Memo to: Ms. Jade Roy, Supervisor,
Public Hearings, CRTC
Morrison, Spokesperson, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
During the question period following the
presentation by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting on November 23, I undertook to
send the Commission a note concerning the BBC Trust model and its potential to
address accountability issues at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
By way of background, we note that
during questioning at the time of the applicant's appearance before you, the
Chairman expressed concern about how your Commission can exercise its
responsibility to ensure that the CBC is discharging its responsibilities under
the Act, and whether a lighter regulatory approach could result in the
disappearance of certain important kinds of Canadian programming from the
system. Commissioners also raised concerns about the
Corporation's increasing reliance on unregulated services to
deliver parts of its mandate, as well as the reporting line for the
Friends shares these concerns. We
think they point towards a larger issue: namely, that the current governance
model for the CBC is no longer adequate.
At a minimum, we recommend that the
Commission put in place a regulatory regime for the CBC which is distinctly
different from that employed for private broadcasters, given that the CBC carries
a distinctive set of responsibilities under the Act.
We recommend for your consideration a
different governance model, which would entail legislative change, and
therefore governmental concurrence. Your decision could articulate a
message to the government that would be subject to evaluation on its merits.
That model is the BBC Trust. The
Trust is a "sovereign body within the BBC," and functions independently
from the Executive Board (which manages the organization). The members are Governor-in-Council
appointments, made "after an open
The Trust's work includes setting the
BBC's strategic objectives, issuing service licences (including budgets),
monitoring performance and acting as the final point of appeal for complaints
(including imposition of sanctions). All this with a view to "getting the
best out of the BBC for licence fee payers" (i.e. representing the public
The Trust's work is informed by four
Audience Councils, and it has its own staff, which report directly to the Trust.
Thus the Trust combines key elements of
the roles played in Canada by the CBC's Board of Directors, the CRTC and the
If the BBC Trust model were adopted in
Canada, Canadians could evaluate the CBC's performance in the digital realm in
the same way your Commission scrutinizes its licensed over-the-air and BDU-distributed
If we had a BBC Trust model in Canada, for
example, the CBC would not have been allowed to unilaterally change the formats
of Radio Two and Espace Musique, without an opportunity for meaningful public
input. We could cite numerous other examples of enhanced public accountability.
The existence of the Trust hasn't
stopped 'bad' things from happening at the BBC. Rather, it has ensured that
when they do, there is a supportive but independent oversight body there to
speak and act - decisively and credibly.
We recognize that this suggestion may go
beyond the purview of this hearing as articulated by your Chairman on November
19. But since it goes to the heart of so many of the issues you have
raised - or that have been looming over this proceeding - we considered it constructive
to raise it with you on November 23.
You can find further details on the BBC