CBC cuts are bad news for everyone

04 Apr

Last week’s federal budget was disappointing on several levels. There was the lip service paid to innovation and technology - a couple mill here, a couple there - but no sign of the long overdue and desperately needed digital strategy. One can only hope against hope that such a plan is forthcoming now that the big stuff has been dealt with, but one can also be forgiven for expecting Canada to continue to languish as the only G7 country without one.

More disappointing however, are the drastic cuts that are coming to the CBC. With its budget being slashed by 10%, or higher than the overall 6.9% across-the-board cut, some are rightfully suggesting the government specifically targeted the public broadcaster with its chainsaw.

Of course I’m biased because I used to work there - the cuts will doubtlessly affect many friends and former colleagues. But they’re also bad given the climate they come in.

Simply put, if you’re a journalist in Canada today - especially in broadcast - there aren’t a whole lot of independently owned places left to work. Newspapers, magazines, websites, radio and television stations have all been snapped up by telecom companies, to the point where there are few big ones left. The CBC is the notable exception.

This doesn’t just affect journalists’ career options. The more significant effect is on the information the public gets. There have been countless studies done and column inches written on the effects of media concentration. Few have found anything good about it.

Rather than slashing, the government should be adding to the CBC’s budget. It’s the only way the sole independent broadcaster can stay relevant against the deep-pocketed competition.

CBC bashers would do well to imagine a country without it. In such a place, all of our information is controlled by a handful of telecom companies. Does anybody want that?


Posted by on April 4, 2012 in cbc, media


4 Responses to CBC cuts are bad news for everyone

  1. russellmcormond

    April 4, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I agree with the sentiment, and also oppose media concentration.

    I wonder, however, if what we need is something different than what the CBC has been offering us. I don’t think removing funding is going to fix the problems, and in fact transitions tend to require additional funding.

    We need Canadian content, created by Canadians for Canadians — beyond what we will ever get with purely private sector content creation. Once created partly on our dime, do we really need that content to be narrowly distributed through proprietary broadcast/distribution networks?

    In the case of CBC text and audio content, these are generally available vendor-neutrally from their website. Much of the Audio content comes with an advertisement at the beginning and/or end for Apple’s proprietary content distribution network (iTunes) which is where some CBC content is sent as an alternative or sometimes a substitute for vendor-neutral content distribution.

    CBC video content is available over-the-air in some locations, but otherwise through proprietary distribution networks (cable/satelite/iTunes/etc) with most options requiring proprietary hardware in order to access (some channels available over cable unencrypted, but most require proprietary vendor-controlled set-top boxes/etc).

    You can see where I am going with this. The CBC is increasingly becomming content that is distributed over the same proprietary and concentrated distribution channels as everyone else. Longer term it is unlikely that these channels will offer CBC created content as they will compete with their own virtically integrated content.

    If we were talking about a “Canadian Content Corporation” (CCC) which was in the business of creating content that was then neutrally distributed over all networks, separate from a OCABC (Over Canadian Airwaves Broadcasting Corporation) that offered local OTA stations in markets not adequately served by other means, then I would be 110% in support.

    I guess I feel that what the CBC was in the past needs to be split up the way Ontario split Ontario Hydro to separate generation and distribution, allowing for appropriate competition in each. Much of what is broadcast over CBC television is already third-party content, so it is not like this would be much of a change for television — and the separation might greatly improve accessability of taxpayor subsidized content.

    • Andrew

      April 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm

      We already have OTA in all markets, it’s called the internet and CBC offers their shows on it for free for Canadians. And CBC mostly produces its own content, unlike the private broadcasters who try and fulfil their Canadian content regulations during non-primetime with cheap filler.

      • russellmcormond

        April 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm

        By OTA I was specifically meaning not-the-Internet. Internet is great for urban where broadband is comparatively cheap (even with overpricing in Canada), but not so great in many rural and remote settings where traditional radio and TV broadcasting is needed. Those of us comfortable watching our programming online need to remember that we aren’t yet in a majority, and need to allow a more friendly transition.

      • Andrew

        April 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm

        Over-the-air terrestrial broadcasts weren’t that successful either, especially in remote rural areas. That’s why Canada has one of the highest adoption rate of cable/satellite because of the problems with reception.

        Those problems can’t really be addressed by the CBC, unless you want them to be a telecom research & development company where they can invent new solutions. But the world is increasingly adopting the internet as the defacto communication tool for all mediums. This is something that the federal government should tackle rather, and enforce more available broadband to remote areas, not the CBC.


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