More on the impact of past and future cuts on the CBC

Feb 28, 2012

Briefing Note

Last summer, all federal government departments and agencies, including the CBC, were ordered to submit plans for 5% and 10% budget cuts. The goal of this fiscal restraint is to achieve a balanced budget by 2015.

In the case of the CBC, the 10% scenario is particularly severe because it could result in not just a $110M cut but, combined with non-renewal of the annual ‘top-up’ of $60M, which successive governments have delivered to CBC toward the end of each fiscal year since 2002, could yield a $170M shortfall, or 15.5% of CBC’s parliamentary allocation.

The CBC has “prepaid” its share of this year’s anticipated federal budget reductions. So have its loyal listeners and viewers, who have felt the impact in the form of reduced quantity and quality of service.

Over the past fifteen years, while overall government spending has risen by more than 50% in real terms, the value of the Parliamentary allocation to the CBC has fallen by more than 15%.

Inevitably, the results of all this are evident on our screens and speakers. If there were any room for “efficiencies,” they have long since been made. Every dollar cut now comes right out of programming. Eventually, the service will be so much less attractive that few Canadians would notice or care if it were to disappear altogether. (Could that be the plan?)

CBC Funding Chart

Let's look at a few examples of how cuts have weakened CBC programming and project on how the trend is likely to continue if further cuts are imposed.

Award-winning, thirty-hour documentary series A People’s History of Canada, produced in both official languages 2000-2001. Single two-hour made-for-TV movie on Sir John A. Macdonald for CBC’s 75th anniversary in 2011. Few if any major programs on Canadian history.
CBC historically invested millions to record and broadcast Canadian music and musicians of all genres. Sharp reductions in live music spending – especially classical music. CBC effectively out of the music business; Radio Two potentially sold or closed.
Multiple news programs with distinct personalities and content, e.g. The National, World At Six, etc. “News integration” means same reporters and stories show up over and over on all channels. Further cuts to news-gathering resources = less credibility and relevance.
Foreign correspondents permanently based in key overseas locations. Reporters sent from Canada when news breaks; increased reliance on stringers and agencies. Canadians will have to turn to non- Canadian sources for international news.
Fully Canadian prime-time CBC Television schedule. More US shows; Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy mainstays of the schedule. The “Not-So-Canadian” Broadcasting Corporation.
Strong local stations in all regions, producing a full range of TV and Radio info and entertainment. Local stations are news-only operations, with more and more syndicated content, contributing less and less to the network. The “Toronto Broadcasting Corporation.”
Regular arts programming on TV in prime time, e.g. Adrienne Clarkson Presents, Opening Night. Very occasional TV arts performance specials. No cultural programming on CBC Television.
Socially relevant and cutting edge TV drama. Increasing emphasis on mindless entertainment and “reality” shows. Increasingly hard to distinguish CBC- TV from commercial channels.
CBC Radio links the country and defines the Canadian identity. Fewer innovative shows or in-depth documentaries; more chit-chat and repeats. CBC Radio less and less relevant to Canadians.
CBC News renowned for investigative journalism and in-depth reportage. More “happy talk,” consumer stories, YouTube clips and promos on The National and supper-hour news shows. Even less depth, quality, diversity and distinctiveness in CBC News.