Vancouver's Reimagine CBC Celebration takes a creative approach to helping the public broadcaster
The news was grim.
The federal budget announcement on March 29 revealed that $115 million in funding to the CBC would be cut over three years.
Then on April 10, the CBC announced what cost-cutting measures it would implement, including cuts to news, TV, radio, sports, and children's programming.
Tara Mahoney of the Gen Why Media Project spoke with the Georgia Straight by phone about the Reimagine CBC campaign, which Canadians can participate in to do something about the situation—in an innovative way.
Reimagine CBC, she explained, is a collaboration between the Vancouver-based grassroots advocacy organization Open Media and the Canadian Media Guild (the trade union representing CBC staff).
Mahoney explained that the non-partisan organization Friends of CBC has long been conducting numerous campaigns for people to take action through protest and lobbying. In anticipation of the federal budget cuts, Mahoney said that Reimagine CBC started to consider what approach to take to involve Canadians.
"When they were talking about what kind of campaign they wanted to do, they didn't want to do that same narrative of, like…'Sign this petition', they wanted do something a bit more generative, and creative, and positive. So they came up with the Reimagine idea which positions the public as more like 'We want your ideas' rather than 'Let's fight' kind of thing."
Reimagine CBC joined up with the advocacy organization Leadnow and the community-building project Gen Why.
The event boasts:
- an intercultural performance;
- stories from blogger and photographer Christine McAvoy, writer Ivan E. Coyote, and author Wade Davis;
- a casual, living-room-style conversation (complete with couches) featuring documentary filmmaker Nettie Wild, SFU communications professor Kathleen Cross, CBC Radio 3 director Steve Pratt, Shit Harper Did's Sean Devlin, and cultural producer Jarrett Martineau, moderated by Beat Board's Mike Sheehan;
- a performance by a super group composed of indie musicians Dan Mangan, Aidan Knight, Hannah Epperson, and The Zola's Zachary Gray.
Mahoney said it was somewhat tricky getting people to participate due to sensitive issues about the national public broadcaster.
"People who love the CBC, they're careful how they talk about it because they don't want to see it go away and they don't want to be critical of it, even though it has things that can be improved. But at the same time, it's super controversial because, depending on where the politics are, it's sort of this hybrid model of publicly funded yet has commercial aspects to it, and so people who are of the free-market mentality are like 'That's not fair' and then people who are of the public media position are like, 'Well, it shouldn't have any commercials at all.' So there are all these conflicting views."
However, those that did say yes were willing to do so without any payment.
"Dan Mangan was just like, 'The CBC is responsible for getting my career going, pretty much, in a lot of ways'," Mahoney said. "I think people like him and Aidan Knight and a lot of Canadian artists feel indebted to the CBC. So they were more than happy to participate, which is so great."
For those that can't attend, it will be streamed online at the Reimagine CBC website, as well as on the Toronto Star, The Mark, Rabble, and The Tyee websites.
Mahoney said Lead Now will be organizing small meetups across country to engage citizens in casual conversations and discussions about the CBC. A Toronto event will be organized at the end of the campaign in September.
"We'll be collecting all that information and the culmination of the campaign will be a report that Open Media writes and delivers to the CBC and the CRTC when their licence comes up for review in the fall," Mahoney explained.
As for why people should get involved and participate in the campaign, Mahoney said it boils down to the fact that the CBC is truly ours.
"The biggest thing I've come to really appreciate about the CBC is…as a public media institution that's funded by taxpayers, it belongs to us. So that idea that as citizens, this is our outlet. So you can't say that about the commercial outlets and so therefore we can have a say and this event and this campaign is a citizen-driven campaign designed for people to do that. So I think the biggest message is participate in that conversation, but then also, understand how important public media is. Because it's funded by the taxpayers and it's not at the mercy of the market, it can cover stories that aren't popular to cover, that aren't necessarily cheerleading the political power or commercial power or whatever it is. It really is, therefore, the people."
You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.