How would you spend $150 million a year at CBC/Radio-Canada?

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 and 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.


Vote below (give up to five answers if you’d like, but remember you have only $150 million a year to work with):

[poll id=”2″]

45 thoughts on “How would you spend $150 million a year at CBC/Radio-Canada?

    1. Stéphane Dumas

      Don’t forget CGI remakes of Mr. Dressup and for Radio-Canada CGI remakes of Bobino, Sol & Gobelet. ;-)

  1. Gary

    I’d make sure that the PM that gave us the money gets disgracefully fawning coverage from the CBC. Scratch that, Mansbridge’s on top of it!

  2. Mario D.

    This money is not new money .It `s funds being brought back after being cut so ain`t no big celebration to be had here.
    I would consider making the CBC a real network and not a province oriented channel before anything else. Of course the news broadcast should be of local interest but for the rest of the programing it should reflect every province before showing american stuff.
    On the radio side it should be the same thing and yes RCI should be brought back because it brought to the planet a quality programing next to none.

    Before trying to change things though the CBC should look ahead and modernize their ways of doing things with the new technologies and infinite possibilities that they offer.

    They really need to turn the page on the former CBC including staff wise to have a younger image and a better view of what are the new priorities. Not to disrespect elderlies but it think in the medias owned by the government it should be as in real life, retirement at 65 or 67 whatever…

    This is not the moment to try to think profit. The CBC will never make some so personnel wise sacrifices may be needed to better deal with real life. It is a well known fact that some shows are overstaffed and that less behind the camera staff will not make that much difference for many shows.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      in the medias owned by the government it should be as in real life, retirement at 65 or 67 whatever…

      How many 70-year-olds do you think work at CBC these days?

      It is a well known fact that some shows are overstaffed

      It isn’t known by me. Which shows are overstaffed and how?

      1. Dilbert

        I can remember a few years back a story about shooting a intro or something for a show with Wendy Mezley. It was your basic well lit talking head against a black / not visible background, for one of the news magazine shows. The main point of the story was that she always wants the studio colder rather than hot. What caught my eye was the list of people for the single shot. Stage manager. Assistant Stage manager / runner. Lighting rigger. Light Tech. Electrician. Stage hand (lighting). Sound Tech, boom operator, Assistant boom operator. Stage hand (sound). Set designer. Set Dressers. Producer. Script writer. Script assistant. makeup. Makeup assistant… and on down the list until there was about 30 people “required” to shoot what turns out to be about 30 seconds of video… and it took 4 hours to do. Not to mention of course that they used a mid to fill size studio and blocked that out for a whole day.

        Much of the numbers of people required is because the CBC runs as a union shop. That means that by shop rules, you cannot combine jobs or have people do more than one thing. A sound stage hand cannot touch lighting, things like that. Minimum call out times, minimum staffing requirements… It means that so much of what gets produced in house by the CBC is just way more expensive than it needs to be.

        So giving them back 150 million is just an invitation to return to bloated operations. That’s not going to help.

        1. Joanne S

          The comment above is 100% correct. I worked at CBC on contract for a year and I was unable to plug in a monitor without union help — and I am not kidding. It was very tough to see. Our money was wasted AND even the most simple of tasks took forever. Multiply that across the country and you have the CBC.

      2. Mario D.

        Come on. For instance listen to the final credits on any radio show on the CBC and hear how many work on research staff,technical producers,web hosts and so on. Excluding the on air host and guest of course ! You will not find such a staff on the private side of the media. i do not buy the usual answer that if you want quality programming you should not spare any expense. Sometimes the CBC is more a job provider than a content producer.

        Dilbert does a better job explaining how many employees are necessary just to fill out union requests. In private radio the fun part is that you get to make a bit of everything but not on the CBC side ! It does make for a heavy and expensive machine …

        If you want to succeed long term this is the first place things should change. Human ressources as it is in any normal business.

        1. Fagstein Post author

          For instance listen to the final credits on any radio show on the CBC and hear how many work on research staff,technical producers,web hosts and so on.

          You don’t believe CBC Radio shows should have researchers, technical producers or websites?

          1. James

            excellente question: pourquoi les émissions de radio de CBC ont-elles des sites web riches? Vraiment nécessaire?

