Wednesday May 14, 2014

What is the future of public broadcasting in Canada?

Listen 27:27

After rounds of government cuts, dwindling ad revenue, and the loss of the NHL broadcast ad revenue, the CBC faces one of its most formidable budget crises to date. We're asking...what role, if any, should the broadcaster have in this country in the future?

"We need to show Canadians and ourselves that we can overcome hard times again. And we need to move quickly."

CBC President Hubert Lacroix

That's CBC President Hubert Lacroix's explanation of how the CBC would endure, even as it announced the layoffs of 657 full-time employees.

While some observers say the country's public broadcaster is in the midst of an existential crisis, others aren't too concerned:

"These cuts are not all that large. I'm on the record for a long time saying CBC should just be sold off. If Canadians feel that we want to subsidize Canadian content, what about the idea of privatizing CBC?"

Brian Lilley, host of Byline on Sun News Network

For their thoughts about the future of public broadcasting in Canada, we were joined by three people:

  • Kealy Wilkinson worked alongside broadcasting pioneer Graham Spry, and started the first broadcasting consultancy in Canada in 1976. She was also one of the drafters of the Broadcast Act of 1991 that still governs the CBC.
  • Gerry Nicholls is a communications consultant and former vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition
  • Rodney Benson is a Professor of Sociology and Media Studies at New York University. He's a comparative scholar of media policy and news media.

We also spoke with Reilly Yeo from Open Media Canada. In 2012, her organization surveyed Canadians about what they want most from their public broadcaster. They called it Reimagine CBC. Over 90 per cent of respondents agreed about the top priority:

"The primary response that we got was that CBC should focus on more courageous reporting."

Reilly Yeo, Managing Director of

    Peter Raymont is a Gemini and Emmy-Award-winning film and television producer/director. We asked for his view on how the CBC should look in the future. Here's what he said:

    "I think the arts, arts programming on CBC English Television in particular, could really help to revitalize the CBC. There's been very little arts programming on the CBC for quite a few years now, I think it's a great shame that the artists of Canada, the musicians and poets and writers and filmmakers of Canada haven't had their voices heard and their work seen on CBC television, and it's a vital part of Canadian culture and Canadian identity. "

    Canadian producer/director Peter Raymont

    Do you think having a public broadcaster is important to Canadians?

    Tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Or e-mail us through our website. Find us on Facebook. Call us toll-free at 1 877 287 7366. And as always if you missed anything on The Current, grab a podcast.

    This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson and Pacinthe Mattar.