August 24, 1946 (20th Parliament, 2nd Session)


John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative


Yes, and as the hon. member for Stanstead suggests, highly improbable. And let it be emphasized that I believe in the C.B.C. as a national institution. There are some who are endeavouring to place certain hon. members in the position of opposing government ownership; but there is no reason for that viewpoint. What we are asking is that there should be fairness under the law established by parliament in the relationships between the C.B.C. and the private stations. They are entitled to justice, under the law-no more, no less.
An independent body set up for the purpose will interpret the law as passed by parliament. It will determine whether or not the C.B.C. is properly carrying out the wishes of parliament. To argue that a body composed of one of the litigants can determine impartially and without bias the rights of one of the opposing litigants is certainly contrary to experience and reason. I submit that unless such a body is set up, a paralyzing blow will be struck by parliament at "freedom of the air," or at least at what is know'n as "fairness of the air." If the C.B.C. continues uncontrolled, private stations in this country will become vassals, permitted to survive only at the sufferance of the overlord. The great danger of that is the danger of developing totalitarianism in this country.
The other day the Minister of Reconstruction rose in his place and reversed a stand he had taken two years ago, which in turn was a reversal of a stand he had taken in 1937. All honour to him. This is one of the few times a minister in this House of Commons has ever admitted that experience had proven that an opinion he expressed tw'o years ago had not been borne out by subsequent events.
Experience in continental Europe has been that placing control of radio in the power of any government has given government control of the thinking of the country. In asking for the setting up of an independent board such as this, the great and abiding principle at stake is freedom of the air. Can there be freedom when all power rests in one institution? Freedom of the air is often believed to be the same thing as freedom of speech. But there is this difference between the two: a newspaper circulates among those who accept its general viewpoint. Broadcasts go into the homes of people of different opinions. The limitation on broadcasting is the limitation that it shall not contravene the law of libel and slander; and there is another social limitation, namely that the listener has the right to use his thumb and forefinger when things are being said with which he disagrees. What is
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happening here to-day is that the thumb and forefinger controlling what is to be broadcast is a body under the control of the government of the day. Human nature being what it is, can you expect that broadcasts dealing with current events will be not tinged or tainted by the individuality or views of the person using that instrument?
The hon. member for Peace River mentioned commentators. While I may not be in general agreement with his viewpoint, I will say that whoever has charge of commenting on the news .controls the future thinking of the nation. When day after day certain points of view are pounded into the subconscious minds of the listeners, the ultimate effect is that those subconscious minds are changed by the continued operation of the propaganda, whether designedly done or not. That is why every effort should be made to ensure that the private stations shall have an opportunity to broadcast points of view different from the points of view currently represented by the government of the day.
However free the C.B.C. programmes may be from direct influence, there will be a bias in the government sponsored announcements that are made from time to time. The government has a preferred place in the mobilization of public opinion. It does not need to be intentional, but the bias is there. Whatever announcement is made, always behind it is projected the personality and point of view of the person broadcasting. It is because of that fact that I believe public policy decrees that there should not be unified control of radio in a national body independent of control. Government monopoly of the broadcasting facilities of this country will in the end lead to all thinking alike, and as some one has said, when all think alike, no one thinks much.
In Rose's book on radio broadcasting he uses these words, which I shduld like to appropriate as my own:
Democracy's only protection is an awakened and informed public opinion. This public opinion can be obtained only when no one is allowed to dictate what the radio shall, or shall not carry, or is permitted to present its point of view without adequate rebuttal by the opposition.
I am not in opposition to national control of broadcasting, but I contend there is a field for the private broadcaster who should be assured that he will be permitted freedom to the end that what he is broadcasting shall not be subject to the direction of the C.B.C., a government owned institution.
Mention was made of commentators, and I gathered from the remarks of the hon. mem-

