Roxanne Tellier: Death By A Thousand Cuts – Why You Should Care About the CBC

Roxanne DBAWIS

In 1922, the first licences for private commercial radio stations appeared. Then, as now, Canadians were more likely to listen to American stations than Canadian. By 1928, a royal commission (The Aird Commission) was established by the federal government, to advise on the future of broadcasting in Canada. It recommended the creation of a nationally owned company to operate a coast-to-coast broadcast system. In 1932 the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC) was born.



Love it or hate it, the CBC has been a presence in the life of Canadians ever since. In 1952, the first television shows were launched on the first CBC and Radio-Canada television stations, and CBLT-Toronto and CBFT-Montreal began broadcasting. By 1955, CBC/Radio-Canada’s television services were available to 66 per cent of the Canadian population. Believe it or not, it was not until 1966 that CBC TV shows were available in colour.

In 1972, Canada made history by launching the world’s first national domestic satellite, the Anik A1. For the first time in history, CBC/Radio-Canada was able to beam television signals to the Canadian North.

anik a1

In 1970, the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television Commission) established a minimum 60 per cent Canadian content rule for public and private television broadcasters in Canada, and a minimum 30 per cent content for AM radio.

The content rules had an enormous impact on the entertainment industry. Writers, actors, musicians, journalists and comedians suddenly had unprecedented access to an enormous national audience. Where once our talent had no choice but to head to the United States to seek their fame and fortune, they now had the opportunity to succeed in their own country.

stewis vs flag

Grassroots programs sprang up across Canada that made stars of local performers and musicians from across the land. Since many towns and cities had access to few channels in the 50’s and 60’s (we had two stations in Edmonton when I was a kid,) the CBC was often the only television channel available.

friendly giant

Children enjoyed series like Maggie Muggins, Mr. DressUp, The Friendly Giant and Chez Helene. We were the first generation to be mesmerized by entertainment in the home, and the messages we received were gentle, quiet and highly moral. Our parents watched the Tommy Hunter Show, The Pig and Whistle, Sing Along Jubilee, Wayne and Shuster, and the lovely Juliette.   (friendly giant.jpg) (wayne and shuster.jpg)

wayne and shuster

No envelopes were pushed in CBC programming – what we viewed was suitable for all viewers and all ages.

By the 70’s, television was getting a little edgier (by CBC standards.) My uncle, Dennis Donovan, wrote a controversial teleplay drama called “Laurie,” that aired September 1, 1970. It was about a high school teacher having an affair with a 13 year old student. At that time, the age of consent was 14, and the 1962 Criminal Code mandated a life sentence and whipping for the adult if convicted. The episode was a chilling look at the terror and confusion of the teacher in prison, and questioned a prison system that meted out cruel and unusual treatment of sexual offenders.

Uncle Dennis went on to help create and write the popular family-adventure series, “The Beachcombers.” Several members of my family have written for both CBC radio and television over the years.


Through the 80’s and 90’s, the number of private and specialty channels, later joined by  “general interest” pay TV channels, and “specialty” pay channels, created an environment of unprecedented program choice. When the Internet grabbed hold of digital media, the CBC had to reposition, and by 2009, found itself as “an integrated content provider that leverages television, radio and the Web.”


hockey night in canadaCBC radio and television had and continues to have a place in the hearts of Canadians. However, with more choice, and a changing audience, decades of overly politically correct public stances have marginalized new viewer growth, and the loss of the lynchpin “Hockey Night In Canada” rights to Rogers Media have hacked away at their advertising base. Poor ratings for the primetime line-up have also significantly reduced revenue.

Beginning in 2012, the Harper government gradually reduced CBC’s funding by $115 million, or about 10 per cent of its budget. Today, CBC President Hubert Lacroix told members of the Canadian Media Guild (CMG), that the network will cut another 400 jobs by March of 2015, , as part of an ongoing campaign to reduce costs. 657 were laid off this year, and Lacroix reportedly said there could be yet another 400 jobs

“Mr. Lacroix, a career business lawyer, was appointed head of the CBC by the federal Conservatives in 2007. His reign at this highly important institution for culture and media has amounted to little more than enabler for the steady, quiet dismantling of Radio-Canada.”