          2. Dilbert

            The quesiton isn’t should they have them, but rather should they have them in such great abundance? The CBC seems to operate in a fantasy land where you can have a huge staff for under performing shows, and it’s considered normal. CJAD generally does their shows with one or two hosts, a producer (often a junior or backup on air personality), and that’s about it. They don’t have a half a dozen people working behind the scenes to turn out the show, maybe a couple – and usually shared with all shows.

            It’s not a question of “they shouldn’t have any” nor is anyone suggesting that – only that they should have it in normal proportions and not as many as needed, damn the budgets which seems to be how they work now.

            1. Fagstein Post author

              They don’t have a half a dozen people working behind the scenes to turn out the show, maybe a couple – and usually shared with all shows.

              Since you’re comparing with CJAD, I assume you’re talking about local radio shows. When I worked briefly as the researcher on CBC’s Homerun a decade ago, it had three people working for it: the host, the producer and the researcher. Daybreak has more since it’s the morning show, but its staff level is comparable to CJAD’s.

              1. Dilbert

                So what do all those other people do sitting around over there? It seems like there is a whole lot of staff, they keep cutting back yet they still seem insanely bloated.

              2. Fagstein Post author

                So what do all those other people do sitting around over there?

                Maybe you could ask them instead of just assuming they’re all doing nothing.

  3. Bill

    I think that the bulk of the money should be spent in the digital arena.

    I’d like to see more extended local journalism online, perhaps even citizen based reporting/opinion (that would, of course, have to meet CBC broadcast standards). There’s an opportunity in every city to report on things that don’t get covered every day but which people would still like to see (interesting people, organizations, etc)

    I’d also like to see the CBC work more with aspiring content creators to develop web based series/docs etc, that are reflective of the Canadian experience or that are just plain entertaining.

    Also, for the online experience, I think opening the vault could be of value in driving web traffic if that’s something they are interested in.

  4. Dilbert

    As for my suggestions:

    Don’t put a dime into RDI. Let it die. It’s last centuries old technology and doesn’t give Canadians much return for the investment. Shortwave is all but dead, stop spending on it.

    More than anything, the CBC needs to continue to work to promote Canadian producers and Canadian content. The CBC is at it’s best when it has a This Hour Has 22 Minutes or Canadian dramas on the air. Supporting more good programming is important.

    Support for the news is important as well. It may be time for the CBC to consider the US model of 30 minuntes local news, 30 minutes national news at the dinner hour. Maybe 5:30 to 6 for local, 6 to 6:30 for national – again, leverage existing services and strengths to get better at what they do.

    Sell more commercial time. I don’t want the CBC to be a commercial station, but they need to work to make income from their strengths. National News is strong, a couple of commercials in there wouldn’t detract from the product anywhere near as much as it would increase the revenue and bottom line. An extra million a year of income for news would never hurt, right?

    More than anything, don’t spend the money on bloat. Don’t add office staff, don’t add more stage hands or paper pushers. Use the money to improve the on the air product and use that product to drive a little more revenue, working towards making the whole deal a little more self-supporting.

    1. ClearChannel

      I know something about shortwave and it is not dead especially among private citizens. There are many frequencies that are allotted to amateur radio operators that talk to each other across the globe when conditions permit. And they hold contests where they set up temporary radio stations with awards given to operators making contact with the “Special Event Station”.

  5. Andy Reid

    Improve the distribution of the radio networks. CBC is the only broadcaster with national radio networks. Continue to migrate from AM to FM and strengthen the national alrerting system (which does not work on AM)

  6. A5 Sauce

    1 – Use the money to acquire more US programs that people want to watch, and sell advertising on those shows, and double the $150m.

    2 – Shut down the Radio 2 transmitters. And merge everything into one transmitter for Radio 1, 2 and 3 by using HD Radio. It seems Corus has jumped onto the HD Radio bandwagon in Hamilton, Vancouver, and now Calgary. See for some stations currently using the system in Canada.

    3 – Consider merging the OTA TV signals of CBC & SRC onto one transmitter. Use the extra transmitters to open up a few more CBC originating stations. Or simply increase the power on their present stations.

    4 – Spend the money sending Managers to the US to see how real public radio and TV is done at NPR & PBS.

    5 – Spend the $150m doing feel good stories about the Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau. And continue doing bad stories on Harper and the Conservatives. LOL.

