Sunday, August 28, 2005

You're on the air, I'm underground; signal's fading, can't be found

61% of Canadians haven't missed the CBC at all since the strike began - seemingly a fairly damning non-endorsement of the Mother Corp - and yet a Canadian Media Guild spokesman can't help improbably painting those numbers in some kind of class warfare model, where the opinions of the rich bastards who choose to spend $40 a month on widening their viewing options don't really count: OTTAWA — Most people didn't notice the on-air disruption caused when 5,500 CBC workers were locked out of studios across Canada, a new poll indicates. Ten per cent of respondents to the Decima survey said the labour dispute at the public broadcaster is "a major inconvenience" while 27 per cent called it "a minor inconvenience.'" Sixty-one per cent reported no impact at all. [...] Those who said they were most inconvenienced by the lockout tended to be Liberal and NDP voters or older people, the poll found. Most other respondents said they had not been affected. Union spokesman Arnold Amber, CBC branch president of the Canadian Media Guild, helped frame and analyse political polls years ago when the public broadcaster did its own surveys. He dismissed the Decima results as premature and "totally meaningless.'" "They're polling the entire population rather than the population that actually cares and listens (consistently) to the CBC," he said in an interview. "It's the equivalent of asking a bunch of people who only drive cars whether or not the bus service in their area is better or worse.'" I'll give Amber credit for making a somewhat apt comparison; the CBC is a lot like mass transit in some ways - namely, in being public infrastructure, not necessarily intended to be profitable, funded (theoretically) out of a sense of public duty, with funding appropriated from all through tax revenues whether one uses the service or not. But it's not that apt. I present to you the top ten ways bus service would differ if operating on the CBC model. Drumroll, please: If public transit were run like the CBC... 10. There'd be no nominal user fees in the form of tickets, tokens or passes; the threat of being crushed by privately-owned American bus companies would be deemed so dire that enacting the slightest barrier to free and easily-available use of the service would be heresy. 9. The transit authority's headquarters wouldn't be in an ugly industrial part of town near where the main routes actually run, but fashionably close to nice shopping and upscale cafés. 8. Rick Mercer would occasionally be sent on a bus to the suburbs to condescendingly quiz residents about details of local routes on the other side of the city, for the amusement of those "in the know." 7. All routes would pass through one of two large terminals in the far southeast corner of town, no matter where they started or ended, local or express. 6. Liberals and the NDP would incessantly wail that only public transit "keeps us together" despite a large majority never using it, choosing instead to exercise the choice to purchase (on the free market) transportation more to their liking. 5. Bus drivers, rather than following their routes directly, would make frequent and unnecessary detours in order to show passengers buildings and locations imagined to be evidence of American perfidy. (Corollary: Lazier drivers could just point to selfish single-occupant-vehicle drivers in the street, and make dark implications about Halliburton, Enron, and oiiiiil.) 4. All buses, trains, and other rolling stock owned by the transit authority would by law be required to be of Canadian manufacture, regardless of whether or not such vehicles were the most efficient, comfortable, desirable, or economical options on the market. (Corollary: used British-made vehicles might occasionally be allowed, so long as the purchase price was cheap enough. Likewise flashy American vehicles, but only on very special occasions, when it should become important to raise transit's public profile.) 3. Some bus routes would be considered to be "above" the degrading practice of subsidization through advertising. 2. The transit authority would openly and shamelessly support the Liberal Party of Canada. (Oh, wait...) And, finally, the number one way public transit would be different if it was more like the CBC... 1. Being a bus driver of average skill from a sufficiently interesting ethnic background and with sufficiently left-leaning politics - rather than merely paying a decent wage commensurate with experience - would put one on the fast track to being named Governor-General of Canada. (Via NealeNews.)

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