I went last night to the relaunch of the new Rabble.ca, a pretty swank bash held at the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto. The main attraction last night was a panel discussion with Maude Barlow, Murray Dobbin, Jessica Yee, and Anne Lagacé Dowson, and moderated by Duncan Cameron. It was a pretty good discussion.
I asked a question during the Q&A (I think I may have barged in front of someone else, in fact — sorry!) about the CBC. The Corp. is under tremendous pressure right now, feeling skittish about the Conservative government that writes the cheques that keep it going. During the panel discussion, the panelists had said that the best way to keep the mainstream media honest was to complain when you saw or heard something you think is inappropriate; Duncan Cameron said off-hand that you could probably find something to complain about Peter Mansbridge every night, and that statement stuck with me.
I wanted to know whether progressives can still count on the CBC. In other words, for progressive citizens and social movements, is the CBC in its current siege mentality good, bad, or indifferent? Murray Dobbin made this insight, which I think is worth paraphrasing: No matter how many conservative commentators it brings in, and no matter how many softball questions CBC reporters lob at conservative interview subjects, he said, it’s not going to save them from a Conservative agenda that fundamentally opposes the existence of a public broadcaster. They don’t hate the CBC because it’s an alleged den of socialists (although that doesn’t endear them) — they oppose it because they don’t believe there should be a publicly funded broadcaster in Canada. Period. So the CBC does itself no favours by trying to be friends with people who want it dismantled either way.
This came flooding back to me this morning when I turned on the radio and found that the CBC national morning news show, The Current, was being guest-hosted by arch-conservative David Frum, of all people. Former George W. Bush speechwriter, American Enterprise Institute fellow, beltway dweeb, inventor of the “axis of evil” David Frum. I listened for a while, and at first it made me angry. But on reflection, it just makes me sad. To watch the CBC futilely attempt to cozy up to people who actively campaign for its dissolution is just, well, pathetic.