Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier announced his policy proposals for the CBC today, laying out his plans to streamline the public broadcaster to put more focus on local and public affairs programming, to make the CBC advertising-free and to transition it toward a funding model similar to that of PBS and NPR in the United States.
Bernier announced his plan at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa.
The Quebec MP, who has proposed a series of libertarian-style policies in his bid for the Conservative leadership, argued the CBC should be offering programming that the private sector is not able or willing to do. This means a focus on local programming and news coverage, as well as more foreign correspondents, documentaries and programs on scientific, historic and religious topics.
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Bernier said the CBC should focus on local coverage, rather than concentrating resources in larger centres such as Toronto and Montreal, suggesting that regional perspectives, Canada's diversity and cultural events should be at the forefront.
"CBC/Radio-Canada should stop doing three-quarters of what it still does, which any private broadcaster can do, and concentrate on what only it can do," Bernier said in a press release.
The leadership candidate also proposed that the CBC get out of the advertising market entirely, be it on television, radio or the internet. He suggested that to replace lost advertising revenues, the CBC could move to a fundraising model like that of PBS, raising funds through donations from the public and corporate sponsorships.
According to Bernier, this would have the benefit of ending the CBC's competition with private broadcasters and other media.
Call to cut funding
In addition, Bernier said he would reverse the increase to the CBC's budget brought in by the Liberals in the spring, including $75 million this year and $150 million in increased funding in each of the next four years. A Conservative government under Bernier would then re-evaluate the CBC's budgetary needs under its new mandate, saying that he "cannot give any arbitrary number today, but I assume that the taxpayers' contribution will be lower than $1 billion."
In remarks to MPs on the Canadian heritage committee last May, Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor in chief of CBC News, and Michel Cormier, general manager of news and current affairs for CBC's French services, said local coverage was central to the corporation's long-term plan, known as Strategy 2020, and at the forefront of the CBC's shift to digital technologies to deliver more local content on all platforms at lower cost.
Bernier was not the only Conservative leadership candidate talking about plans for the CBC on Wednesday. Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost tweeted a short video asking his fellow Conservatives to join him in supporting the privatization of the CBC, as well as a link to his private member's bill on the issue.
In a fundraising email to supporters Wednesday, Trost attacked Bernier's plan as "CBC lite," saying "rank-and-file members of our party want our government to get out of the media business altogether."