The Sunday Magazine

CBC President Catherine Tait on trust, raising money and attracting a younger audience

TV ratings are down, international media are flooding in through the internet, people are turning to Facebook and Twitter for news, and there's the possibility of more budget cuts to come. Catherine Tait has been president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada for just over a year; she's Michael's guest.
CBC president Catherine Tait vows to take advantage of the digital age and will focus on the broadcaster 'being able to plug in anywhere and tell a story.' (Michel Aspirot)

It is the job of the CBC to build social cohesion in Canada, according to CBC/Radio-Canada president and CEO Catherine Tait, but "we also have an obligation to run a business."

The longtime Canadian television and film executive told Michael Enright, host of The Sunday Edition, that her experience will help with that goal.

"I don't think it was a surprise that I was selected as an entrepreneur to run this corporation, to try and find ways to uncover revenue that we might not have considered as possible for the public broadcaster," she said.

The CBC depends on the government for about 70 per cent of its budget. It has never had stable, long-term funding. Budgets ebb and flow because they're decided by the government of the day.

When it comes to financial support for public broadcasting, Canada ranks third-lowest among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. The average per capita funding is $90 — in Canada, it's $34.    

About a year into her mandate, Tait revealed a new strategic plan to guide the CBC through a period of unparalleled media competition, over the next three years.

"I'm very focused on not being attached to the outcome and just focus on the mission … what unfolds will unfold," Tait said.

Catherine Tait, left, speaks to The Sunday Edition's Michael Enright in studio. (Talin Vartanian/CBC)

The challenges are very real. CBC is operating within a digital universe. She said this means "being able to plug in anywhere and tell a story. That's what digital is really about. It's about the manner in which we tell stories, and that has changed profoundly across our news organization."

We, here at CBC/Radio Canada, have an obligation to explain to the people of Canada, and to government, why it is that we are more valuable than ever.- Catherine Tait

Despite the fact that news organizations south of the border are constantly accused of generating "fake news," she tells Enright that the CBC is trusted by Canadians because of the "journalistic standards and practices that we have that are the core of what we do — what you do — everyday."

Still, the public broadcaster has to justify the cost to taxpayers.

"We, here at CBC/Radio Canada have an obligation to explain to the people of Canada, and to government, why it is that we are more valuable than ever," said Tait.