Throwback Thursday: Radio Who?

"If the current state of affairs is any indication our democracy is in need of a larger, more animated arena for the discussion of public policy."

Articles from the first 12 print issues of The Overcast were never published online. Our Throwback Thursday series will publish one article every Thursday from our first year, to give them an eternal home online. This story is from our July 2014 issue, and the question is more relevant than ever.

The CBC’s days appear numbered.

The gutting of Canada’s national public broadcaster started by the Chretien government will shortly be concluded by Harper’s. Conservative Party fundraising literature muses gleefully about its demise. The end will have been hastened by the mismanagement of a series of CBC’s senior executives and a Board made up of political cronies. A programming philosophy of broadening appeal by dumbing-down content as opposed to cultivating an audience with challenging fare has, with the exception of morning radio, backfired.

A rump will remain, likely a radio and web news service headquartered in Toronto. There will be a reporter stationed in St. John’s, perhaps an “Atlantic”radio morning show out of Halifax.

The Canada of today does not much care for the CBC. There’s been little outcry over cuts to the organization. Heavy with staff, managers, and plant, devoid of creators, it’s seen as a billion-dollar-ayear-boondoggle. The ruling party stands against the “nation building” function of a public broadcaster because it smacks of statism and has for years asserted the achingly middlebrow CBC is somehow a mouthpiece for the “elites” it so loathes, fears, and maligns.

But there remains an appetite for public broadcasting in Newfoundland and Labrador and, given new technology, a more affordable means of having our own “national” service. Is it time for a publically-funded, digital voice of Newfoundland and Labrador?

Our living arts, those other than artifact, need the platform. If the current state of affairs is any indication our democracy is in need of a larger, more animated arena for the discussion of public policy.

New means of content distribution have advantages other than economic. They make on-demand programming readily available and they’re borderless. A digital VONL would tell Newfoundland and Labrador’s story to the world. Reaching out, giving this place voice is essential in attracting both investment and badly needed bodies. No one else, no one in Ottawa certainly, is going to do that for us. We are Whoville, if we don’t make some noise we’ll end up boiled in Bezzle-Nut oil.

cover of July
This story is from our July 2014 issue, and the question is more relevant than ever.

We have the benefit of learning from Canada’s mistakes. We know public broadcasting demands stable funding. Content has a cost. We know it fails when it tries to compete with private broadcasters. We know that chasing an audience by imitating existing commercial content means you’ll never catch them.

Newfoundland and Labrador cherishes (though does not like to pay for) its arts and culture as much as contemporary Canada seems to disdain its. Against the odds we remain a distinct society within the Confederation.

That Canada is willing to let an institution wither and die is no reason we should follow our colonial masters into the dark. Were “Land and Sea,” “All Around The Circle,” “The Wonderful Grand Brand,” “The Fisheries Broadcast” important enough to the culture that we must replace their source? Assimilation and the silencing of this place is a legitimate answer to that question. If it is the wrong one then this exciting opportunity might be a necessity.

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