Guest Commentary

Phil Lind, In Memoriam

Busting The Monopoly

(Editor’s note: Cable Hall of Famer Phil Lind died August 20 on his 80th birthday. Lind helped build Rogers Communications into a national network with investments in banking and hockey, and was a lifelong critic of the CBC. From 1952 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation dominated what was then a one-channel universe. It ran its own stations and licensed its private sector competitors, a regulatory power finally removed in 1958. In a January 26, 2010 interview with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan, Lind recalled the campaign to break up the CBC monopoly. Following is a transcription of his remarks.)

I think the CBC was elitist from the start. They had a very paternalistic view of where broadcasting ought to go and what broadcasting ought to be. They were certainly protectionist. They wanted their station on, but nobody else’s station. That went on for a long time. It was hard to take.

Oh, the programming was dull. We had a farm north of Toronto and we only had the CBC. That’s all we had. Honest to God, it was deadly.

It was also dangerous, absolutely dangerous. You had a situation where the government perpetuated the CBC as a monopoly provider. This was television in Canada.

There was always this central, paternalistic theme. There was an attitude among politicians who liked the CBC and pretended it was there to “educate” Canadians, to “enlighten” them. But entertainment? Choice? Not so much.

There was a real threat of this continued paternalism in those days. It was a serious threat, that the CBC would continue with its sonorous tones, and it was supposed to be a bad thing if the viewers wanted something else. We thought people should be liberated. We thought they should be free of this CBC monster.

The Conservatives came in power in 1957. They wanted fresh new ideas. One of them was private television. This was a real fight.

It was a liberating fight in many people’s minds because they had to get out from under the CBC. The CBC was an incredibly powerful corporation in those days.

Private television in Canada was not just about making money. It was to liberate the country, to provide new, fresh ideas, to have a new and different perspective on the world. This was like a holy war. They lost.

Back to Top