“We need the CBC.”

Paul Martin says he supports CBC after MP Keyes voices criticism
SMITHS FALLS, Ont. (CP) – Prime Minister Paul Martin reaffirmed his support for the CBC on Tuesday, after a member of his cabinet was quoted as saying the public broadcaster is a “monster.”
“The fact is I have always been a supporter of public broadcasting and will continue to be so,” Martin said during a stop in this eastern Ontario town. When asked if he plans any changes to the mandate or funding of the institution in the lead-up to an election, he replied no.
On Tuesday, Toronto Star “writer” Antonia Zerbisias revealed she had received a transcript of comments by Revenue Minister Stan Keyes during a commercial break last Wednesday on CBC Newsworld’s Counterspin.
With the tape still rolling, Conservative Party finance critic Monte Solberg said that while Newsworld has its purpose, the main network was an expensive and unnecessary proposition.
Keyes, a former broadcaster at CKVR in Barrie, Ont., and Hamilton’s CHCH, said that CBC “has become a monster, quite frankly.”
Solberg replied that it’s a “huge expense” and “ratings have fallen like a stone.”
Then, according to the transcript the Toronto Star received, Keyes said: “It’s a billion dollars we have put towards CBC television and we witness direct competition between a public broadcaster and the private sector.”
NDP Leader Jack Layton, who was also a guest on the show, said sarcastically that Fox would take over the whole media operation.
“Good God, George Bush’s mouthpiece: I mean really, they’ll buy it if it’s up for sale.”
The response from Keyes was: “No, we can regulate it and make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Keyes was unavailable for comment Tuesday, but his director of communications, Peter Graham, confirmed that he made the comments.
“It was a personal comment, and that was it,” said Graham.
“It’s certainly not a policy statement or a future direction of policy for the government. The minister would never step out of bounds in the sense of commenting on one of his colleague’s portfolios.”
In a statement Tuesday, Layton said the Liberal government’s recent commitment to review the foreign ownership rules for cable companies makes the minister’s remarks even more ominous. NDP arts critic Wendy Lill said there is no private broadcaster that could do everything the CBC does for Canadians.
“CanWest Global and CTV have already shown they won’t produce shows in French or in Aboriginal languages,” she said. “And we certainly know that foreign corporations like Fox Television won’t be interested in producing Canadian stories. We need the CBC.”