Stephen Harper and James Moore hold the murder weapon in the killing of CBC Dispatches

Last night, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore was on late-night TV justifying his government's $115-million cut to the CBC over three years.

Lots will be written about the impact, so I'm going to focus on one of the decisions: the elimination of the CBC Radio show Dispatches in June.

It's symptomatic of so much that is wrong with Moore and the Conservative government.

For those who aren't aware of Dispatches, it's a wonderful program that airs radio documentaries by superb journalists around the world, as well as some incredible interviews.

The host, West Vancouver–raised Rick MacInnes-Rae, sounds like an old friend, bringing his listeners to exotic locations to hear riveting stories.

Some of Canada's most outstanding journalists—including former Vancouver residents Laura Lynch, Adrienne Arsenault, and Jared Ferrie—tell compelling tales on the ground about real people, not officialdom, in a breathtaking array of different countries.

Dispatches taught me about the Nigerian film industry, known as Nollywood. This prompted me to encourage former movies editor Craig Takeuchi to get a story about Nollywood published in the Georgia Straight.

Dispatches offered me an alternative perspective on the widely held view that the Sudanese government is engaged in a campaign of genocide in Darfur.

Dispatches has provided me with an invaluable education about the Arab Spring, the pursuit of freedom in China, and the RCMP's efforts to crack down on Canadian companies engaged in bribery overseas.

In the Stephen Harper era, we shouldn't be surprised that the axe has come down on this fine program.

That's because the Harper government doesn't want us to be very well-educated about the rest of the world.

This prime minister prefers Canadians to be ignorant. The proof is in the elimination of the long-form census, the refusal to allow the media unfettered access to government scientists, and the ongoing campaign to deny the real impact of climate change.

In this era, the CBC can fill the airwaves with traffic, sports, weather, and stock-market reports—and the blustering Kevin O'Leary—just like every private broadcaster. But it had better not let people know what's happening in Africa, where the effects of climate change and Harper's decision to withdraw aid are having a pernicious impact.

I hope this isn't the end of Dispatches. Perhaps when Harper is defeated—and that day will eventually come—we will have an enlightened minister of Canadian heritage who recognizes that Canadians' curiosity doesn't stop at the border. And this minister will make a priority of bringing back a public-radio show focused on global issues.

Shame on Harper and shame on Moore for their role in keeping Canadians in the dark about the rest of the world. They can try to blame CBC executives for the death of Dispatches, but they're the ones who pulled the trigger.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

Comments (21) Add New Comment
Shockandawe
This is one of the best programs on CBC radio.
If i miss it, I download the podcast and listen to it when I have time.
I never miss the show, it's like Charlie says, a window to the world.
Now the His Tubbiness has axed the long gun registry, we will never know who really pulled the trigger will we or do we already know?
Harper, Moore..shame on you! You should know better than that. What's next Artic Fox news ?
You only have another three years to go and then I am sure you will be relegated to the Mulroney Hall of Fame.
Maybe Bev Oda can be your Kim Campbell ? Why not.. you've thrown her under the bus before.
Sad day in Canadian history
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DavidH
The war on knowledge continued with the decision to close the CBC's tiny African and South American bureaus. According to the "rationale" which I heard this morning, the quaint notion of bureaus is outdated thanks to the interwebs and the availability of cheap flights to everywhere.

Unfortunately, reporters who flock to the scene of a breaking story in a "far-flung" nation are little more than ignorant stooges (Talking Heads), completely at the mercy of governments or corporations to guide them. Only a reporter immersed in the local society, with extensive local contacts - a bureau chief, for example - would have a chance of getting the real story.

News organizations and TV networks in the U.S. have led this war on knowledge, and I guess Canada is (as usual) following the trend.
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Dianne
Shame on Harper and shame on Moore and shame on anyone who doesn't remember Moore's famous promises around the last election:

"We believe in the national public broadcaster," Heritage Minister James Moore said in a post-election victory interview with the CBC in May.
"We have said that we will maintain or increase support for the CBC. That is our platform and we have said that before and we will commit to that."

What promises/lies he can spew! Let's remember this well next election.
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Philippe
three percent. seriously, three percent and we're using guns as a metaphor?
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Don Armbruster
What hot air and hyperbole. Very dramatic, Charlie should be a writer for the CBC and then maybe they could survive on their own.

There is nothing about CBC that is educating the masses with any information that isn't readily available from the tsunami of information already on cable and the INTERNET.

Give it a rest. CBC is a informationally and culturally biased money hole and is a waste. The sooner it's cut off 100% the better.
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Anon Chan
If these shows can only survive off of taxpayer money then they aren't worth saving. It's a joke that a company the size of CBC requires over a billion dollars a year to stay a float yet when Jack Layton talked about subsidies during the last election, he only used terms like "big corporations" and "oil companies."
The worst part is that when a private company wants to bid to air something against the CBC, they are essentially bidding against a company that they pay for through tax dollars. If the CBC can't survive without such vast amounts of public funds, then they are proving they're a relic of the past only worth keeping for nostalgia.
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Lorne Mallin
Charlie, are you saying the government dictated cancelling Dispatches? It seems clear to me the government cut the CBC budget by $115 million, but CBC management decided where the axe would fall. I'm a devoted Dispatches listener and consider contributing a Kenya segment to the show a highlight of my career as journalist.
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Jack Spratt
They want people to watch our dear leader's "truth" TV - SunTV.

