Ian Morrison calls for CBC privatization

That’s exactly what he did – without even knowing it (or himself, apparently) – in ritually and reflexively decrying the fait-accompli revamp of CBC Radio 2.

“It’s good for CBC radio to be playing a variety of musical genres,” [Morrison] said, “but this is a radical change. It is moving away from something only the public broadcaster can do to something many private broadcasters already do.[”]

This has been the Privates’ and the Conservatives’ argument all along: The minute the CBC does something private broadcasters are doing, it isn’t a public broadcaster anymore and is no better than or different from the privates.

I am not clear why nobody calls bullshit on this line of reasoning. If taken to its logical end, all the Privates would have to do is duplicate every program category and format on CBC Television, then argue for its closure. The Privates can copy the CBC as much as they want and use it as a cudgel to attack the CBC for its lack of distinctiveness. When the CBC copies the Privates, the same argument applies.

It would be easy for CTV, Corus, and CanWest to conspire to air enough CBC-style programming to make a plausible case to a Conservative majority government to completely defund CBC Television. Remember: Under Kim Campbell’s régime, it was explicitly bruited that only CBC Radio and Newsworld were distinctive, an implicit declaration that only those two should exist. (By that reasoning, Newsworld should have been shut down the day CTV Newsnet went to air.)

This line of argumentation reaches ad absurdum status quickly, as there really are not that many possible television genres to choose from; over time, CBC must inevitably overlap the Privates and vice-versa.

At any rate, Morrison’s specific charge is false: While Moses does run a classical station, there are no private broadcasters running CBC Radio 2’s genres of music, previous, current, or upcoming.

The Radio Two makeover is also a departure from CBC’s mandate as defined by the Canadian Broadcasting Act, said Mr. Morrison.

“The Canadian public broadcaster has a responsibility to transmit world classical culture to new generations of Canadians,” he said. “They are substantially moving away from that responsibility. They falsely assume that world classical culture is not something that can be marketed to appeal to younger audiences.”

“World classical culture”? Where are my three-hours-a-weeknight shows that air nothing but tabla and Chinese pentatonics?

Anyway, Morrison is quite wrong about the requirements of the Broadcasting Act, which state that “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.” There is no mention of “world culture.” CBC is not required by statute to be some kind of cross-Canada WOMAD Festival.

On this count, Stursburg is right: You can’t very well be a public broadcaster without being popular. A steady diet of “world culture” didn’t even work for Bravo, let alone the Corpse.

With Friends like these, who needs frenetories?