CBC Is Just NPR, Eh?


In this long drive through the western provinces and the Yukon, radio is sparse and mostly FM, and I’ve been listening to a lot of CBC.

Basically, it’s NPR with slightly Ontario accents.   The production values of studio and phone interviews are identical.  The intonation, speech patterns, measured tone of voice are cloned.  Even the light-hearted, free-spirited political sketch comedy show (The Irrelevant Show) could be produced by Minnesota Public Radio but performed for a live audience in Alberta.

There’s one woman who hosts a culture show similar to Fresh Air, who sounds as though she grew up listening to Terry Gross and said, “I want to sound like that,” and spent her formative years practicing with a recorder.  There’s another, a news reader, who would easily retire the prize in the annual Korva Coleman Impersonation Contest, which, given the uniformity of both NPR and CBC anchors, might actually be a thing.

The politics are roughly the same – ranging from the center-left to the left, with a little hard-left and center-right thrown in for the appearance of inclusivity.  There’s slightly less emphasis on the racial and ethnic horrors of the past, but the source material is a little poorer there, though sexism real, imagined, and past, gets plenty of airtime.

And in case you were wondering, there’s always time to pick on Israel.  In a segment about whether or not candidates’ families and personal lives were fair game in their campaign ads (not attack ads, mind you, but their own ads), one of the examples was a Conservative candidate who had mentioned his being the child of Holocaust survivors.  This is a riding that’s 22% Jewish.  The ads were eventually pulled, and one of the panelists found that remarkable, since, and I’m paraphrasing, but not much, “up until now, the Tories have pretty much been no-holds-barred in going after the Israel issue with Jewish voters.”  Another show gave an approving nod to a pro-Palestinian version of Birthright Israel, which sends visiting Jewish youth to the West Bank for self-defense shaming.

Of course, from a Canadian point of view, NPR is just the CBC with slightly Midwest accents.  I’m not sure if anyone’s ever been asked, but it’s entirely possible that NPR consciously sees itself as the CBC of the South.  Certainly the CBC was well-established by the time NPR started doing All Things Considered in the 70s.  Also possible, but less likely, is that NPR sees itself as the BBC of the colonies, and ended up in roughly the same place as the CBC, albeit slightly more Americanized.