Charles Pierce: If You Want High-Quality TV News, The Government Will Have to Pay For It

Liberals in the United States generally approve of Canada’s single-payer health-care system. In a Thursday post, Esquire political blogger Charles Pierce also endorsed what might be called single-payer news coverage. Pierce lauded the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s calm, measured, government-funded reporting on Wednesday’s shootings in and near the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and contrasted it with the hysterical and redundant coverage that advertiser-supported American news networks typically give to big stories.

“The CBC,” wrote Pierce, “is publicly owned. It runs commercial announcements, but not many, and only to supplement the money from its federal funding. [Anchor] Peter Mansbridge was telling us the news, not selling us Cialis, and that makes all the difference.” (FYI, the CBC is not a monopoly -- two major private Canadian TV networks, CTV and Global, have news divisions.)

From Pierce’s post (emphasis added):

When there stopped being news, the CBC News stopped covering the story and cut away to its regular daily programming…

Imagine that. There was no Political Powerhouse panel to explain how this might have an impact on the Harper government. There was no aging M.P. representing Yellowknife hollering that this never would have happened if they'd only have built the dang pipeline, and no young opposition M.P. speculating about how this never would have happened if they'd secured the border with Quebec the way he and his ghostwriter had suggested in his recent book. There were no former generals on the dodge, speculating sadly that the shootings may indicate "a new stage" in the war on terror. There was a deplorable lack of political opportunism, and a dreadful dearth of doomsaying…

It used to be that, when there were no further developments, news operations waited until there were. That was when the country looked to the three major networks, and their anchors, for the news, and these were anchors who were trained as reporters, not as television stars. But then there was cable, and CNN, and then the flood of cable news outlets, and news became entertainment, and a big story became an instant miniseries, with special-effects and theme music, and the point became keeping the story on the air, somehow, even if it meant speculating about airliner-gulping black holes, or Ted Cruz's yammering about epidemiology. And, of course, there is another great difference.

The CBC is a Canadian crown corporation. This means it is publicly owned. It runs commercial announcements, but not many, and only to supplement the money from its federal funding. [Anchor] Peter Mansbridge was telling us the news, not selling us Cialis, and that makes all the difference.

Culture/Society Canada War on Terrorism Cable Television Foreign/Non-English Media Canadian Media Journalistic Issues Congressional Black Caucus Charles Pierce


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