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CBC survival trumps private TV

April, 2009

Conventional media were heading for a revenue crisis when the recent recession made the situation even worse.

Instead of one pie divided up among print and electronic, the Internet and specialty channels came on board, taking increasingly bigger pieces. Younger readers and viewers drifted more and more to online platforms, with a corresponding drop in the perceived value of OId Media. All this has been exacerbated by the financial meltdown. Here at The Senior Times we are weathering the storm with continuing high readership and advertisers who covet their attention. We do it without any government subsidy and remain free to criticize without fear of reprisal.

The CBC, with its superb ad-free radio and television service that, in contrast to CTV and Global, effectively mirrors our society, faces similar challenges. CBC’s coverage of the news, both local, national and international, is an essential institution, our window to Canadian life and world affairs.

We denounce in the strongest terms the Harper government’s decision not to make up a $171- million shortfall for the 2009-10 season. The result: Up to 80 jobs are being cut from its news division with another 313 to be dropped in sports, entertainment and current affairs. And that’s just the beginning. CBC president Hubert Lacroix says a total of about 800 full-time jobs will have to go and $125 million in assets sold – a “fire sale” of our beloved CBC. Locally, Radio Noon is to be cut back by one hour and such powerhouse investigative shows as The Fifth Estate and Marketplace will have their budgets sliced.

Similarly, CTV and Global are threatening to drop or sell stations and cut local programming because of revenue shortfall. They – who were making huge profits when they had less competition – are now asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to introduce a carriage fee for their over-the-air signals. The proposal calls for cable and satellite distributors to pay the networks to carry their signals, similar to how the distributors currently pay for specialty and pay channels. This would only lead to higher cable fees for channels that are available for free without cable. It could also increase revenue for these networks by $200 to $300 million, according to CRTC chair Konrad Von Finckenstein, who says this will not solve conventional TV’s long-term challenges. We are totally against this fee. Private networks, which have been making huge profits, do not deserve to be bailed out in this way. Let them adjust as best they can.

Meanwhile, we again urge the government to increase its support for CBC because this is a towering achievement of our country that is essential to our intellectual enrichment. We urge our readers to endorse a Save the CBC petition at: TRACK



At April 6, 2009 at 4:53 PM , Anonymous Allan said...

Save some jobs at the CBC, eh?
I take then that you support everything the CBC does, all its content, or at least its attempts to try and come up with content.
I can't agree with that, it's too much like a blank cheque.
Just like we do with government, I think the CBC needs a revision and an update every now and then.

The CBC also proposed carriage fees just last year.
They'd like even more money to play with, because, you know, you can't never really give too much money to the CBC.
Instead of just the current $1 billion that it gets, let's give them $5 billion. Then we can all go and work for the CBC and have a hundred different commercial-free radio stations and 5 different TV channels.
After all, you can never have too much of Canada regardless of the quality of the shows, right?

I think it already costs too much for too little.

At April 6, 2009 at 5:59 PM , Anonymous William said...

Allan, you must realize that per capita, Canadians pay less for the CBC than citizens of most countries in the western world. Those countries are mostly tiny...

In a country as large and sparsely populated as Canada, the CBC's role is even more vital.

Too much for too little?
Too much? About $50 per year... Most western countries pay $70-200... In Britain it's $260. For that we get national broadcasts in both official languages. In the north there are fewer than 100,000 people, but the CBC provides service in 8 aboriginal languages... The CBC is not about profit, and shouldn't have to beg to get the funding it needs. It serves areas of market failure, where it is not profitable to provide a service, but it is felt essential to for communicating vital news, as well as providing arts and entertainment to reflect the Canadian identity.

The CBC has been given a mandate by the Canadian government (see: Broadcasting Act) but not the funds to carry it out. This is the government's mistake and it is a shame that the CBC has to pay the price. Too much of the pandering and low-quality programming on CBC-TV is a direct result of the advertising they depend on to survive. CBC-TV (prior to recession) was receiving more from advertisers than the government anyway. This makes it hardly accountable to the public.

It seems like you don't like the content the CBC airs, but you also don't want to give them the funding to create better content. You can't have it both ways!

At April 6, 2009 at 6:48 PM , Anonymous Allan said...

That comparison of rates paid by citizens in different countries is a very weak argument to justify more money for the CBC. For what reason should we do anything that another country does? Because it makes for a better society? How do you gauge that?
Gosh, if there's a country that's way ahead of us because of giving more money to broadcasting then we'd better get on that right away.
And so where does the US fit in your evaluation of tax money going to broadcasting? We certainly envy their programs, and most artists aspire to that market and even living there.

The reach of the CBC in languages and transmission availability is, I think, more of a credit to our government than something the CBC can take credit for. And not any specific party.

More than a billion dollars every year would seem to indicate some substantial support from taxpayers.
How much more money would satisfy you, William?

Many shows we get from the CBC are world-class, but CNN is way ahead when it comes to vision and innovation.
The management at the CBC is too focused on doing things the way they were done yesterday, rather than how they could be done tomorrow.
There's no way I can support giving more money to an enterprise that values one specific age demographic (and what the CBC thinks that segment wants) over others.
We all know the CBC has been dumbing down programs in order to appeal to a younger audience.


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