You pay $29 a year for the CBC — what should you get in return? by Joel Eastwood
May 23, 2014
CBC president Hubert Lacroix is calling for a national conversation on how the cash-strapped public broadcaster can best deliver its programming to Canadians in a changing media landscape.
Source: Toronto Star
What kind of content should the CBC produce? How much should Canadians pay for it? Does Canada need a public broadcaster at all?
These are the fundamental questions that CBC president Hubert Lacroix says need to be answered about the future of the cash-strapped corporation.
“What the public broadcaster needs more than anything at this point in our history is a nationwide conversation about public broadcasting, our mandate and funding model, and active participation from Canadians interested in it,” Lacroix told the Canadian Club of Montreal in early May.
His appeal comes at a difficult time for the CBC. In April, the public broadcaster announced $130 million in cuts to balance the 2014-15 budget, slashing 657 jobs over the next two years, paring back programming and no longer bidding on the rights to air professional sports.
In recent days came reports that more TV programs may be on the chopping block, and that the broadcaster is considering making Radio Two an online-only service.
CBC receives just over a billion dollars in annual public funding, an average of $29 per Canadian. The broadcaster has launched an online survey asking Canadians what kinds of services they want in return.
This weekend, the Star looks at the crisis facing the CBC.
Peter Mansbridge: CBC’s anchor in a storm
Saturday: Why CBC desperately needs a new hit show
Across the country, CBC operates 88 radio stations, 27 television stations, two all-news channels, and digital and music services in both English and French.
CBC’s radio shows are consistently highly rated, with 24 of 26 morning shows on Radio One ranking in the top three in cities where the ratings are measured. Together, Radio One and Radio 2 take a 15.5-per-cent share of the radio audience.
The broadcaster has also had success online, drawing 6.8 million monthly unique viewers to CBC.ca, according to its most recent quarterly financial report.
Lacroix says the CBC needs to change its mandate, which was created in 1991, to reflect the dramatic changes in the media landscape and consumer habits.
Marc-Philippe Laurin, president of the CBC branch of the Canadian Media Guild, said the public broadcaster provides essential Canadian programming that the private broadcasters do not.
“The Charbonneau Commission would not exist if it hadn’t been for the research the CBC did,” he said, referring to the ongoing Quebec corruption probe. “The temporary foreign workers story that is all over the news the last month wouldn’t be out there if a CBC reporter hadn’t spent the time.”
But the question the CBC now faces is how best to deliver that journalism to Canadians with its limited resources — and whether it’s worth funding expensive local television stations across the country.
“Should we exit now or be the last broadcaster offering local news? Can we fulfil our mandate in the regions differently?” Lacroix asked.