    6 – My personnel favourite though is, spend the $150m they way they have always spent money. Show nothing for it. And then fear the Conservatives will win the next election. LOL!!!!!!

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Shut down the Radio 2 transmitters. And merge everything into one transmitter for Radio 1, 2 and 3 by using HD Radio.

      Wouldn’t that result in a lot of people losing access to Radio Two? HD Radio receivers are not widespread in Canada. I have a dozen devices capable of receiving FM radio, and precisely zero of them can receive HD Radio.

      1. Bill L

        Stephen Faguy wrote
        “I have a dozen devices capable of receiving FM radio, and precisely zero of them can receive HD Radio.”

        Dozen “devices” !!??

        Radios, ipods, ….. urh, umm.. ? Your teeth?

        1. Fagstein Post author

          Dozen “devices” !!?? Radios, ipods, ….. urh, umm.. ? Your teeth?

          Smartphones, older MP3 players, pocket radios, desktop radios and desktop alarm clocks. Not one of them with an HD Radio receiver.

    2. Eric Jon Magnuson

      Concerning #4, it’d probably not be a good idea to only look to NPR itself for radio; PRI, APM, and even PRX are all worth at least a look (if only because PRI and APM share ownership with larger member-station groups).

      That said, I’ve thought that Australia’s main public broadcasters (the ABC and, to a lesser extent, SBS) might provide better models.

  7. Marc

    Use it to buy up all private broadcast outlets and fold them all into CBC/RadCan. Then Dominique Payette will be happy.

  8. Arthur Emmersun

    Where is the option for volunteers & community driven radio: which can avoid massive salaries & the desire for pensions? Too much radio is just a “show” limited by a time slot. Re-shuffle the whole deck.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Where is the option for volunteers & community driven radio: which can avoid massive salaries & the desire for pensions?

      Can you expand on this? Do you want to replace salaried professionals with volunteers? Replace national radio programs with community ones, or set up new community radio stations? What would the money be spent on?

  9. Bill Garrett

    Restore full programming to CBC Radio and boost Current Affairs/News resources to CBC TV.
    (none of these were mentioned in your poll)

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Restore full programming to CBC Radio

      What does this mean?

      boost Current Affairs/News resources to CBC TV

      There are two options in the poll that cover this, depending on whether you want this on the local or national level.

  10. Joanne S

    I think you’re missing a very important possibility: Improve programming by 1000000000% and stop spending our money on poetry readings, pottery methods and a giant list of boring, useless, entirely unlistenable content that currently fills the air at cbc radio. For god’s sake, get someone in there with a sense of the issues we care about and focus on those!!!! Otherwise, shutter the place.

  11. CBC employee

    Cut the number of CBC/SRC desk jobs in half (managers, writers, producers, APs, paper pushers) Take half those positions and hire more people in the field (reporters and camera/editors): one third in major cities, one third in rural Canadian towns and one third in foreign bureaus. Suddenly we would have 500 more boots on the ground and less bureaucracy running the place.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Cut the number of CBC/SRC desk jobs in half (managers, writers, producers, APs, paper pushers)

      You consider writers and producers as desk jobs and “bureaucracy”?

  12. Don B.

    I believe a thorough review of inner working of English operations required ASAP. Then establish a 5 year plan and stick to it along with decent funding. I’d gladly pay $40.00 a year for the service.

    Disagree with Joanne S. re Radio One. “Useless” content? Really? Not listened to shows like The Current, The Sunday Edition, The 180, Day 6 and the local morning/afternoon programing? Very relevant in my opinion.

    As for NPR vs CBC Radio One: Ccheck out ratings for NPR in the U.S and compare how well CBC does in major markets here (go to Numeris).

    1. Eric Jon Magnuson

      As I hinted at earlier, a better comparison may involve CBC Radio One and most of the radio operations of Australia’s ABC: ABC Local Radio outlets are often among the overall leaders in individual markets, and tend to indeed be local (or, at least, regional). Even in smaller areas, Radio One could be compared to, at least, Radio National and NewsRadio. (By extension, Radio 2 could be very roughly compared to a mashup between Triple J and, especially, Classic FM.)

