Get the Facts: A public broadcaster belongs in the public space

October 28, 2016

Recently, some opinion writers have suggested CBC/Radio-Canada should not offer opinion on its websites, or even have a digital presence. They appear to believe that this will help their businesses and will serve the interests of Canadians. Neither is correct.

The facts, by now, are pretty clear. The challenges facing media in Canada are many but they are not being caused by the public broadcaster. No one has yet found a reliable way to make people pay for news content on the Internet. Large newspaper companies responded to their challenges by merging the content offered by their smaller papers. This has made CBC/Radio-Canada's presence more important than ever.

Limiting what public broadcasting can do only means fewer services for Canadians. It won't help private companies be more profitable. It won't increase news coverage or the diversity of views, especially in communities.

CBC will soon be launching an Opinion page on CBCNews.ca that will feature a variety of freelance columns and commentary reflecting a wide range of views on news and current affairs. While the page is new, opinion is not. CBC/Radio-Canada was one of the first to invest in the digital space and has been offering Canadians opinion and analysis on its websites for years.

The mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada is to inform, enlighten, and entertain. That's precisely what opinion does. It engages Canadians about the issues important to them. It exposes them to range of viewpoints that might just change their minds, and it encourages them to join in the conversation. That's what a public broadcaster is for.

Every Thursday night, "At Issue" on The National is Canada's most watched political panel because Canadians want to hear the opinions of smart people on issues that matter to them.

Every Sunday on CBC Radio, Canadians from one coast to another tune in to "Cross Country Checkup" to learn more about big issues, to hear what Canadians in other regions of the country are thinking, and to add their own opinion. That's how you connect a country.​ ​

Smart, civil, engaging debate about opinions on important issues is what Canadians want, and what public broadcasting is for.

Today that debate, that engagement, is happening on digital. It's in the comments section at the bottom of every story. It's on Twitter and Facebook. It's in blog posts. CBC/Radio-Canada is offering Canadians a place in digital where Canadians will find a wide range of different views on issues important to them. That's our job.

Limiting access to the digital public space is not in the public interest. CBC/Radio-Canada does not exist to serve the interests of private businesses. It exists to serve the people who use and pay for it - all Canadians. They want us to be where they are.

Heather Conway
Executive vice-president
CBC English Services

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