Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Should the CBC switch to a license model?

It used to be the CBC played a very vital role in the lives of Canadians, especially in the regions.

Then began the era of budget slashing in the 1980s. Some funding was restored in the 1990s but in the last couple of years the game has begun again. Last week, some major cuts were made to programming, including some long standing shows on CBC Radio One that provided important investigational work including the sports show The Inside Track. There are still a few bright spots, such as The Age of Persuasion (which is very educational, by the way) but that is actually produced outside by an advertising agency on contract -- a break away from when all programming was done in house. And with very very minor variations (i.e. the evening news), there's very little distinct flavour with the regions anymore.

So, I'm offering an open question I've asked before but should definitely be asked now: Should CBC / Radio-Canada go to a self-funding model of having as they have in most European countries a TV license? One obviously thinks of the BBC, which mainly relies on "the license" (currently £139.50 per year) but also has other sources of revenue including magazines tied to its many productions as well as being the UK's largest record company -- but then one only stops long enough to think of how enforcement for non-payment can be quite draconian (and both collection and enforcement is contracted to a third party no less!)

Should we go that model, with the tradeoff being less or even no advertising? Or having a mixed model with both a license and ads like in France (for the country's networks 2 through 5 -- 1 was sold off some years ago)? Incidentally, the fee in France right now is €116 in "metropolitan" France (the mainland and Corsica) and €74 in the overseas colonies (including St. Pierre - Miquelon, Mayotte and St. Martin) and is collected as part of property taxes.

I'm going to offer an open thread (with moderation, of course). Let me know what you think, including if such a model was adopted how you think it should be funded (a surcharge on income taxes, direct billed, or included as part of cable or satellite bills).

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Anonymous said...

Here's a suggestion: take $50 billion per year from the Defense budget and spend it on things that Canadians REALLY need, like public media, health care and investments in green infrastructure.

Tootrusting said...

Charging $21.00 Cdn a month for the privilege of owning a TV as in the British model is going to be a hard sell in a country use to no charge unless you subscribe to a cable or satellite service.
I refuse to pay for any service carrying advertising so don't subscribe.

Would I be willing to pay for a TV license in Canada?
Only if it carried no advertising and was a vastly improved version of the CBC in terms of content and number of channels and all the channels were available to my home without using a third party provider.

A national broadcaster like the CBC is a vital part of the Canadian fabric and I would favour a larger presence similar to the BBC but on a smaller scale due to our smaller population, and totally advert free (this should help Harpers friends at CTV and Global) funded out of general tax revenue, I would be willing to pay the extra directly like in the UK but can't see how such a charge could be made politically acceptable.

What particularly irks me about the CBC is their specialty channels, CBC Newsworld and the Documentary Channel that are only available if I subscribe to a TV service provider, I've already paid for these services though taxes!
Haven't they heard of unscrambled satellite channel as an economical means of distribution?

All the local CBC TV Channels are currently on satellite scrambled! (not Bell or Starchoice but internal channels on Anik F1R) Why?
As a rural Canadian I have one snowy CBC channel available over the antenna and a satellite dish pointed to an American satellite AMC21 where I can get 5 clear unscrambled and legal PBS channels.
Guess which stations gets watched the most! Ironic

Anonymous said...

Its time to realize what a gem the CBC is compared to the private sector and really support it. Tax me more, I don't care. Pump some money into it so the production standards are high enough to license more of the material internationally. The free "Ideas" podcasts should be taught in school; the idea of Q being integrated into a sort of iTunes only Qtunes would be terrific. The people at the CBC are some of the best in the world, yet we don't support this gem. Think of it this way -- we have a Rolls Royce for a car. Now, cutting it apart and selling it piece by piece is kind of stupid. Because its a Royce, its a bit more expensive to run, but it sure beats the heck out of the other K-cars.

Beijing York said...

I'm definitely for enhancing tax-based funding for CBC so they can improve on what is basically a great model. CBC television should be investing more in top notch drama like Intelligence and This Is Wonderland. They should also strengthen investigative reporting programs and continue to co-produce quality documentaries. Add a nice mix of local programming to the mix for both television and radio.

They should abandon their fixation of trying to compete head to head with private broadcasters. For example, what they did to Radio 2 is ridiculous. I liked the idea of showcasing Canadian alternative music on Radio 3 and think that it should also be enhanced, perhaps have a station on the dial.