We will protect the interests of our national broadcaster, in the interests of all Canadians. We will reverse Stephen Harper’s cuts and invest $150 million in new annual funding for CBC/Radio-Canada, to be delivered in consultation with the broadcaster and the Canadian cultural community.
— Liberal Party of Canada platform (page 56)
Restore and increase funding for CBC/Radio-Canada, following consultation with the broadcaster and the Canadian cultural community.
— Prime Minister’s mandate letter to Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly
The Government will support CBC/Radio-Canada, encourage and promote the use of Canada’s official languages, and invest in Canada’s cultural and creative industries.
— Speech from the Throne
Though the wording gets more vague with each iteration, the promise of the Liberal Party to add $150 million a year to CBC/Radio-Canada’s parliamentary appropriation looks like it’s going to happen. Mélanie Joly has been confirming it during just about every interview she’s given.
But there are no details yet on how that extra money will be spent. The promise calls for the money to be “delivered in consultation with the broadcaster and the Canadian cultural community.”
The CBC is a large organization that does a lot of things. It has been rightly criticized as trying to be everything to everyone, and yet no one can agree on what things it shouldn’t be.
There doesn’t seem to have been any attempt at public consultation, and it’s not clear if there ever will be, so I’ll do my part here. What would you like the CBC to do with this extra money? I’ve outlined some options below, a few with cost estimates. But there may be other options. Offer your suggestions in the comments below.
CBC funding options
Just reverse the cuts. Hire everyone back that wants to come back. Hire new people for those who don’t. That should work out to about $130 million, not including one-time costs.
Over-the-air broadcasting. Reinstate CBC/Radio-Canada’s network of hundreds of low-power over-the-air TV transmitters, this time digital ones. Offer to multicast with other broadcasters. (CBC says shutting down analog transmitters saved it $10 million a year, but installing digital transmitters would cost more than $1 billion, so would eat up this increase for about a decade.)
Improve local news. Bring back the 90-minute local newscast in major markets while keeping the hourly one-minute updates. Add staff to local newsrooms.
Expand into new markets. Instead of investing in markets like Montreal, Toronto and Calgary that have fierce competition from the private sector, expand television and radio into new smaller markets, giving them local programming for the first time. Restart plans to launch a station in London, Ont.
Improve national and international news. Add more foreign bureaus that can tell major world stories from a Canadian perspective. Increase the resources of investigative programs like The Fifth Estate and Enquête. Make CBC News Network and RDI robust enough that they can go live 24/7 with breaking news and offer more high-quality documentary-style programming.
Factual programming. Commission more documentaries reflecting Canada’s regions. Scrap the “Our [cityname]” shows and replace them with weekly series about local arts, culture and lifestyle.
Create new high-quality TV dramas and bring a scripted drama or two back to CBC Radio.
Eliminate advertising for CBC Radio Two and ICI Musique ($1.1 million), and reduce advertising on television channels ($150 million would do that by a little less than half, though CBC notes it would also need to commission more programming to fill the gap).
Eliminate subscriber fees for CBC/Radio-Canada specialty channels — CBC News Network, RDI, ARTV, Explora and Documentary ($133 million).
Launch new specialty channels offering programming that private broadcasters are not.
Put Radio Canada International back on shortwave. Rebuild the transmission site in Sackville, N.B., and bring back programming in a dozen languages. (RCI’s “transformation” was projected to save $10 million a year, but rebuilding the transmitter site will cost a lot more.)
Better serve aboriginals. Create new programming on TV and radio in aboriginal languages and reflecting various communities across the country. Offer more local programming so that Mohawks and Inuit aren’t treated like one homogeneous block. Invest in serious improvements to CBC North and new partnerships with services like APTN.
Go digital. Add more digital-only journalists and digital bureaus. Experiment with delivering news and other content by podcasts and YouTube rather than live over the air. Hire nerds to make cbc.ca and radio-canada.ca more interactive, fun, informative and adaptive to new platforms.
Become a service provider. Bring back the costume shop at Maison Radio-Canada, and find ways to offer its resources to other broadcasters and producers and the public at large. Explore setting up similar shops in other markets. Create studios that can be used by independent podcasters or YouTube creators. Offer expertise in broadcasting to small communities, particularly aboriginal ones, to help them get community radio and TV stations on the air. Pool resources with private broadcasters to do together what no one can do alone.
Open up the vault. Increase the resources in archives so more content that’s been locked away can be put online.
Jump back into sports. Rights to pro leagues are locked up forever, so invest more in amateur sports coverage instead: university sports, athletics and winter sports. Put our athletes on TV more than once every four years.
Stay in real estate. Cancel plans to sell off buildings and land. Purchase real estate where space is currently rented.
Give every union member a raise and/or improved benefits. At about 8,000 employees, that works out to $18,750 per employee per year.
Do a little bit of all the above in a way that will barely be noticeable to the audience.
SHUT DOWN THE CBC AND GIVE US OUR TAXES BACK!
Vote below (give up to five answers if you’d like, but remember you have only $150 million a year to work with):