada as a result of the 2012 federal budget.

That budget shrank support for our public broadcaster by 10 per cent, or $115 million over three years. Other casualties from the cuts were Connect with Mark Kelley, radio dramas, news bureaus in Africa and South America, 175 hours of original TV programs, and 256 jobs (650 over three years). CBC Sports turned into a winter seasonal program and, for the first time since 1974, ads will start running on CBC Radio 2 and Espace musique.

These blows hit the mother corps especially hard since they came just over a year into the CBC’s ambitious five-year plan, emphasizing local programming, specialty channels, and more online services. At that time, Canada already spent far less than other developed nations on our public broadcaster. Even the conservatively inclined National Post protested, writing that the CBC is crucial in supporting “cultural nationalism, the creation and sustenance of a coast-to-coast identity, support for homegrown artists and intellectuals” and “good old-fashioned intellectual elitism.” With another cutback from the CRTC in October to the tune of $28.4 million, those noble goals will undoubtedly suffer.

While some see this as a chance for the CBC to reimagine its identity, Stewart herself told the Globe and Mail that a tighter budget means eliminating more experimental programs and continuing with whatever is safest (read: boring).

“It’s people that produce content, not machines,” said the president of the Canadian Media Guild CBC branch, Marc-Philippe Laurin. Job cuts, more ad space, and less risky programming means fewer people, fewer ideas, and fewer voices broadcasting to fewer eyes and ears across the country.

“Early on I asked our contributors to write like drunken poets. To experiment. Leave in the stuff conventional news leaves out. The personal stuff. The questions. Let the listener hear you thinking out loud,” MacInnes-Rae said in his final send-off. On Dispatches, it was the people that made it excellent storytelling. And it’s our friends on the air we’ll miss in 2013.

See the other nominees in the Culture and Sports category:

Margaret Wente

Plagiarism, and laziness of epic proportions.
  NHL Lockout

Taking hockey away from us.
  NFB Funding Cuts

Forcing the Mediatheque closure.

John Farrell

Checking out even before he left the team.
  Factory Theatre Board of Directors

Losing their community’s trust.
  Sedwick Hill

For the untimely death of the Toronto Underground Cinema.

Cast Your Ballot