I am nearly finished writing my second book, at which point these dispatches will become more frequent. I look forward to sharing details of that project with you soon. In the meantime, enjoy!
If as many people watched CBC as clutch their pearls when discussions of its funding arise, the state broadcaster would be doing far better than it is.
But they don’t. It’s a network that has far more people claiming to watch it than actually watching it, in part because it’s branded itself as some hallmark of Canadian culture, despite being irrelevant to many Canadians.
The greatest argument against CBC comes from its own content. Where else could Canadians learn about a man getting a vasectomy because of his “climate grief” or get lectured about colonialism by a talking tomato (a literal one – I’m not referring to Peter Mansbridge)?
CBC’s English television viewership is in continued decline, and its news audiences are nowhere near proportionate to its budget, which is where CBC lives in its own galaxy.
In 2016, I was reporting on a thwarted terrorist attack in Strathroy, Ont., not far from my city of London. It was international news, the town played host to a media frenzy the next day.
CBC stood out for sending no fewer than six separate crews to report from the scene. There was a CBC News Network crew from Toronto, a CBC Toronto crew (the state broadcaster’s local outlet in Toronto), a team from The National, CBC’s flagship show out of Toronto, as well as staff from CBC London, CBC Windsor, and a Radio-Canada crew to repeat the coverage in French.
It was easy to see how CBC manages to blow through $1.2 billion in taxpayer funding each year and still have to lay off hundreds of people, as it announced a few days ago.
The case for CBC took another blow this week when its president, Catherine Tait, wouldn’t rule out executive bonuses this year in an awkward interview on, amusingly, CBC itself.
Last year, CBC paid out $16 million in bonuses to 1,142 of its full-time employees.
Tait makes a base salary of between $442,900 and $521,000, and is eligible for as much as $145,880 in bonuses annually.
I can rattle off a laundry list of complaints about CBC’s content and editorial bias – including its refusal to call Hamas, a literal terrorist group, a terrorist group – but all of these grievances are secondary to the fundamental one, which is that I, and you, have to pay for it.
If CBC were privately funded, the network would be free to revel in its climate grief vasectomies, anti-colonial tomatoes, and Hamas apologetics all day long – provided there’s a market for it.
Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t, but no one can argue they’re providing something of the utmost value to the Canadian experience.
CBC is uninterested in being a public broadcaster that provides services the market wouldn’t otherwise fill. Its rural and northern coverage is an afterthought. Meanwhile, the continued existence of its online “Opinion” section is a farce: can anyone argue opinions on the internet (erm, like in this Substack) are in such short supply that a Crown corporation needs to provide them?
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has been refreshingly consistent in his pledge to “defund the CBC,” even going so far as to say its plush Front St. headquarters in Toronto might make for good condos for young couples to buy their first homes.
It should be an uncontroversial pledge: no one is saying that CBC should be abolished, just that taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for it.
To all the people who think this is such a heretical statement, fund CBC yourselves.
I’m proud to be part of an independent media outlet, True North, that exists because members of its audience enjoy the content enough to donate a few bucks a month. Other startup online outlets have had success with subscriber models, advertising, and combinations thereof.
If CBC wants to be relevant and sustainable, it should learn a thing or two from these platforms who are growing while CBC is slashing 10 per cent of its workforce. Unless, that is, the content isn’t all that relevant after all.
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