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Time to de-fund the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Posted November 11th, 2012 in Canada and tagged , , , , , by Adrian MacNair

De-fund the CBC. It’s such a conservative thing to say, isn’t it? De-funding the CBC has been a polarizing topic between the left and the right for years. But I’m not approaching this issue from a left or right viewpoint. I’m approaching it from a value-for-investment viewpoint.

In the year 2012, is there any reason we need a state-funded multimedia broadcaster? With literally a world full of movies, TV shows, videos, music, and news content at our Internet fingertips, is there any reason to have to pay $1 billion a year for a Canadian company to provide all of it? The answer is painfully obvious. Of course we don’t.

Why on Earth would anyone want to keep the public broadcaster? Is it for its “Canadian content?” Well, that hardly makes sense. I could perhaps see an argument back when the CBC was putting out original content like “This Hour has Seven Days,” but that ship has sailed.

What other media organization could ignore its base so steadfastly and remain in business? Most people have realized the CBC mainly regurgitates American programming, has limited local news, and simply turn the channel. Worse still, despite the exorbitant cost of running the CBC, it has some of the longest commercials of any network.

“Friends” of the CBC say it’s important to save Canadian content programming. But, what are they talking about? What CBC shows are made in Canada today? And who, pray tell, watches these shows?

It’s almost as though the CBC proponents have buried their head in the sands of 1956, and refuse to acknowledge the rest of the world has moved on to the instant gratification of the Internet. Protect Canadian content? From what? Unless the CBC has the powers to block the Internet, the war was lost years ago with video on demand. The CBC today is sort of like a government-funded Blockbuster Video.

The argument that the CBC has to be government funded because it gives Canadian television actors and movie producers an opportunity they wouldn’t ordinarily get doesn’t really cut muster in 2012. It’s easier to produce an Indie film and debut it on YouTube than to waste your time running it past a CBC executive.

Look, I get it. I understand why people feel protective, and even patriotic of the CBC. I grew up with the same shows as everybody else, remember the same things. Back in the ’80s when nobody could get a TV channel to work at the cottage, we could play the Stanley Cup Finals between the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Islanders with rabbit ears pointed just the right way toward Toronto.

My dad used to listen to Peter Gzowski and CBC Radio One’s As it Happens. One of the strongest memories of my father is coming home from school and hearing the familiar refrain over that black transistor radio while he was doing the dishes or cooking dinner.

Back when there were two or three stations on TV, it made sense to have the CBC. What did one watch on the boob tube? Well, whatever was on the CBC, of course. What else would one watch? A movie on Betamax?

But look, it’s not the ’80s anymore. There are thousands and thousands of TV channels in every country of the world I can watch immediately at the click of a mouse button. There are tens of thousands of movies I can download whenever I want. There are millions of websites I can view at the slightest whim. The state-funded CBC providing Canadian-made content or not has no relevance in any of those decisions.

It’s not about hating or liking the CBC. If you like the CBC so much, make it a not-for-profit public broadcaster and donate to it like TVO (although the public Ontario broadcaster does receive provincial funding). It’s not like I’m lobbying to get Canadians to pay for movies and TV shows that I like. Why force me to spend tax dollars on something I don’t need?

I don’t want to give the impression the CBC is a complete asset loss. Although I don’t find much of the programming very interesting, I do like The Passionate Eye, and I listen to the radio now and then on the way in to work. I don’t like the radio too much, since much like the TV it gets killed by the private sector for local news.

The journalists and other people working for the CBC are skilled and valuable people who do great work. As a company with long history, it attracts some prime talent, and competitors like CTV, Sun News Network, and others would be lying through their teeth if they said they wouldn’t love to have a bunch of CBC employees defect.

There’s clearly value within the CBC and in the shows it produces. I just don’t think that with the operating losses the company posts it’s really providing a value to taxpayers that commensurate with our investment. It’s time to de-fund the CBC and let it sink or swim, or else sell it to the private sector.

That’s not a left or rightwing statement. It’s just something anybody with common sense should be willing to accept in 2012. It’s just time to move on.

11 Responses so far.

  1. SusaanNo Gravatar says:

    How is the CBC justified some ask? After today I wonder as well, Canada´s Remembrance Day on Nov 11th was NOT broadcast on CBC British Columbia this morning, while CTV and Global and SUN all broadcasted the Ceremony from the Nations Capital live at 8am Pacific.

    What is that big concrete CBC monolith building on W Georgia Street in Vancouver doing for all rural and urban BCers besides twice a day lattes in the park and a short work week?

  2. SusaanNo Gravatar says:

    C´mon In BC Coronation Street is preferred to Remembrance Day?

