FRIENDS’ take on the CBC’s new five year strategic plan, “Everyone, Every way”

Feb 2, 2011

FRIENDS considers the publication of "Everyone, Every way" as a contribution to a Canada-wide conversation about what Canadians want from our public broadcaster. We intend to engage in that conversation and we will work to bring the voices and views of public broadcasting supporters across the country to the table.

While the focus on the significance of regional broadcasting is important and welcome, we are troubled that the CBC proposes to do more with less, a formula that often results in half measures that fail.

More troubling is the CBC's stated intent to become even more commercial.  After suffering funding cuts from successive governments in recent years, CBC Television has lost sight of its public broadcasting mandate while chasing advertising dollars.  We welcome the CBC's commitment to renew its public broadcasting purpose, but express concern that increasing reliance on ad revenues will corrupt these good intentions. We note that this direction is inconsistent with public broadcasting developments in other democratic countries.

The absence of any reference to interpreting world events for Canadian audiences as well as bridging the solitudes between English and French-speaking Canadians constitutes two important omissions.

While we applaud the CBC's commitment to monitor its results according to identified metrics on a semi-annual basis going forward, we also call on the Corporation to publish those metrics and commit to release the results to its 34 million shareholders on a semi-annual basis.

Any strategic plan is a forward looking document that sets out a promised new direction.  But in the CBC's plan there is a substantial gap between rhetoric and deeds.  For example, the CBC has recently applied to the CRTC for permission to turn its back on its over-the-air television audience in Moncton and Saint John, New Brunswick's two largest cities.  When CBC converts to digital broadcasting later this year, over-the-air broadcasting of its English TV signal to viewers in these cities will fade to black.  We anticipate that this scenario will be repeated in many communities across Canada.  It is difficult to square this behavior with the promise to be a public broadcaster for "everyone, every way". 

It is also difficult to reconcile CBC's promise not to abandon existing audiences when the CBC makes clear that it will continue to ghettoize classical culture on Radio Two.  As for a renewed commitment to Canadian programming on television, one is justified in taking this promise with a grain of salt after the CBC made clear only weeks ago that it has no intention of removing the American game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! from its prime time schedule any time soon.