Warning: this story contains spoilers for the television series Game of Thrones.
The CBC is widely known for being the herald of Canadian news, the bearer of truth, the journalistic standard for all of Canada. More recently, however, provided you replace Amanda Lang with Cersei Lannister and Jian Ghomeshi with Joffrey Baratheon, it’s kind of like Game of Thrones.
Let me explain.
Last week, the Toronto Star published a damning report accusing Power and Politics host Evan Solomon of profiting off shady deals involving the sale of art through contacts he had acquired and reported on during his tenure at CBC, a scheme that allegedly netted him upwards of $300,000.
Within minutes of the word going out, social media blew up and before the end of the hour, #EvanSolomon was trending as one of the top 10 in Canada.
It’s not the first time we've seen a CBC host fall to an investigation: just last fall, the sexual abuse allegations against former Q host Jian Ghomeshi, along with CBC’s subsequent coverup of that event, dominated the headlines for months on end. It’s an event that turned Ghomeshi’s face in Canada from that of a well-loved host to a disgraced sociopath. The first jenga piece in many to tumble in the Lannister-CBC empire.
Come January, it was senior business correspondent Amanda Lang’s time in the spotlight after a CANADALAND investigation revealed that she was in a relationship with an RBC executive during a period in which she allegedly silenced a report critical of the company’s approach to labour laws. While the report didn’t kill her career, it did put a nasty dent in her credibility as a journalist, much like it did for Cersei when she lost credibility as a leader by employing her pre-pubescent son as Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.
There’s also the case of The National’s Rex Murphy and Peter Mansbridge being paid to appear at pro-oil speaking events in the year prior. While I can’t say for sure that these two are direct embodiments of Tywin Lannister and Petyr Baelish, I’d bet my money on it.
If you combine all these journalistic falls from grace with the general deterioration of the CBC’s budget, the situation over at Canada’s only public broadcaster begins to look a lot like a feast for crows.
Like the fall of the Starks after the brutal massacre during the Red Wedding, the collapse of the Canadian Broadcasting Company has been one that has been a long time coming. Ever since the mid-2000s, CBC has been building an impressive entourage of likable personalities for their various television and radio shows. From Q with Ghomeshi, to The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti, all the way to long-running trend of George Stroumboulopoulos and his many shows, the CBC has entrenched its influence with a recognizable cast of celebrity-like journalists, all whom have seemed to be impervious to serious criticism until recently.
But after the evisceration of the CBC for its handling of internal investigations and the allegations levied against some its prized stars, the allure of the company’s hip and modern image has begun to crack under the pressure of a public that has become fed up with the constant whispers of the broadcaster’s corruption.
Going back to Game of Thrones, if you compare the downfall of CBC’s posterchildren to the recent string of episodes where the Faith Militant overthrow the ruling class in King’s Landing, it’s basically the same thing. I mean, not as violent, but in a rare instance of media accountability, some of the country’s highest-paid, most-recognized news casters and reporters starting to show that, despite the facade they have constructed, they too can bleed, metaphorically speaking.
The question that ultimately arises from all this is what exactly happens to the CBC. Without its biggest stars, the broadcaster has little going for it. Its budget, which has been dwindling due to the onslaught of cuts put forward by Harper’s government over the last four years, got hit hard last year when a $130 million cut resulted in 657 jobs lost, only to shed another 244 this year as part of its overall plan to cut 1500 over the next five. That’s not to say the remaining employees are incapable of breathing new life back into the CBC, but if trends continue, it looks like a slow death for the 79-year-old news agency.
Despite all this, the CBC still continually tries to redeem itself by attempting to birth new icons. After the fallout from the Ghomeshi scandal and Q’s scrambling to piece itself back together, the company was quick to find a new host in Canadian rapper Shad for its flagship radio arts show. The effort, which has yet to pan out fully, was met with mixed reception by old white people in comment sections everywhere. Some saw that, like King Tommen’s half-hearted installment as pseudo-ruler of Westeros, the Canadian rapper was an odd choice for the program. Aside from being involved with music, Shad had little to no qualifications for being the host of Q.
Regardless of his capabilities, almost everybody agreed that if Q were to survive, Shad would need to be a success. If you tread further on this point, you'll probably start to ask yourself another question: who the hell even wants to work front-and-centre for the CBC now? As soon as the announcement about Shad’s gig came out, the CBC’s own Tremonti had a cringe-worthy interview with the new Q host in which she repeatedly asked him if he was aware where he had come, openly forewarning him of the dire straits in which the broadcaster had found itself in.
Of course, it’s worth noting that the journalism industry hasn’t been a field of remarkable growth as of late, but it might just be a sign of the times when we see figureheads like Ghomeshi and Solomon begin to tumble so rapidly. While the mishaps of Brian William and Bill O’Reilly in the United States can be viewed as just a few blotch marks on the massive entity that is American media, the internal erosion of the CBC has much wider implications for a public that has historically only known one major source of Canadian news.
Perhaps, maybe even just for a moment, we are witnessing a shift in consciousness. Like Daenerys Targaryen's pledge to not just stop the wheel of power in Westeros, but “break it”, it could just be that the evidence of corruption won’t end here, that we may be seeing a deeper look at what celebrity has done to institutionalizing bad journalism. When I read the headlines a few days ago, my disappointment was followed by a sense of excitement. In a way, I almost anticipate the answers to come. If Solomon, Ghomeshi, Lang, Murphy and Mansbridge all had something to hide, who’s up next?