- Everyone Says No: Public Service Broadcasting and the Failure of Translation by Kyle Conway
Everyone Says No Examines the Failure of cultural and linguistic translation on the part of Canada’s national public broadcaster during an era in which there were persistent debates over Canada’s constitution. It focuses primarily on the news coverage by the CBC and Radio-Canada, respectively, the English- and French-language services of Canada’s national public broadcaster, of two failed attempts to convince the country’s provinces to ratify that constitution, the Meech Lake Accord (1987–90) and the Charlottetown Accord (1992). Kyle Conway incisively breaks down the cultural, geographical, institutional, and political factors behind these events and their broader social context, yielding significant insights into the culture and politics of Canada during this period, the practice of translation in journalistic practice, and the role of the national public broadcaster.
The failure of the accords capped the tumultuous decade following the 1982 patriation of the Canadian constitution from Great Britain. It was hoped that these accords would provide a way for all Canadian provinces, including Quebec, to finally ratify the constitution. Instead, the debates they occasioned in Canada revealed enduring rifts between the English Canada, Quebec, and First Nations populations while exposing still other regional conflicts. In fact, the aftermath of the failed referendum on the agreement produced by the Charlottetown Accord saw a resurgence of support for separatism in Quebec, culminating in a 1995 referendum on the independence question that came within one percentage point of endorsing Quebec independence.
While these matters have been discussed extensively in terms of Canadian constitutional history and political science, Everyone Says No contributes a vital new perspective to this literature by addressing the role of translation in public broadcasting’s coverage of the accords and their aftermath. Conway convincingly demonstrates that Canadians did not merely “access” these events via the CBC and Radio-Canada but that these services helped to constitute the events themselves through their coverage. This allows him to broach broader issues, including the relationship of journalists to the events they cover, the role of the national public broadcaster in social and political affairs, and the manner in which news coverage itself influences the course of events. [End Page 80]
While Everyone Says No is undoubtedly relevant to the fields of journalism and political science, it draws most heavily from the methodology of media studies. Using the “circuit theory” model advanced by Stuart Hall and Julie D’Acci, Conway examines “micro-instances of politics” in order to show how meaning and identity are contested by various actors (9). This approach enables him to assess the complex relationships among news production, reception, critical discourse, and sociohistorical context as they related to CBC and Radio-Canada news coverage. Conway’s goal is to analyze the way that journalists produced news in these public service broadcasting contexts in terms of symptomatic instances, in the process shedding light on the debates surrounding the accords and the context-specific ways in which translation featured into coverage of them. Conway’s analysis also reveals the dynamic whereby media coverage influenced subsequent social and political developments—just as it influenced the way political events were perceived by observers.
Within this framework, Everyone Says No presents a detailed discussion of the institutional politics affecting efforts to produce translations of news programs across the English and French-language services. This is followed by an analysis of the role of translation in the coverage of the accords. While they represented just a portion of the total television coverage, Conway argues that the services offered by the public service broadcaster are of particular interest because of the CBC’s mandate to contribute to a shared national consciousness and identity as well as national unity. This mandate complicated the broadcaster’s coverage of these events on two levels. First, coverage was divided between the two services along cultural and linguistic lines. Second, the matter of the accords lent particular urgency to the question of the role of...