Here’s a blow-by-blow recap of the Lacroix/CMG meeting  from  CMG’s David Gutnick

CBC government funding has been plummeting in the last few years, and has not been this low in over 25 years, despite the Conservative government’s promise to maintain or increase CBC funding, a promise broken as soon as Harper won a majority.

cbc promise 2011

In actual fact, Harper buried a provision within the Omnibus Budget Bill of 2013 that would give the government complete control over the wages and working conditions of all CBC staff. In effect, the government would make the voice of the people, the voice of the government.

The CBC, the country’s national broadcaster, must operate at arm’s length from government, or risk becoming the voice of propaganda.  “Even the perception that CBC journalists are pulling punches, or program decisions are being made in favour of political masters, would be disastrous for the CBC and Canadian democracy.”


After decades of budget and personnel cuts, and years of political hostility and public apathy, the CBC is being killed by a sadistic ritual – “the death by a thousand cuts.” Each time the Corporation has been forced to get rid of workers, those left behind have had to take on more work, and longer hours, in order to still provide a decent service. Rather than creating jobs for the young, talented and enthusiastic, the CBC hires contracted specialists, who receive no benefits or job security.

LindenLinden MacIntyre has a wonderful article in Huffington Post on, “Why I Left the CBC and its Toxic Atmosphere,” that beautifully sums up what journalism in Canada has sunk to in the last few years, and why.

The CBC shuttered its Toronto costume department and sold off its stock to a private wardrobe company in 2007, with barely a blink from the public. Radio-Canada will not go down so easy. An open letter from Jean-Léon Rondeau (President of the Conseil québécois du théâtre), co-signed by 400 artists and cultural workers on the announced closing of the Montreal CBC Radio Canada wardrobe department:

Thousands March to Protest CBC/Radio-Canada Cuts (in Montreal, Matane, Sept-Îles, Quebec City, Saguenay, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Rimouski, Gaspé and Moncton, N.B.)

1117 city manifCBC

This letter from Marie Wadden, award-winning broadcaster and producer, on the death of creativity within the CBC: “It’s easy to blame the Harper government for what’s happening now, but where are the voices of dissent from the Liberals and New Democrats?”

I read Seth Godin’s Blog every morning. His musings cover all aspects of media and business. (For the link and to subscribe, click days ago he posted this:

seth godin

“The Tragedy of the Last 10%”

In a competitive market, if you do the work to lower your price by 10%, your market share grows.

If you dig in deep, analyze, reengineer and make thoughtful changes, you can lower your price another 10%. This leads to an even bigger jump in market share.

The third time (or maybe the fourth, or even before then), you only achieve a 10% savings by cutting safety, or quality, or reliability. You cut corners, certainly.

The last 10% costs your workers the chance to make a decent living, it costs your suppliers the opportunity to treat their people with dignity, and it costs you your reputation.

The last 10% isn’t worth it.

We’re not going to remember how cheap you were. We’re going to remember that you let us down.”

The CBC belongs to Canada and Canadians. Speak out now, before that last cut kills off our national voice.

made in Canada


For a comprehensive database of CBC shows from 1952-82 (curated by Queen’s University):


Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

Contact us at

DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. She has also been a vocalist with many acts, including Tangents, Lady, Performer, Mambo Jimi, and Delta Tango. In 2013 she co-hosted Bob Segarini’s podcast, The Bobcast, and, along with Bobert, will continue to seek out and destroy the people who cancelled ‘Bunheads’.

The Bobcast

6 Responses to “Roxanne Tellier: Death By A Thousand Cuts – Why You Should Care About the CBC”

  1. Doug Thompson Says:

    Roxy, wonderful article. You’ve got my vote to replace Rex Murphy when the CBC cuts him.

  2. Mannon Maclyr Says:

    Well written Roxanne and so sad but true

  3. What a great article! I knew many cuts had been made but didn’t realize the extent of the impact and how all encompassing it was.

  4. cbc …the taxpayer funded clown show that tells employees putting up with sexual harrassment is part of their job.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: