Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CBC v Quebecor -- at least wrastling's fake

The ongoing between Quebecor Media and the CBC has gotten really intense this week, if the Toronto Star is to be believed.   I agree that the CBC has some issues with transparency and that it would be wise to answer at least some, if not necessarily all, of the Freedom of Information requests that have been filed on how the state broadcaster spends our money.    Short of that I think it may be time to end the grant, go to a licensing model (probably $16 per month per address using TV to make it revenue neutral)  and have a truly accountable board of directors, not one that only answers to the Prime Minister.

But the question I would ask Sun News Network and the Sun Newspapers is -- how do you have a conscience waving the Canadian flag and claiming to want to "save" (read:  kill) the CBC, knowing you're owned by group that has many, many people on staff who have long promoted the breakup of Canada (TVA, Journal de Montréal, etc)?    Seriously, this is a contradiction I have never been able to figure out.   (M. Péladeau can explain this away by claiming that he doesn't actually support separatists but wouldn't be surprised if Québec became independent -- but the fact is, you either fight for Canada or you really don't care about this country's future.)

Setting that aside, frankly, I can barely count the days when SNN forgoes its terrestrial transmitters in Toronto, Hamilton and London at the end of the month -- it left Ottawa at the end of the summer.   Then SNN will be left only as a Category B service, which means it has to negotiate with every cable and satellite company individually for carriage, rather than Category A which gets mandatory pickup on digital and pricing bargained with the entire block of cable companies in Canada en masse.   So SNN now will have to compete on its own, often on a pick and pay basis, and if some industry insiders are to be believed the network is already hemorrhaging money from the profitable Quebecor properties.    Those cable and satellite companies that do carry "Project Levant-istan" are pushing it way up the dial, to Channel 140 and beyond (around where the irrelevant basic cable channels usually begin.   Even the ethically vapid Fox News gets a higher priority, which tells me a lot).  Back when the local Toronto channel was known as Toronto One, it bled so much money from Craig Media that the once successful family had to sell out its entire mini-network of stations.

Maybe Quebecor has forgotten that the Toronto Sun long ago promised that if it ever went belly-up, it would turn over its entire archive, including those of its predecessor the Toronto Telegram (1876-1971), to York University.   (Actually, YorkU already has the ToTel archive but Sun uses it on exclusive license).    Pretty nice piece of history to lose, just because you have issues with an opposing network.

And of course, Quebecor will not report that it takes about $4 million in federal subsidies every year to offset the cost of delivering its periodicals.   Not to mention it threatened to sue the fed's Media Fund when it refused to subsidize the production of Star Académie, perhaps because on the show (a cross between Idol and Big Brother) nearly all the contestants every year are very proud separatists (when did you ever see a Canadian flag flown on the show -- they only fly the Québec flag on that show even though it is broadcast across Canada).    For what it is worth, I only watched the final a few years back because the special guest was James Taylor, who surprisingly (for a guy born in western Massachusetts and grew up in North Carolina) speaks very fluent French.

Yes, I agree the CBC should be more accountable.   The two ombudsmen (French and English) should be given more oversight in that regard also.    And since it is our state broadcaster, I also think separatists in the midst should of course be booted out.

But it's high time Quebecor's reporters and management were held to the same standard.   I would not be the least bit surprised if some of those on the other side acting so moral and mighty have skeletons in their own closet.   It would be even bolder for the CBC to air it as their top story on the nightly news, provided the facts were irrefutable.    That would be something worth watching.

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