ber for Peace River that he was referring to what I have heard criticized on a number of occasions, the communistic turn to some of the comments that are made. There is no medium more effective for mobilizing public opinion than the radio. Canada cannot compromise with communism. While I have been a critic of the operations in certain particulars of the Taschereau-Kellock royal commission, I have always agreed that it did a fine work when it brought to light of day the insidious activities of communism in our midst. If democracy is to live, we in Canada, in the empire and in the United States must show that democracy is the superior form of government in a world divided between two contending beliefs. In the place of programmes tinged with a communistic viewpoint, let there be a continuation of certain programmes now being broadcast over the C.B.C. wherein will be brought home to the people of Canada the benefits of democracy, its meaning, and what its antithesis will mean if ever control is secured by communism in our country.
There are those who will not agree with me, but I think good work has been done by the present government in Saskatchewan in bringing parliament to the people by means of broadcasting the proceedings of the legislature. I have found all over the province that while the session is on the people are interested and are ready to take advantage of this opportunity offered. How many people in our country would like to have the opportunity of being present to hear parliament in session, of seeing democracy in action. I believe consideration should be given at an early day to broadcasting the proceedings of parliament. A great work has been done by private, broadcasters in that connection. I think James Allard and those associated with him should be congratulated upon having given the opportunity to members in all parts of this country to broadcast the doings of parliament. These broadcasts have done much to increase the knowledge of the Canadian people as to what is taking place in parliament.
Then there is another type of programme which I think the C.B.C. should put out. We in Canada are alongside the United States, and many programmes originating from stations in that country' glorify crime and lawlessness. Our people are bound to be affected. Programmes advocating obedience of law would be of benefit to all; for without law enforcement the whole process of democracy is destroyed. We are living in a period of increased lawlessness, and I refer particularly to offences against the criminal code, which have multiplied over I he last few years-why,

