As tear gas and horse manure wafted up from another day of protests downtown, we gathered on the verdant slopes of Mount Royal, in an old stone building at McGill University. With the free press and democracy apparently competing to see which could crumble fastest, we felt a certain urgency.
From Halifax’s Kelly Toughill came the idea of a tax refund for newspaper and magazine subscriptions. With a little help from Revenue Canada, might you be more likely to pay for Canadian journalism?
From Gatineau’s Cathy Edwards came the idea of commandeering the CBC’s old transmission towers before they’re dismantled, handing them to community broadcasters — and even renting out space to phone companies.
I pitched the idea of a referendum on stabilizing CBC funding. Let’s ask Canadians once and for all if the public broadcaster should be guaranteed a certain budget. If the “No” side wins, successive governments may continue to hack and slash at their discretion.
“What I wanted to do was have a focused conversation about how we could use public policy to support forms of journalism that support citizenship,” says Journalism Strategies organizer Christine Crowther. A former CBC videojournalist (like me), Crowther is now pursuing a PhD in Communication Studies at McGill.
“The only way we were going to succeed in putting this on the public agenda was by drawing a diverse group of people into conversation with each other,” she says. That meant putting hard-nosed newsroom journos in small rooms with academics and activists. It didn’t always go smoothly.