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Cuts, Canadian Culture and the CBC

Pierre Berton

When I watched the CBC's impressive production of Charlie Grant's War this year, I was struck by what I call the subliminal influence of home-grown drama. On the surface, this was a moving and dramatic story of one hitherto unknown Canadian who, at considerable personal sacrifice, followed his conscience. But just below the surface, we were given a history lesson in anti-semitism, Canadian-style, circa 1938.

Charlie Grant's War did what no serious tome or even a serious documentary could do: it told us something about our country (an unpalatable something in this case) and allowed us to absorb the lesson subconsciously while following an exciting story.

Home Fires did the same thing and so, in spades, did Empire, which covered three generations of Canadian history without ever sounding like a history lesson. So did Chautauqua Girl, a remarkable program that, without ever preaching, told us more about small town western Canadian life in a past generation than any school book could possibly accomplish.

This is the glory of native drama: it gives us a sense of community. It does what Dallas or Dynasty or Upstairs Downstairs cannot do. It introduces us to ourselves. But it also costs money. The people who made Charlie Grant's War got in under the wire. With the present cuts this kind of drama -- albeit produced on a shoestring when compared to American televison -- cannot continue on the CBC. And there goes our birthright.


Pierre Berton is a founding member of the Alliance For Canadian Broadcasting.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 1986/1987 issue of Sources.

See also:
Arts, Media, Culture articles from Connexions Digest and Library
CBC left-wing? - A piece questioning the CBC's place on the left-right spectrum. (CX5061).
Cuts, Canadian Culture, and the CBC - Canadian drama gives us a sense of community. (CX5213)
A Goal for National Survival: 50% Canadian TV Content - The destruction of the CBC would be the greatest disaster to befall Canada. (CX5212).
Public Broadcasting is Cultural National Defence - The role of the national public broadcaster is to do those things which private broadcasters have demonstrated they will not, or cannot, accomplish.. September 1985. (CX5214).

Tories are Suffocating the CBC, the Country

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