Can government funded media be impartial?

I ask the question because when I debate funding with my Canadian family for the Canadian public broadcasting service (the CBC), it’s often asserted that the government should fund public broadcasting so that it can give the people impartial information.

Now, for the moment we’ll assume that it is possible to have impartial information. Even with that, however, I’m not sure how the government funded broadcaster can be impartial when dealing with the parties to political disputes in Canada, when at least one of the parties to political disputes has as its basis, a belief that public broadcasting should have lesser (or in the case of radical conservatives like myself, eliminated) public funding. Will the publicly funded media be able to treat impartially those who advocate against their existence as an entity? It seems that in such an instance, they become a party to the political disagreement.

Of course it is possible to be impartial in that instance, but not very likely. This is especially true when one realizes that the majority of those working in Public broadcasting believe strongly in public broadcasting… that’s one of the reasons they work there.

Public broadcasting, in the sense of a broadcaster funded by the government, it seems, cannot be impartial to political disputes because they are themselves a party. They may not be officially part of a given political party, but they are an entity with a large vested interest in whatever decisions are made by Canada’s general public, and a vested interest that lies directly with the fact that they are (about 75%) taxpayer funded.

To me, this means that public broadcasting cannot meet its stated goal of providing impartial information to inform an electorate, not because the public broadcaster is evil, but just because they are a public broadcaster.

At this point, my opponents usually switch gears and tell me that the corporate media are no better. To be honest, I agree. Corporations are also biased and will not usually provide impartial information. That said, there is one benefit that the private news media has over the public one from my perspective.

Canadians aren’t forced to pay for the private media.

Author: Stephen Dawe

Steve is a part-time vocational elder Calvary Baptist Church, St. John's as well as a full-time student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in the Religious Studies Department.