Not For Sale!

Here’s a little thought experiment. Imagine that the federal government decided to fully fund Classic Rock radio as well as the CBC. Picture the Minister of Canadian Heritage walking into Q107 in Toronto and announcing, “Good news everyone! You no longer have to sell ads to support your fine programming!” Do you think the general manager would shout, “Thank Goddo! Now we can just focus on the important work of playing “Magic Carpet Ride” ten times a day.” No, he wouldn’t. Because private radio isn’t in the business of providing (or creating) content; they’re in the business of selling ad space. The content is simply the bait to catch a bigger market share (29-49 year old white males) which they then sell to travel agents and beer companies. Despite the romantic image of Andy Travis standing up to “the man” and bringing great rock and roll to the good folks of Cincinnati, corporate radio isn’t Johnny Fever; it’s Herb Tarlek through and through!

Public broadcasters don’t “compete” with private for-profit media; they are in a completely different world. If corporate radio couldn’t sell ads they would simply stop broadcasting. Their business isn’t Led Zeppelin and Rush, it’s People have to stop thinking about corporate radio as this place where long-haired 60s rebels “fight the system” by playing “Crazy On You” over and over again. Like the biker is to organized crime, the gravel-voiced iconoclast is to private radio, just a brand, a logo you can put beside the Metal Mulisha decal on your truck. I’m not immune from wanting to crank Nazareth once in a while and letting my libido drift back to a time when running out of Body on Tap was my biggest worry. But I don’t delude myself; I know that I’m being manipulated and sold down the river to corporate interests. And yes, I feel dirty afterwards.

Don’t be tricked by the conservative lie that privatizing CBC is about freedom of choice and forcing the public broadcaster to compete in an open market. They wouldn’t dare say the same thing about the armed forces, the justice system or our parliamentary democracy, although they do say that education and health care are next on their list. The CBC is a public institution. It is about information not entertainment. It doesn’t sell ads because it doesn’t represent a demographic. Or rather, it strives to reflect one large demographic: Canada. There are things we pay for that benefit all citizens and the CBC is one of them. We have as much right to listen to a fully funded public broadcaster as we do to having a fair trial, fair elections, education for our children and health care when we’re sick. The CBC is not for sale!

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