"When I finish with Canada, you won't recognize it".....
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Stuart H.
For crying out loud, it's only a ten percent cut in a bloated subsidy to CBC, spread over three years.
The Corporation decides how to use the funds, and how to raise additional funds.
I am a dedicated CBC listener, and yes, I love Dispatches, and many other great programmes they produce, but cut the fat at the top! Deliberately cutting popular programmes is a ploy on their behalf to get the public who DO like CBC to put pressure on the Government to reverse the cuts!
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DavidH
@Lorne Mallin

I think that's called "a distinction without a difference".

Choosing among a variety of bad options can only be blamed on the person who forced you to make the choice - not on the victim.
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Marcus
Harper didn't cut Dispatches, the CBC did.

All Harper did was cut the budget, CBC made the decisions on which programming to cut.

If you don't like the changes, tell the CBC.
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virgil hammer
the cbc stopped mattering 25 years ago, they are responsible for some of the worst television in western civilization. Blades of Battle, the wrath of grapes.
In the words of Mr. Hand Shut it Down
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5ZSDCvUwN8
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Barney Fife
"When I finish with Canada, you won't recognize it".....

You can have an early sneak preview: Just go SOUTH & cross the Canadian border...
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DavidH

"It wasn't MY fault that the old lady got hurt! All I did was grab her purse - and she decided to fight me for it!!"

- Typical mugger explaining why the victim is always responsible for their own injuries ... in the same way that CBC (not the mugger in the PMO) is responsible for the outcome of budget cuts.
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Dave Skander
Dispatches was one of the few CBC shows that made one say "Hmm" Thoughtful, questioning, with followups.

A classic best show.

Some Canadians don't get out of the country much. Certainly not Kirstine Stewart nor Stephen Harper. People who do appreciate Dispatches, people who don't, need Dispatches.

Should not have been cut, but expanded as it increased our thoughts.
The end was in sight when they cut the daytime repeat. (Mustn't have housewives' hour thinking)
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Don Kossick
Killing Despatches is an insult to every thinking Canadian. These Harperites do not want any medium that seeks to tell the truth, build international awareness, and shows the strength of communities in resistance. We are in a mad house with them in power - this cutting of the things that made a Canada that we could be proud of has to stop. Don Kossick - www.makingthelinksradio.ca.
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Bubbles the Chimp...
These apes in Ottawa are driving me bananas.. Who do these

hominids take us homo sapiens for?
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KiDDAA Magazine
Obviously the Harperites and Cons dont want Canadians to know whats happening in Africa or that Iran has no nukes, isnt building one and Israel has 200.
They dont want Canadians to know Obama and the US are against an Iran war, and are more worries about China and North Korea.
The days of media that tells lies are over with the Internet and media like UKs Guardian, Dyer of Georgia Straight and others.
CBC is one of the very few media that will show whats happening in Burma, Colombia or parts of rural Africa or even India. I dont watch CNN that only reports Israel and US wars. I want to see whats happening in the other 200 countries. CNN basically along with ABC lied to the US public about WMDs in Iraq, now they are doing the same about Iran.
Media has a duty to report the truth, not star wars, global strife or racial inharmony. We are all connected.
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Birdy
I love the irony of the gun metaphor being used to describe cuts to an organization that acquires its funding coercively, using the gun of the state to steal money from Canadians.

"Dispatches taught me about the Nigerian film industry"
If you want to learn about the Nigerian film industry, feel free to pay for it yourself or listen to some ads. Why the hell is it moral to point a gun at me and demand I either pay for your Nigerian film industry education or be kidnapped and put in a cage?
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Love(d) Dispaches
Love(d) Dispatches, hate Harper, but ... it was CBC that cut Dispatches, not Harper.

I've always thought CBC had it in for Dispatches, the way it's the only 1 hour show split across the top-of-the-hour break, making it feel like 2 half hour shows. That seemed like a slap at the show.

And yes, they should've ditched Cherry & O'Leary, who both get paid a shit-ton to appear on the public broadcaster yet decry "pinko commies". Why fund these buffoons? Will anyone stop watching hockey because Cherry isn't there? They might claim they will, but they won't.

On the up side, maybe we can get Rick MacInnes-Rae to replace Rick Cluff. Oh, one can only dream. The format is all wrong - weather, traffic, talk, traffic, weather, talk, news, weather, traffic, ad nauseam... At least Rick MacInnes-Rae wouldn't put up with Fred Lee for 2 seconds.
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