I am shocked, shocked to find Conservatives at the CBC:
A member of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's board of directors has resigned from his position to seek the presidency of the Conservative Party of Canada, The Tyee has learned.
Brian Mitchell, a Montreal lawyer, confirmed that he resigned Sunday after eight years on the government-funded broadcaster's board of directors and its pension board of trustees.
So yes there are Conservatives at the state broadcaster, they just have nothing to do with broadcasting. But you knew that already. We had a Conservative government for nearly a decade and that government dutifully appointed loyal party hacks to the board of directors. So far as anyone can tell it didn't have the slightest impact on either the quality or political slant of the broadcaster. Yet through out that decade we were told repeatedly that the Harper Tories were undermining the independence of the Mother Corp. That myth persists well into the neo-Trudeaupian era:
Polling conducted for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting by Nik Nanos last September showed 49 per cent of Canadians feel the prime minister's ability to appoint members to its board gives the government too much influence over the CBC.
But what's the alternative? Allowing a crown corporation to act independently of any parliamentary oversight is a betrayal of responsible government. Those receiving government funds - or operating under the special grant or leave of the government - must be under democratic control. A state sponsored entity beyond the control of elected officials is by definition a rogue agency. In other words if you think the CBC is broadcasting Toronto centric, self indulgent leftist twaddle, imagine what they'll get up to without Parliament at least pretending to monitor their operations. That doesn't even get into the featherbedding and cronyism for which the Mother Corp is notorious.
What the CBC's few remaining advocates miss is the essential contradiction in the idea of state sponsored journalism. The great value of journalism is its ability to hold powerful institutions in our society to account. When the most powerful element in any society - the government - is paying for journalism there is always an inherent threat to the independence of the journalists.
As a result the history of state sponsored journalism through out the world has swung back and forth between two extremes: Toadying and exaggerated hostility. Either the state journalists become flacks for their political masters, or they acquire the manner and status of tenured professors allowed to indulge their personal views. In Canada the latter attitude has mostly prevailed. The CBC's journalists are able to engage in their own private wars because no federal government since Pearson has had the guts to rein them in. Woe betide the MP or cabinet minister who dares question the impartiality or accuracy of the Mother Corp's minions. The Choir Invisible of the Canadian Left will scream censorship and portrayal their colleagues in the CBC as latter day Galileos.
Private journalists are ultimately accountable not to their editors or publishers but to their readers and viewers. If they produce journalism no one wants to read, that journalism dies. This is why so many journalists are fond of state broadcasting. So long as their political views align with those of their employer, the readers and viewers are irrelevant. Whether the CBC is watched by millions or dozens it receives exactly the same sum from the federal coffers. They can write or broadcast ludicrous and even defamatory pieces against their personal enemies with few repercussions. Years ago The Rebel's Brian Lilley wrote a book detailing some of the CBC's abuses of journalistic power. It contained only a small fraction of the known instances where the Mother Corp has played fast and loose with the facts.
This leads to a powerful but often overlooked truth: Public broadcasting is an essentially Orwellian phrase. It means the exact opposite of what the words are suppose to mean. It is not journalism dedicated to the public interest but journalism expressly designed to defy desires of the public as expressed by the workings of the market. It is state journalists twisting the news to met their personal agendas - far more than large corporations - that present the true threat to good journalism in modern Canada.