Right in the centre - The CBC needs to get smaller to get stronger


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

In Sept. 2022, I wrote, “Pierre Poilievre is calling for smaller government and I agree. I personally believe we should sell the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and have constantly said so. I think a strong case could be made to eliminate or very much scale down the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commisio (CRTC) as well. Hundreds of people work at the CRTC deciding who can and cannot broadcast on radio, TV and internet as well as what they can broadcast. It’s expensive censorship at best and a waste of time and effort at most.”

This past week, CBC posted this story, “The CBC’s president says a round of layoffs and programming cuts the broadcaster announced this week could mean changes in what viewers see on television.Catherine Tait says slashing millions from the Crown corporation’s overall budget may mean fewer unscripted, factual or game shows. She says those kinds of content don’t fall under the broadcast regulator’s programs of national interest policy that CBC has to remain committed to. Tait’s comment came as the CBC and Radio-Canada revealed they will cut 600 jobs and not fill 200 vacancies over the next year as they reduce their English and French programming budgets.”

I am not sure how much the total budget for CBC is, but it is often reported that the Canadian government puts $1.3 billion into the CBC every year. Pierre Pollievre, perhaps jokingly, says we should sell the CBC.  As noted above, I have been saying that for years and still believe we should. I think it is disgraceful that taxpayers are forced to support the CBC to that extent and yet have no real say in what programming is carried.

I do believe that instead of cutting and cutting, the CBC should put the TV side up for sale and make a case to government to keep the radio portion. The sale should take place before any more cutting is done and let the marketplace decide where it will go.

The cost cutting process is typical of corporations and is similar to what has happened in the newspaper world. CBC is largely publicly funded and newspaper corporations are privately funded. That said, corporations tend not to answer to their communities but to their shareholders. Answering to shareholders isn’t the same as answering to the customers. Corporations make cuts that are often harmful to the long term purpose of the corporation but generate cash to feed the shareholders. It’s called killing the goose that laid the golden egg. 

We have far fewer newspapers in Canada and in Manitoba than we had just a few years ago. Most of those defunct papers, almost all, were corporately owned and subjected to years of staff cuts and assets sales to feed the corporate appetite. I know personally where staff at corporate papers don’t get computer or equipment  upgrades and have to even self-fund their own computers without compensation.

So what is the answer to the seemingly endless slide in TV, radio and newspapers. It’s local ownership. Local people running local media outlets. In order for that to happen, local people have to buy ads, submit stories and really make a conscious effort to support local news outlets. Most local news outlets are very limited in how many staff they can support. It might only be one person. No matter the size of the community or the grouping of communities, local is the only way to go.

Local media companies need to be supported. If TV is to survive in Canada, then smaller is the answer, not larger. The same goes for radio and newspapers. There is one last factor to consider and that is local is the only way to ensure truthful reporting and accountable and reliable news.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.