Opinion Column


Specialization, not more funding will help CBC survive

By Brent Stafford, The Duel

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (Alex Urosevic/Postmedia Network File Photo)

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (Alex Urosevic/Postmedia Network File Photo)


Columnists Laila Yuile and Brent Stafford battle over the issues of the day. The winner of last week’s duel on temporary foreign workers was Laila with 86%.

This week’s topic:

Should the government provide more funding for the CBC?

Sometimes only a friend can tell another friend the things they need to hear — this is just such a time for the CBC. It’s time for the public broadcaster to re-evaluate its priorities and face up to reality. I am a friend of Canadian broadcasting and believe it’s high time for friends of the CBC to have an honest chat.

Nobody should be shocked by the CBC’s announcement last week that it was cutting 657 jobs from its base of nearly 8,000 permanent and contract employees. You simply can’t have an estimated $130-million hole in your budget and not have it impact your operation. The moment the CBC lost Hockey Night in Canada to Rogers Communications’ $5.2-billion bid it was over for the CBC as we know it.

Read Laila Yuile's column

My Duel colleague argues that the CBC is still a mainstay in Canadian households. This is not borne out by the facts. According to the Television Bureau of Canada, the CBC’s share of the 601 million TV hours watched by Canadians in 2013 was only 4.9%. This is a shockingly low number when you consider we spend $1.15 billion in government funding each year — representing 64.1% of the CBC’s overall budget.

The only CBC programming that draws significant viewers is HNIC — fifth in the top-10 regularly scheduled network programs in Canada. Now that HNIC is gone, the CBC’s share of hours tuned in will only fall. Sure, they still get to air HNIC for the next four years, but they have lost control of the content and advertising time, meaning they lose a vital platform to promote and subsidize the rest of its Canadian content.

There was a time when the CBC mandate made sense. Canada is a vast country and public broadcasting has played a vital role in collapsing time and space — knitting our country together.

The media landscape has irrevocably changed and the CBC must change with it. Content borders no longer matter in the era of YouTube and Netflix. Many younger Canadians spend more time consuming content online per week than watching TV.

While I believe we should stabilize funding for the CBC at current levels, I do not believe providing more federal funding will solve the CBC’s problems. The CBC should focus more on regional news, investigative reporting and documentary production. News and information programming are CBC strengths and the reason why I will continue to watch the CBC.

Brent Stafford is a veteran television news-documentary producer and marketing specialist. You can watch his show at ShakyPolitics.com.






Who wins this week's duel on the CBC?

Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions