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Re: Pre-Budget Consultation Submission

Aug 13, 2010

Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance

Mr. Jean‐François Pagé
Clerk
Standing Committee on Finance
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

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.

Summary

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

graph 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 CBC/RadioCanada’s 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 culture.
  • 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

–– 30 ––

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: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=1032284&Language=E&Mode= 1&Parl=37&Ses=2

2“CBC/RadioCanada: Defining Distinctiveness in the Changing Media Landscape”, 2008. Page 139ff: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=3297009&Language=E&Mode= 1&Parl=39&Ses=2

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.