      By contrast, most of the major public-radio outlets in the U.S. rely on the trifecta of Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and (from APM) Marketplace; a lot of them also carry at least one other daily national/international show that’s distributed by NPR, PRI, or APM (including CBC imports via PRI, and BBC imports via APM). This underscores another point: that many of those shows (most notably, NPR’s flagships) aren’t market-exclusive. That means that there are some markets that have at least two stations/groups carrying, say, ME and ATC–sometimes at the exact same time.

      Still, there are several U.S. markets where the primary public-radio outlet is among the overall leaders–plus many others where it’s the leading Talk-based outlet. For some very rough results (that don’t include comparisons with commercial stations), see

      1. Bill L

        I agree seriously with Eric Magnoson on the ABC (Australia).

        Much of Radio Natiional etc, “leaks” to Canada via Radiio Autralia’s short wave radio service to the Pacific and it booms in.

  13. Pefder Magfrok

    Saturday Night Blues, available in a podcast form.

    CBC music without requiring adobe flash (or a sign-in).

    Let my p[arents let to listen to CBC Daybreak while in florida during olympic korrupt korporate games without blackout.

  14. Stéphane Dumas

    About shutting down the CBC, another option then I saw on Youtube is Sell the CBC.

    As for jump back into sports. I heard some rumors why the French CBC removed “L’Univers des sports” and “Les héros du samedi” was because folks complained then sports shows wasn’t cultural enough.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I heard some rumors why the French CBC removed “L’Univers des sports” and “Les héros du samedi” was because folks complained then sports shows wasn’t cultural enough.

      I haven’t heard anything close to that, and I don’t know why that would make sense. CBC cut sports in both languages because it could no longer afford what it was doing.

  15. Bill L

    What’s this desire for foreign correspondents? And where and how “bilingual” (serving two masters)?

    Improve national and international news (39%, 94 Votes)
    Go digital (32%, 75 Votes)
    Improve local news in large and medium-sized markets (25%, 60 Votes)
    Add regional factual (documentary, arts) programming (22%, 53 Votes)
    Expand into new, smaller markets (22%, 52 Votes)
    Create new high-quality TV and radio dramas (19%, 46 Votes)
    Open up the vault (19%, 46 Votes)
    ……… etc. etc….

  16. ClearChannel

    I would prefer that the CBC’s OTA is returned to it’s previous levels although all digital and that will cost a bit I understand. But the true definition of broadcasting is to transmit either radio or television signals freely over-the-air which would benefit more the remote areas of the country but in cities like Montreal dominated by Pay TV I don’t know how effective that will be with all apartment buildings and condominiums being Pay TV only. That will be the real challenge for the new government, providing those residents ‘real’ choice so that they can switch to OTA if they so desire. One thing that CBMT can do right away is move to channel 19.2 next to it’s sister station CBFT on 19.1 and stop causing interference to the CBS station WCAX transmitting on channels 22.1 and 22.2 The Americans seem quite adept at using sub-channels, why can’t the CBC do likewise?

  17. It's Me

    Shut the dame thing down if it can’t make a profit on its own. I mean really, we’re talking about a TV and radio network here. Is this really what we need to sink a billion dollars into? We have roads and bridges in need of repair, a healthcare system in dire straits yet we’re sinking a billion into a TV and radio network when there are already plenty of them around that air Canadian programming and showcase our “culture”.

    Sell it off as a non-profit and let the viewers put their money where their mouth is an fund it directly themselves via donations and then we’ll see its true value. Stick some commercials and paid spots in there, reap the benefits of whatever they are for being a not-for-profit, and there you go.

  18. Keith perron

    Rebuilding Sackville would be a total waste of money. If RCI did and I said did go back on shortwave. It would be more economical to lease transmitter time from Babcock, Media Broadcast and others. But considering how low RCI figures were from a study the Association of International broadcasting conducted in 2010. That would also be a waste of funds.
    I would say expand RCI to a full service, but use satellite, local partner station relays and online.

  19. Jane F.

    And for God’s sake, get rid of the radio content NOBODY cares about!! I have had enough of SNL-worthy shows on poetry readings, rise up singing and the 100 other hours of pure nothingness for which we all pay. Get back to real news, with real reporters (not “freelancers”), and bring us information we need as a varied and large country. In short, enough with the crap, get on with reality.


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