Twice in less than a week, Quebecor and TVA Group executives have spoken out against the five-year $675 million reinvestment in CBC/Radio-Canada announced by the federal government in its March 22 budget. We believe it’s essential to respond to these attacks.
Let’s start by setting the record straight. First, CBC/Radio-Canada doesn’t get a “blank cheque” from the government. The public funding that the broadcaster receives goes toward fulfilling a very specific mandate set out in the Broadcasting Act, which requires that CBC/Radio-Canada incorporate “a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains.” Second, the Corporation is subject to not one, but several, accountability mechanisms each year, including the annual report to Parliament, quarterly financial reports, an annual report to the CRTC, and multiple appearances before the various House of Commons and Senate committees, to name but a few.
Third, the public funding received by CBC/Radio-Canada involves a large group of public services provided to Canadians in two official languages and eight Aboriginal languages on nearly 30 platforms, including two commercial-free talk-radio networks.
The $675 million reinvestment over five years applies to the entire group, not just ICI Radio-Canada Télé, as Quebecor’s CEO implied.
It’s worth recalling that our parliamentary appropriation was reduced in the last several years and our services suffered as a result. What’s more, all media organizations have seen their advertising revenues decline in recent years and CBC/Radio-Canada faces the same challenges.
The government’s reinvestment in CBC/Radio-Canada will allow the public broadcaster to strengthen its shift to digital. We will continue creating the best Canadian content on all of our platforms with pride and passion. This is what Canadians expect from their national public broadcaster.
The solutions to the challenges facing the Canadian broadcasting industry won’t be found in attacking the public broadcaster, or in trying to lock the public broadcaster into some kind of status quo. CBC/Radio-Canada will not become the PBS of the North, as some would like it to be. It belongs to all Canadians and must act as such.
Undermining public broadcasting will not help Quebecor make more money. CBC/Radio-Canada is not the problem. In today’s digital world the challenge comes from giant global media companies. It’s the balance between public and private broadcasting in this country that will protect and grow our industry.