The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation operates as our national public broadcaster for both radio and television services. Its mandate is to reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions.
CBC operating costs last year amounted to $1.7 billion, the large majority of which was funded by taxpayers like you and me.
They did manage to raise around $500 million of advertising revenue; but just over $1 billion, covering approximately two thirds of their costs, came out of our tax-payer pockets.
I support the important role played by the CBC in maintaining a strong national identity. However, I take exception to the unthinking use of its considerable financial muscle. In particular, I deplore that they’re directly competing with much smaller regional private enterprises who work hard to keep their businesses afloat, without external support.
A current example in our region that should concern us, is the move of “CBC News – Nova Scotia” to upgrade its on-line local news website, which provides free, continuous coverage of our provincial news.
Our national broadcaster holds nothing back in asking “How do you like our new format?” Or “We’re experimenting with a new look.” They even use their broadcast staff to author local news articles. And they don’t hesitate to feature video news footage that our local newspapers have no hope of emulating with their tight budgets.
Deliberately or not, CBC competes directly with the Chronicle Herald’s paid subscription, on-line local news offering, which has to be a key platform in the Herald’s future, as it faces inevitable declines in its print edition circulation in future years.
I’ m fully aware that competitive situations exist in the Canadian TV broadcast world, where CBC competes with CTV and Global, but these are well-financed players, with large markets, that can take care of themselves.
But news organisations such as our Chronicle Herald and its stable of small community news outlets, both print and on-line, are having a tough enough time as it is without having to worry about a Goliath like the CBC entering the on-line local news fray.
And it’s not as if our province is poorly served by it’s existing on-line local news vehicles, and that the CBC is having to come to our rescue. We are well served with what we have; although they are not “free” services, absent a pool of public funds to dip into.
I had thought about the idea of some financial support coming from the federal Canadian Heritage minister to level the playing field, but this idea was mooted back in 2016 under the banner of a “Community News Innovation Fund to Support Local Journalism in Canada” but nothing came of it, which was probably a good thing.
An alternative would be to have CBC charge for their on-line local news but that is unlikely to happen.
No, it seems to me that the CBC must be temporarily constrained to stick to its traditional radio and television services mandate in less economically challenged communities, newspaper-wise, until a more equitable and socially responsible solution can be found.
Alan Walter is a retired professional engineer living in Oxford. He was born in Wales and
worked in Halifax. He spends much of his time in Oxford, where he operates a small farm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.