CBC’s announcement that it is withdrawing from foreign-language broadcasting in two of the four BRIC countries is just another nail in the coffin for Canadian internationalism.
Still, such observations have not produced the groundswell of resistance that they warrant among Canadians. For reasons that I tried to assess earlier, this is not entirely surprising.
Moreover, a considerable part of this inattention might be attributed to the sideswiping of any detailed analysis of last week’s budget by the Apr. 3 release of the auditor-general’s bombshell report detailing the epic mismanagement of the F-35 fighter procurement file. The auditor-general has exposed vastly more wastage of public funds on that misbegotten project than the total amount that will be saved as a result of all of the new cuts being imposed upon the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
The reverberations associated with the widening F-35 scandal also effectively scuttled all but a trickle of meaningful coverageof the release of the government’s final report on Canada’s (disastrous) engagement in Afghanistan.
It is perhaps worth pausing to reflect on these disturbing realities for a few moments. Among other things, that is what happens when international policy and priorities become militarized, and when defence dominates over diplomacy and development. Meanwhile, as the lion’s share of international-policy resources continue to be poured into the Department of National Defence, not a word is said about the desperate need for national debate on defence policy.
Today’s news brings more of the same sad tidings, but – for supporters of Canadian internationalism – the latest blows are in some respects even worse.
Allow me to quote at some length from an article by Kristen Shane, appearing in today’s Embassy Update, titled “CBC’s international arm to phase out some transmissions”:
After six and a half decades, the CBC is pulling its international broadcasting service’s shortwave transmission, as well as shutting down Radio Canada International’s Russian and Brazilian departments. [...] The Crown corporation’s management plans to save $10 million a year by 2013-14 by phasing out Radio Canada International’s shortwave and satellite services, leaving it to focus on “webcasting.”[...]
Radio Canada International currently broadcasts online, by satellite, analog and digital shortwave, and through a network of public, private, community, and university radio stations in a number of countries. It has links to public broadcasters in countries including Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and Australia. The broadcaster will also stop producing news bulletins, but keep other programs. It now produces and broadcasts daily and weekly programs in one or more of seven languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Arabic, and Portuguese. Some of its reports and interviews air on its partner stations in most of these languages.
It will close its Russian and Portuguese departments, keeping the others “to help audiences discover and especially understand democratic and cultural life and values in Canada,” said CBC president Hubert Lacroix …
That passage might be worth rereading. Canada is withdrawing from foreign-language broadcasting in two of the four BRIC countries. Think about it. What about power shift? We are talking here about pulling the plug on Canada’s voice in two of the major poles in an emerging heteropolar world order. This amounts to no less than shooting yourself in the foot when you are in a race.
And all for what? To save a paltry few million dollars? That is such a small amount by federal-government standards that it would not even register on a bar graph.
For anyone who believes that Canada should be doing more, rather than less, in the world, this is devastating news. The wreckage of Canadian public diplomacy in recent years has been well enough documented. This is yet another nail in the coffin of Canadian internationalism. Diplomacy, development, and public broadcasting get whacked, while the generals snicker, corporate tax rates are lowered further, and inequality festers.
This is a wealthy country with strong public finances, yet it has come to be regarded as an ever-shrinking Canada.
It does not have to be this way.
Photo courtesy of Reuters.