The Mother Corporation, the CBC, has been under fire lately. It has been under fire in one way or another since its difficult birth 75 years ago, in 1936.
But think? Where would we be without the constancy and mostly mild-mannered, but persistent CBC over the past three quarters of a decade?
Much less better off, I contend.
Nonetheless, many Canadians still want to see it axed, while millions more would like to see it better funded to do more of what its does so well.
Today, as I write, CBC news staffers are having a great time dipping into the nostalgia pool – and that’s more of an ocean at our national public broadcasting corporation.
It’s usually deep, humorous, bold, sometimes warm, yet often chilly – but always aggressive, bracing and challenging.
Doubtless, the CBC costs a lot of taxpayer cash to operate.
As an individual who grew up with the everyday presence of a national public broadcaster, the BBC, I have to say the CBC, while it demonstrates some differences, is every bit as aware of the peculiar nuances that constitute being Canadian as is the BBC in understanding its own diverse and not-always-supportive consumer base.
That’s no mean feat in a huge country like Canada, with a largely immigrant-grounded multi-cultural population, two official languages (with all the baggage that goes with that,) First Nations peoples, a host of special interests and, of course, a government which, depending on the will of the country – right, middle or left – is never totally ambivalent about the nature and role of our national broadcaster.
I think the CBC, while still a target of the ire of many segments of our society – often at the same time – keeps a whole lot of balls in the air yet remains a stable, fascinating, totally dependable and trustworthy entity.
I believe it works extremely hard to represent our history, our social background, our conscience, future, foibles and many failures, often with an attitude and a confident aggressiveness, linked with considerable sympathy. It does a good job of showing our essence.
In doing this, the familiar faces of the CBC frequently stir controversy while they ask the questions most of us want asked, not always in the mild and polite guise of the “every day Canadian” the world seems to perceive.
The CBC’s mandate permits it to probe into the seamier side of Canadian life. It manages constantly to scratch under the often-thin skin of some of our more pompous and arrogant politicians.
It peels the make-up from our “personalities” often flashing their true faces not always in a way they appreciate.
It allows us to see behind the projected images of our favourite sports figures, entertainers, writers, artists.
I think that is the principal things I like most about the CBC – its scope of enquiry, its unlimited curiosity about all things Canadian, all things affecting Canadians and indeed our whole world.
Yes, it does often irk me, just as much as others, with its capacity to place spin on its broadcast matter.
But with its depth of representation, its persistence and humour, I believe it to be an organization that deserves our support, that rarely really goes over the top while it brings us is own unique view the world, daily, in a digestible way.
Could any one of us sit down and explain Canada, Canadians and our place in the world, for more than a couple of minutes, without someone interrupting to declare “wait a minute, I don’t agree with that!”
The CBC doesn’t claim it can do that – well, maybe the exception is the CBC News Panel and Rex Murphy, who do tend to stand out as self-proclaimed arbiters of Canadian opinion – but again, they are personalities injected for their controversial views and we never necessarily have to agree.
So whether it may appear to some to be a small “l” liberal, left-wing-leaning, sometimes politically incorrect defender of all things middle class, the CBC can be depended upon to either confound, enrage, cheer, encourage, criticize, inform (or mis-inform) Canadians in a way that doesn’t apply across the board.
Its Canadian “content” always manages to trigger reaction and over-reaction.
So, from Rex, Don Cherry, Alex Trebek, Barbara Frum, Peter Mansbridge, Percy Saltzman, David Suzuki – the vast array of talented individuals on tv and radio who have led opinion and discussion, have investigated and illustrated the myriad of Canadian mores over the past 75 years – I have a sense of applause.
They’ve updated us on politics, sports, education, health, the economy and the world of entertainment, reality and info-tainment for decades.
They took us to Moscow for the hockey showdown in ’72, to the moon in ’69, even over the moon at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
They showed us the warts, the G20 riots and the Vancouver and Montreal hockey riots, they guided us through a host of provincial and federal elections, as well as everybody’s favourite subject, the weather, since November 2, 1936.
I watch it every day, virtually without fail.