My perspective -
The handwriting is on the wall for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Unless there is a public outcry, this federal government will soon be making more major financial cuts to the public broadcaster, which will affect regional programming for the CBC in this province.
While some will argue the billions of dollars spent on the public broadcaster is a total waste of money, one only has to look what broadcasting and the journalism that goes with it would be like in this country if it (the CBC) were to simply disappear.
There are many challenges facing the CBC, especially in television, but radio, too, will have its share of challenges as it attempts to do more with less. But can the CBC really do more with less? Can it survive as we know it?
The public broadcaster must find a way to acquire more Canadian content. It must also find a way to be more relevant and regional. If the Harper government is intent on continuing to cut the funding to the CBC it must also bring with it a new mandate. Trying to do more with less is an impossible task. The watering down of the CBC should end and that message must be delivered to the federal government and soon.
It's my perspective the CBC should receive the necessary funding to upgrade its regional content. We should not allow the federal government to downgrade the public broadcaster to the point it becomes merely a Toronto national programmer. Some will argue it's already starting to become just that.
The Harper government should be told in no uncertain terms that both CBC radio and television are vital to our regional culture and worth the investment.
But how do you create a CBC that provides value for the funding it gets from Ottawa and how do we see that value in local programming?
First of all, the regional CBC needs to be creative.
There was a time when the local CBC station in Grand Falls-Windsor was local for more than just the Morning Show. Town council meetings were covered on a regular basis and regional reporters had a wide range of responsibility to bring the evening news from outside of the St. John's area. Remember Larry Hudson.
The CBC needs to get out of St. John's and into rural Newfoundland. Programs like Land and Sea need to be expanded and not cut back. The elimination of Living Newfoundland and the entire production crew is an example of cuts to local programming that need to be addressed. While the flagship program, Here and Now, is expanding its time slot, the staff required to actually do the show is shrinking. How will that work?
The CBC needs to be part of the community. It cannot and must not be allowed to become a St. John's radio station. Its employees need to be given a renewed sense of responsibility and frankly there needs to be more of them not less.
Just recently we learned that CBC positions in Grand Falls-Windsor would be phased out and that local personalities would be retiring and not replaced. What message is that sending you? This immediately prompted the age-old debate as to whether Gander would be the beneficiary of possible new hires leaving Grand Falls-Windsor to suffer.
In typical Grand Falls-Windsor fashion there was no big public outcry. They were just retirements. Think again as there is a much bigger picture.
The financial crunch facing the CBC is much bigger in scope than many of us realize. Anything is possible now that tough decisions have to be made. Can you imagine a Morning Show coming out of St. John's? God forbid Mayor Dennis O'Keefe would then be a household name in these parts.
The fact is the CBC is under the gun and the trigger could be pulled again any day now by the Harper Conservatives. Next time, it's quite possible central Newfoundland could lose both Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor stations. If talks of privatizing the CBC bear any fruit it will be a sad day for not only Canada but the region as well.
The time has also come to make the CBC competitive. Yes, it can be improved. Improvements can and should be made to enhance local programming. But this region needs an expanded service with better news coverage and a professional flow of programming to the consumer. Any attempts to downgrade regional CBC coverage should be met with fierce resistance.
Our elected representatives need to be the ones to fire the first volley for an improved CBC in our region. A public meeting might be a good start. Better still, why not ask the head of the CBC to address the local Chamber of Commerce to explain the long term plan.
The time has come to not only ring the alarm bell but to put out the fire. Let's send a message that we need the CBC to be a strong regional force. Failure to act now will see us subjected to a Toronto newscast with a St. John's flavor. That may sound good if you were looking for an ice cream sundae, but when it comes to public broadcasting in this region we deserve much more.
You can make a difference - but that's only if you care.
(Roger Pike writes from Grand Falls-Windsor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)