In a speech delivered Monday to the Canadian Club of Montreal, CBC’s president and CEO, Hubert Lacroix, spoke of the harsh realities that Canada’s national public broadcaster is facing. Perhaps for the first time since he took on the job in 2008, Lacroix said publicly that the Corporation’s mandate is no longer sustainable under the current financial model.
The Guild’s national president, Carmel Smyth, is happy to hear Lacroix speak assertively in favour of the CBC: “We have to face the reality that we can’t keep doing more with less. If the CBC is to continue to be a voice for all Canadians, the funding model needs to change.”
The president of the CMG’s CBC/Radio-Canada branch, Marc-Philippe Laurin, agrees with Lacroix’s view: “It’s time for Parliament to talk to Canadians and pay attention to what they want and what they need from their public broadcaster. Forcing the CBC to endure cut after cut, while at the same time maintaining the same level of responsibility to the public, can’t go on.” Laurin also notes that the CBC’s board of directors has been conspicuously silent on the issue. “The Board is supposed to represent all Canadians. Those directors need to speak up in support of public broadcasting in Canada.”
At present, Canadians pay approximately $29 each per year to fund the CBC. That figure represents a drop of about 40 per cent over the past 20 years in inflation-adjusted terms. By way of comparison, the BBC receives approximately $97 per capita, not counting the commercial revenue generated by worldwide distribution of its programming. The average per-capita funding for public broadcasters across the 18 major Western countries is about $82 per person per year. Over the past decade numerous public interest groups, as well as the CBC’s various unions and even Parliamentary and Senate committees, have spoken about the need for increased and, above all, stable funding for the Corporation.
Lacroix repeated to his Montreal audience what he told the federal Standing Committee on Official Languages: “If we all believe in public broadcasting, then we need to support it, adjust its mandate to reflect the complexities of the current media environment, and to give it the resources it needs to fulfill that mandate.” He then launched an invitation to all Canadians to send their suggestions about the CBC’s future, in terms of its mandate and its funding. Starting today, all Canadians are invited to visit www.cbc.radio-canada.ca/future to submit their suggestions.
Lacroix plans to publish a report on the CBC`s future this summer.