Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It’s a race to the bottom for Canadian broadcasting

The CBC has been sucked into a whirlwind of partisan politicking just at the time of year the public broadcaster is forced to beg for its annual allotment of federal cash.

Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty made it clear today that he is rejecting a perfectly reasonable bridge financing plan to get CBC through the next year of economic turmoil that has already hammered ad revenue.

And the question of whether the CBC will receive the same base parliamentary allocation for 2009-10 as it did for the current year, which ends March 31, is still up in the air.

The Flaherty quote used today by the Canadian Press is ambiguous. Yes, the $1 billion is apparently in the budget. But, the vital $60 million fund for Canadian programming that has been in the budget every year since 2001 appears to be in doubt. In today’s scrum, he spoke of it in historical terms as an extra.

If $60 million is not in the coming year’s allocation, then the government will have made a very clear statement on its commitment to Canadian programming.

The Conservatives are pointing to Canwest and CTV and apparently looking for similar evidence of cuts and closures from the CBC. Today, CTV was obliging enough to announce the closure of two more small stations, this time in Windsor and Wingham. Is a race to the bottom for Canadian broadcasters really in our best interests as Canadians?

CBC president Hubert T. Lacroix speaks tomorrow at the Empire Club in Toronto. It’ll probably be the speech of his life and I wish him well.


  1. CBC Windsor should try and fill the void created by CTV pulling out and provide a more true southwestern Ontario newscast as opposed to the Windsor/Essex count newscast now produced. Staff should be reassigned from Windsor to London and the Bruce peninsula. Doesn't make sense the city the size of London has no full time CBC TV presence, doesn't make sense.

    Other than CBET in Windsor CTV has a virtual monopoly with CTV Kitchener and "A" in London. Shuttering "A" Windsor and Wingham let's CTV pump in its "A" station in London while closing its store front operations in the two Ontario stations it is closing.

  2. I think the CBC has been undone by at least a decade of shabby management.
    It's obvious the current budget allotment isn't enough to do everything the Corp is doing.
    The government should put it in some kind of trusteeship, get rid of the incompetent management that's wrecked the place, decide what services it no longer wants the CBC to provide, then properly fund the rest.
    Not a chance, I know....

  3. Is it possible that CMG will reconsider the latest collective agreement?

    The union for heavy equipment manufacturer, JCB, voted for a shorter week to protect the jobs of their colleagues.

    If it came down to it, I'd be happy to take a small cut in pay, work less, if it meant not having to toss hundreds of employees out into the current labour market.

  4. I agree, and I'm worried about the "race to the bottom". While the CBC might be in the same boat (of falling ad revenues) as the private broadcasters, the CBC is a public broadcaster. I don't think the government can simply point at what the private broadcasters, and say that the CBC should do the same.

    The core of the problem is not management. I mean, yes, you could blame every mistake on management, but that's not the point. There is no way that management could get out of this if the whole industry is suffering from a drop in ad revenues.
    There is no need for a trusteeship. If the CBC does not get the funding, they'll be forced to cut staff and programs themselves.

    Paul Sham

  5. My fear is that this cutting of staff and programs at CBC is in fact an end-goal of the current government. "Exploiting a crisis" doctrine being at work here.

  6. I agree with "Glad no lock out until 2014". CBET should expand into London.

    CBC should NOT consider amalgamating English TV stations ever again. We went through that in 1990. If they feel the need to amalgamate, say, CBC New Brunswick with Nova Scotia, then one of the stations should be sold to someone local who can continue to provide CBC programming (free of charge to the CBC) and local coverage, much like how CKWS in Kingston works.

    They should, however, get rid of some of their French stations. I've heard Radio-Canada Saskatchewan gets fewer than 100 viewers for their regional news program. They should be fed the Manitoba newscast instead. Likewise I question the need for Radio-Canada stations in Alberta and B.C.

  7. Canwest's troubles are its own doing.
    CTV is a Tory bloodhound.

    I see these financial troubles as a 'convenient tool' to downsize the CBC - and allow more room for their own profiteering - at a time when the government is under public pressure to stimulate the economy.

    Oh yeah baby. Stimulate me some more!

    And James Moore, the minister responsible for this mess, is an admitted media thief.


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