Monday, February 23, 2009

The CBC's Funding Must Be Increased

There is a piece in the Toronto Sun today expressing shock and outrage that the CBC is seeking more money from the federal government during the recession. That the Toronto Sun doesn't like it should be enough to convince you that it's a good idea. There are blogs in this city that have more credibility than the Sun. You can read the whole spew here but it reads in part:
"The public broadcaster already covers its costs in large part by siphoning just over $1 billion a year from the public purse.

But apparently that won't be nearly enough to pay the bills in the coming year.

Even before the economic crash last fall, government figures show the CBC had already rung up another $59 million in red ink for the year ending Aug. 31, 2008 -- on top of its usual handout that was 8% higher last year than 2007.

Now the CBC is suffering a precipitous drop in ad revenues as traditional advertisers are themselves slammed by the widening economic crisis."
The CBC was thoughtful enough to post a response to the Sun, pointing out all of the very, very many things that the Sun got wrong (it could have been deliberate misinformation but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt). The CBC Response is here and reads in part:
"The public broadcaster will not be in the red this fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2009. CBC/Radio-Canada will break even, in spite of the economic downturn, because of cost-cutting measures put in place by management starting last August. In fact, we have not been in a year-end deficit position in 10 years.

Contrary to Mr. Weston’s statement, our parliamentary appropriation was not increased by 8% this year over last year. Our appropriation was exactly the same as the previous year, save for a 1.5% salary increase that Treasury Board allotted to all Crown Corporations and a carry over of some funding originally projected for the previous year. In fact, our base operating appropriation has not been increased in constant dollars for 35 years."
Now what neither the CBC nor the Sun mentioned is that the CBC is federally mandated to provide certain services to the Canadian public. Sure Mr. Weston, all media in this country are hurting but in this economic crisis none of them share the mandated requirements of the CBC. Meeting those requirements costs money and, due to inflation, those costs go up every year. As the CBC press release mentioned the CBC hasn't seen an increase in funding (in constant dollars) for 35 years. That's why last year Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recommended dramatic increases in funding for the CBC. They also recommended that the CBC reduce its dependence on advertising. Now the economic crisis has taken care of the advertising part, but without the funding increase. Last year Mr. Harper who is staunchly opposed to arts and culture generally refused to accept the recommendations of the Heritage Committee. But perhaps, now that the economic tide has turned and Mr. Harper has discovered the joys of spending it's time to reconsider.

Stephen Harper should listen to his own Heritage Committee and fund the CBC so that it can provide the services mandated by the Canadian government and ignore the petty voice of a publication that exists to serve its own political purposes, that doesn't even take the time to do research before publishing its bile, and who's greatest public service to the city of Toronto and the Canadian public is the Sunshine Girl.


Jadester said...

I love this blog! The Toronto Sun is the worst offender in many ways and they have the gall to say this about the CBC? Unreal.

Paul Sham said...

The Sun may be blatantly wrong, but the CBC will always be an easy target. The problem comes from competing notions of what is Canadian culture. Is it benefiting Canada if they had arguably "more Canadian" programming that attract smaller audiences, or is it beneficial to try to get more popular, but arguably less cultured shows?

More popular shows will generate more money, but to what effect of the Canadian culture that it is mandated to provide. Finding this balance is difficult, and will always be open for criticism.

Although, I'm not sure if I agree with a "dramatic increase" in funding.

Paul Sham