The future of Société Radio-Canada (SRC) will largely depend on the outcome of the federal election. All parties aspiring to power have revealed their intentions with regard to The Crown.
The stake is in the public interest. The federal government spends more than $1.2 billion annually to fund the broadcaster.
With this revenue secured from the public treasury, CBC nevertheless continues to compete with the private sector by selling ads and subscriptions.
Justin Trudeau has already increased CBC funding by $150 million annually since his election in 2016. He proposes adding more by spending an additional $400 million in a future period. In their electoral platform, the Liberals announced their intention to “eliminate advertisements in the news and other public affairs programs” and “provide unique programs that stand out from private broadcasters.”
Does this mean we will cancel advertising in NewsIn return, the government will offer compensation? Does the public broadcaster need additional funding?
The media crisis is very real, but Radio Canada is not suffering from it. The numbers speak for themselves. The broadcaster made $118 million in the first quarter of this year.
In advertising revenue alone, CBC/Radio-Canada has made more than $65.7 million. To give you an idea, that’s a 17% increase over the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.
For the months of April, May and June 2021, it had its best financial performance in the past five years. This is mainly due to the fact that the public broadcaster experiences the best of both worlds: it plays in the private sector by selling advertising, while receiving public funding.
And it’s not just advertising that pays off for Radio Canada. Its digital subscription services, ICI TOU.TV EXTRA and CBC Gem, allow it to raise nearly 2 million per month according to its latest financial report.
For their part, the Conservatives have promised to keep the crown company funded, while ensuring that it no longer competes with private Canadian broadcasters and digital providers.
Erin O’Toole proposes nothing less than a profound reform: the separation of CBC’s English service and Radio Canada’s French service.
ICI TOU.TV EXTRA and CBC Gem will be free to eliminate the competition these platforms provide to the private sector. The governors will offer the Quebec government the possibility of appointing representatives to the CBC board of directors. They also suggest removing the Tandem Advertising Service, the commercial advertising platform that links Canadian Radio’s brand credibility to certain commercial products.
The New Democrats
As for the New Democratic Party (NDP), its Better Dare platform promises to spend more public money, without setting conditions or providing details of the crown’s mandate.
“We will increase CBC/Radio Canada funding to repair the damage caused by decades of budget cuts,” says the New Democrats. How much is Jagmeet Singh willing to spend? Does public broadcasting leave the private sector competing on its own?
With all of these proposals, this election will undoubtedly mark a defining moment in Crown history.
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