The budget cuts imposed by the Harper Government on the CBC - and by extension, its French counterpart SRC - have been well documented in the media.
The public broadcaster’s funding was cut by 10%, or $115 million, over the next three years.
What is getting less attention are the moves behind the scenes at the administrative level of SRC. Now, the concentration of media in Quebec is such that for TV, you turn to one of two French-language sources for your news: TVA (owned by the same Quebecor which also owns Sun News) or SRC.
The differences between the news broadcasts is quickly apparent. While the top stories are often similar, TVA will produce more stories about traffic accidents, drug busts and late-night violent altercations. It's an endless cavalcade of soul-crushing journalism.
SRC, on the other hand, has emphasized international news and investigative journalism. Since the market for television news doesn't always support these endeavours, the role of the public broadcaster is ideally suited for picking up the slack in that regard.
However, having an informed public is not in the Harper Government's best interest. It's the SRC's investigative journalism that detailed the shameful history of the asbestos industry's habit of cover-ups. Surprised by the Conservative's decision to open up the abortion debate? You wouldn't be if you saw this report from SRC's Enquête. Everything from corruption, to political favours to tax havens, the SRC charges head-on regardless as to whether federal, provincial or municipal governments are left feeling embarrassed as a result of these investigations.
It's no surprise that the Conservatives have made little headway in terms of voter support in Quebec with the added scrutiny of SRC's news division.
The Harper Government, however, has struck back.
The budget cuts were preceded by the dismissal of Alain Saulnier, the general manager of news at SRC who spearheaded the direction of SRC since 2006. When he announced his departure, his news colleagues gave him a standing ovation for his contribution to the news division.
However, the latest attempt by the Harper Government to weaken SRC is both privately transparent yet publicly opaque. The employees of SRC, from newsrooms to talk shows, are being given a new "code of conduct". This new code of conduct includes a duty to "loyally carrying out the lawful decisions of their leaders and supporting ministers in their accountability to Parliament and Canadians."
The key problem here is the "supporting ministers in their accountability to Parliament". Interpretation can be such that they have a duty to promote the agendas of ministers. The problem with that is, that's not the role of the media. In fact, it goes against the very nature of journalism.
Government should be at arm's length of the media - both private and public - and should not be defining their roles in how they treat ministers.
And remember, this extends to all of SRC, not just the news. If you're political satire show is not supporting your minister, then the consequences of breaking this code of conduct can lead up to your firing.
Scientists being muzzled, access to information requests that provide no answers and now journalists are being asked to play the role of propagandists by the Harper Government.
I guess the Harper Government does have a Conservative strategy to win votes in Quebec after all.