  3. Eric JohnsonNo Gravatar says:

    How about next time you write an article try using a “fact” to back your statements rather than just spouting opinion. Calling the CBC irrelevant because it doesn’t matter to you and you don’t watch it, is as closed minded as someone who rides a bike claiming that the roads are irrelevant because they don’t use them and why should they be paying taxes for something that is anitquated and in their mind useless. As for “Why should I pay for it with my tax dollars” Let’s start with Oil and Gas subsidies for the worlds richest industry or how about how everyone in Canada regardless of religious beliefs plays for our countries Catholic schools?

  4. billgNo Gravatar says:

    Actually, it is a Left/Right issue. Most CBC supporters are Left wing, and, there’s nothing wrong with that, but, to those supporters the CBC isnt just the news or radio and television programing, its an Art form. Its Art and its why its so hard to have a conversation about its usefullness and whether or not it should be defunded. It will always be a Left/Right issue, and, its an issue the Right cannot win.

  5. Mark BellNo Gravatar says:

    I always find it amusing when an argument is given for a specific topic and the author uses the “anyone with common sense” tactic. In-other-words, if I disagree with you I obviously lack common sense. That is a very weak go-to especially when you did make some very valid points in your arguments. No reason to belittle people who may take a contrary point of view.

    You did though make a mistake when you refer to what shows are produced in Canada and who watches these shows. Republic of Doyle, Dragons Den, The Fifth Estate and Arctic Air are well-produced, Canadian-made and very relevant and watched by a great number of people. The fact that you may or may not yourself watch these does not mean that others do not.

    I too do watch a fair bit of Internet-related content as well as watching other networks, Canadian and American. I do still find there is a place for the CBC in all of this.

    Is there a funding problem? Absolutely there is and on this you and I will agree. I don’t think the answer in this particular case is to simply up and ‘off’ the network. I do agree that there needs to be some sort of overhaul and look at how and what the network does for it’s money.

  6. CQNo Gravatar says:

    Canadian TV is a two-sided de-funding issue. I asked whether Bell and Rogers should be ordered to issue a basic-level cable subscription rebate – as based on the current NHL lockout.
    On one hand as majority owenrs of Canada’s largest market team, they are locking out their own athletic employees. With the other hand, Bell and Rogers are still taking a portion of mandatory customer cable pricing to continue suppling their own Sports Channels – yet without the very same dominant pro-sport of which they have also locked out!
    Link: http://classicquarters.blogspot.ca/2012/10/should-tsn-and-sportsnet-cda-issue.html

    I later asked why CTV/TSN (Bell Media) will again refuse to broadcast the annual Grey Cup game on a broadcast network. They are usually out of a Sunday Night simucast schedule across the East timezone. Plus, it is also the U.S. holiday weekend which means further non-simucasting availabilities toward fresh programming.

  7. FayNo Gravatar says:

    Well written pros and cons of the CBC. Now Canadian citizen’s need to be given vote on the CBC.
    It is time for a referendum on the CBC !

  8. Eric, your logic is flawed. I don’t NEED the CBC because I can find the same content in literally thousands of other places for free, provided by private companies that aren’t subsidized by the taxpayer. What original content programming is the CBC doing that’s worth $1 billion in 2012? That money is better spent elsewhere, I’m sure.

    We can’t pick and choose the roads we need to get to specific destinations.

    As well, criticism of corporate welfare doesn’t invalidate my argument.

  9. AlainNo Gravatar says:

    The CBC needs to be privatised. It does not serve any national purpose or need. I haven’t watched it in years, since it is not representative of the country. Most of its programs are American, available on many other channels and most of what it produces is pathetic. I borrow DVDs on a regular basis from our local library, and I recently made the mistake of taking out “Republic of Doyle”. I barely made it through one episode before changing to something better. It was pathetic and in no way came any where close to portraying people in the Maritimes. I wager the writer and producer were from the Toronto bubble. I also wager that were we offered a chance to vote on whether or not to privatise the CBC, the majority would vote to do so.

  10. SusaanNo Gravatar says:

    If memory serves Adrian, CBC´s budget is closer to $1.8 Billion with 1.1 Billion of that coming from government annually. Maybe it´s a metaphor for the current times, fiscal cliff and the ever variable quandry of financial unsustainability.

  11. peterjNo Gravatar says:

    The CBC lost me and mine when they lost neutrality and chose to represent every weenie, whiner and wingnut in Canada. Instead of being the observer they became the voice of activism with no social engineering cause being too small. There were no longer two sides to every story or even the most basic criteria every reporter starts with, what, when , where , why and how. They lost their way a long time ago and all funding should be eliminated on a sliding scale. If they can compete with private enterprise they will survive although on a much smaller scale.