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I do not know. But we have a medium at hand to bring into the homes the necessity of obedience to the law, which if properly utilized would have the immediate and effective result of imbuing the people of our country with a greater appreciation for law and order.
What is the situation in our country? There is a growing contempt for law. Lawlessness does not become lawful because of the numbers engaged in breaking the law. Anarchy is the absence of law or, where there is law, the lack of enforcement. Destroy the law and ve destroy the principle of equality, and ultimately democracy within our nation cannot survive. I make this appeal to the minister, that in order to offset the effect of the glorification of lawlessness so often heard on the air waves, the C.B.C. has an opportunity to render a service which will pay great dividends in citizenship; for if lawlessness ever achieves primacy over parliament, or if lawlessness is condoned, then there will be anarchy. If the law can be circumvented or scoffed at or unenforced, the moral fabric of the nation will be destroyed: Is that the work of the radio? The great uplifting bodies are the pulpit, the press and the radio. There is an opportunity for service in citizenship in this direction which can mean much to the people of this country.
Radio has no boundaries. Some countries may have set up an iron curtain against the invasion of new thought, but those curtains are no defence against democratic broadcasts. All of us are influenced by broadcasts, and being so influenced the work of the C.B.C. could be greatly enlarged by making citizenship and the creation of better citizens its prime purpose and its main aim.
I am going to deal for a moment with the financial situation. Looking over the accounts of C.B.C., I have been struck by the fact that in repent years, while its advertising is increasing, deficits are approaching. In its report dated March 31, 1945, the net operating deficit is shown at $72,000. According to the statement of C.B.C., that loss included an allowance for depreciation and obsolescence amounting to $227,000. For the year ended March 31, 1946, the tentative financial statement shows a loss of $78,400, but without taking into consideration any allowance for depreciation and obsolescence. In other words, if depreciation and obsolescence were no greater in 1945-46 than in 1944-45, the loss this year to March 31 would be $305,000. Therefore I ask the minister this: is there any reason why one newspaper in this country, the Toronto Star, should be bonused to the amount of $135 per day, 313 days in the year, amounting to a total of $42,000? How loose the business administration was is indicated by the fact that I came upon this transaction by chance in the course of an examination. There was no resolution on the books of the C.B.C. dealing with it, nothing in the books to support it. No action had ever been taken by the board at any time with regard to it. It indicates a looseness which ought not to characterize a government body. I asked the chairman of the board, Mr. Dunton, when he first found out about it, and he replied that it was several months ago, but he had not done anything about it or brought it to the attention of the board of governors because he was so busy getting ready to meet the parliamentary committee which he thought would be set up earlier in the session than it actually was.
In August, 1937, the matter was brought to the attention of the general manager and apparently there was disagreement among the directors as to the propriety of this transaction. In August, 1937, the present Minister of Reconstruction and Supply (Mr. Howe) wrote a letter to the general manager of the broadcasting corporation suggesting to him that he continue the Toronto Star in its position because there was some moral justification for that being done. Whatever the rights were in the past, those rights have long since ceased demanding that the people of Canada continue to bonus the Star, and I think the time has come to put an end to the preference. To me it seems passing strange that a matter as serious as this, involving $42,000 a year- because that is the amount it is worth to the Star; it is worth less to the C.B.C. as that amount is subject to advertisers' commissions -should not have been brought officially to the notice of the board. I think, too, that the relevation of this bonus indicates the degree to which the C.B.C. was under the control of the government.
I am going to refer to two or three letters in this connection, quoting only the pertinent portions because my time is almost up. Here is a letter to the Toronto Star signed by the general manager of C.B.C., dated May 17, 1938. In part it says:
I have felt that your zealous support and your pioneering have deserved special treatment; nevertheless, it has to be kept in mind that sooner or later the situation will have to be regularized in terms of the press as a whole.
That was in 1938. Even up to this date nothing has been done to regularize this matte*. I have before me a copy of another
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letter dated September 30, 1938, directed to the Toronto Star and signed by the general manager of C.B.C., in which he says:
As you know, I have always done what was in my power to keep the Star in the picture at CBL; but, as I think I mentioned to you once or twice, the arrangement has not got the normal elements of permanence.
That was in 1938, and though the arrangement had none of the normal elements of permanence then, it apparently had the elements of perpetuity; for it has continued up to date. The reason why it should be continued is given in these words by the manager of C.B.C. in this letter:
I feel that it would be unfair to the Star, especially in view of its support of public service broadcasting, to deprive it of any place on the air as long as its competitors enjoy such a place.
I do not know who the competitors were, but whatever others have enjoyed they enjoyed as a result of payment for their privilege of broadcasting. In a letter from the commercial manager, Mr. E. A. Weir, dated April 19, 1938, to the Toronto Daily Star, the following appears:
We are not unmindful of the many courtesies and the broad general support which the Star has given to the corporation and the principle for which it stands. That has meant much to us and the whole plan of nationalization.
I think the time has come for reconsideration to be given to this matter. My hon. friend the member for Eglinton (Mr. Fleming) points out that the majority of the committee refused to put a recommendation in the report that this privilege should be withdrawn. Whether or not the committee of parliament would make such a recommendation, my suggestion is that the time has come to bring an end to that, especially in view of the fact that the broadcasting corporation is now budgeting for deficits, and two periods paying $135 a day would go a long way towards reducing those deficits.
Now, sir, I conclude. I reiterate in my conclusion the suggestions I have made. One, which I have made over the years, is the setting up of an independent body or the board of transport commissioners in order to adjudicate as between the claims of the C.B.C. and the private broadcasting corporations in accordance with the law passed by parliament. There can be no criticism of setting up an independent body for appeal, unless it be that an independent body administering the law would come to a different decision than a body, itself the litigant, appearing before itself.
Second, the necessity of attention being given by the C.B.C. in an ever-increasing degree to showing the ramifications of com-

munism, the dangers of communism securing a grip on our country, and pointing out the benefits of democracy and what democracy means to every man, regardless of his position, in the land.
These are matters which I think will receive the support of the corporation. There must be equality as between all citizens in this land, between all private groups claiming rights of broadcasting in this country, subject to the predominant right of national broadcasting continuing to remain a national institution.

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