Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance
Mr. Jean‐François Pagé
Standing Committee on Finance
House of Commons
Dear Mr. Pagé:
Friends is a watchdog for Canadian programming on radio, television and new
media supported by 100,000 Canadians. Friends wishes to appear in Ottawa during
the Committee’s forthcoming consultations.
Canada’s investment in public broadcasting lags substantially behind our principal
competitors on the world stage. The Committee should adopt the 2008
recommendation of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to increase the
per‐capita grant to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to $40 per annum.
Successful models for national branding among our principal competitors abound.
Other than the United States, where Hollywood plays this role, the best international
branding models come from countries with strong national broadcasters, such as
Finland, Norway, the United Kingdom and Germany. Our Cultural Sovereignty, a
2003 study by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage compared investment in public broadcasting among OECD countries, ranking Canada 21st among the then
25 OECD countries:1
Canada spends 0.08% of our GDP on public broadcasting, well below the OECD
average of 0.14%, and far below the range of 0.28% (Finland) to 0.19% (Germany) –
the leading countries cited above. Expressed in another fashion, the OECD average
per‐capita investment in public broadcasting is $80, while Canada’s per‐capita
investment is only $33.
Two years ago, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommended “that
core funding be increased to an amount equivalent to at
least $40 per capita.”2 Friends commends this policy recommendation for your Committee’s consideration.
Implementation would cost approximately $230 million per annum. Friends submits
the following information as evidence that asdopting this recommendation would
enjoy public support:
Last year, Friends commissioned a study by POLLARA, a leading public opinion and
market research firm on Canadians’ attitudes and expectations toward public
broadcasting.3 Among POLLARA’s findings:
- 78% of Canadians tune in to some form of CBC programming.
- 76% rate the quality of CBC programming as either excellent (14%), very
good (35%) or good (27%).
- 83% believe that CBC is important in protecting Canadian identity and
- 81% believe that CBC is one of the things that helps distinguish Canada from
the United States.
- 72% favour building a new CBC capable of providing high quality Canadian
programming with strong regional content.
- 66% believe that in order to survive and prosper, Canada needs the CBC.
- 63% consider that CBC provides value for taxpayers’ money.
- Only 29% of Canadians know that Canada’s level of public broadcaster
funding is lower than in most other Western democracies.
- When informed that Canada’s public funding of the CBC is $33 per capita and
that the average funding in Western democracies is equivalent to $80, 68% of
Canadians agree that Canada’s level of funding is insufficient to maintain a
unique and vibrant Canadian identity and culture, and
- When informed of the Heritage Committee recommendation to increase per
capita funding of CBC to $40, 54% of Canadians favour the recommendation
and a further 20% think the increase is too modest. Only 20% believe the
recommendation is too high.
- When asked: “Assume for a moment that your federal MP asked for your
advice on an upcoming vote in the House of Commons on what to do about
CBC funding. Which of the following options would advise him or her to vote
for? Increase 47%, maintain31%, decrease 9%, don’t know 13%.
In the words of the late Dalton Camp, from a column in The Toronto Star in 1995:
“Owning one national communications facility, such as the CBC, which owes
nothing to Mitsubishi or General Dynamics or Krupp, is surely worth
keeping. What we know about the CBC, in a world in which economics is
power and so much power is out of our hands, is that the CBC would never
willfully betray our national interest or sell off our Canadian heritage. And we are its only shareholders. When you hear people talk about reducing the
role of the CBC, or selling off its assets, look closely at who's talking – it
won't be a voice speaking for the people of Canada, but for shareholders of
another kind of corporation.”4
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For information: Jim Thompson 613‐447‐9592
1 These data are drawn from page 178 of the Lincoln Report, Our Cultural Sovereignty, published by
the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in 2003:
Defining Distinctiveness in the Changing Media Landscape”, 2008. Page 139ff: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=3297009&Language=E&Mode=
3http://www.friends.ca/poll/8288. A study of 3,361 Canadians age 18 and over, considered
accurate to +/‐ 1.69 % nineteen times out of twenty, in the field April 20/24, 2009.
4 The Toronto Star, July 12, 1995, page A17.