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Friday, 18 April 2014

Why We Need a Strong Public Broadcaster: Radio Canada's Enquête

The knives were out last week at the CBC and Radio Canada: 657 jobs will be cut and $130 million slashed from the budget. This is just the latest in the campaign to bring down Canada's public broadcaster orchestrated by the Stephen Harper Conservatives. 

Many times in the past I've ranted about the cuts to serious programming on what used to be the music service.  About five years ago, both the CBC and its French-language twin Radio-Canada started dumbing down the music content in a (I think) mistaken attempt to make the service more "accessible."  The repercussions for the future of music in this country are grave, since the serious music programming both builds audiences and provides jobs for musicians. 

But, much as I value cultural programming, what is coming now seems to have enormous for the political life of the country.  This was brought home when the Charbonneau Commission in Quebec resumed its investigation this week into corruption in the construction industry and the financing of political parties. 

In 2009, the Radio Canada program Enquête began a series of documentaries about "organized crime bosses worked hand in glove with both the construction industry and government bureaucrats who awarded highly lucrative contracts." as the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression put it in explaining why  Enquête received its 2012 Tara Singh Hayer award.

Journalists in other media followed up, with the result that  we see now: a large official investigation into corruption that had been going on for a very long time.  What will happen next depends on many factor, but nothing would have happened had not the Enquête team started digging.

The CBC/Radio Can brass weren't talking last week about getting rid of programs like Enquête but the danger exists.  Why send out journalists to  uncover difficult news that is embarassing to the powers that be, anyway?  The temptation is to think: maybe it's better just to keep your head down.

 Let's hope that doesn't happen.  Join the protests.

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