Wielgosz: CBC reflects twisted priorities

Jim Wielgosz - December 13, 2016

Late last month, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) submitted a proposal to Parliament outlining a “cohesive cultural investment strategy”, including a pitch to increase their annual funding by $400 million per year. The rationale behind such a dramatic funding increase would be to allow the CBC to “move away from advertising as a source of revenue on all platforms and be a strong anchor for our cultural ecosystem.”

In a clearly biased article in which (I'm not making this up) CBC interviewed a CBC official about why CBC should get more funding, executive vice-president Heather Conway sniffed that “millions of millions of dollars more for an ad-free network isn't outrageous and could even benefit other Canadian media companies.” That's like asking the Big Bad Wolf whether he feels it’s reasonable that all future pig housing be built from straw.

For the uninitiated, the CBC currently receives more than $1 billion per year in public subsidies. To give you a point of comparison, this is more than double the annual budget of the Canadian Space Agency and almost eight times the budget of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (see Estimates by Organization in the 2015-16 Main Estimates). What’s worse is the CBC's sense of entitlement and moral righteousness in demanding a 40 percent budget boost.

For a public broadcaster that regularly claims the moral high ground on social issues ranging from climate change to the plight of Canada's Indigenous communities, it's richly ironic that this same entity is seeking an annual funding increase nearly double what the federal government spends on wastewater systems and emergency management on First Nations reserves.

Yes, that's right - while dozens of native communities remain under years-long boil water advisories and kids are forced to drink filthy lake water in extreme cases, CBC President & CEO Hubert Lacroix has the audacity to pen a public letter to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage warning that “media in Canada are struggling to adapt to tremendous change”.

The real kicker is the CBC's insistence that its siphoning of hundreds of millions more in tax dollars would be for the higher purpose of enabling “Canadian culture and public broadcasting to become a true source of social and economic strength for this country.”

As if public broadcasting - and not millions of everyday ambitious, smart and entrepreneurial Canadians - is the undeniable source of social and economic strength in Canada. Even more eyebrow-raising, the report calls for “predictable and stable (funding)...indexed to inflation, and separated from the election and annual government budget cycles”. The reason: ‘depoliticizing’ the CBC. The very same CBC that is currently spending public money on a political campaign to increase its funding by 40 percent.

The last federal government failed to adequately rein in the CBC's largesse...which has only emboldened them to ask for more. Increasing CBC funding now, when there clearly are much more pressing issues deserving of public spending, is unethical. It also speaks to the entitled, out-of-touch behemoth the CBC has become - clearly more consumed with finding ways to lard its operating budget than becoming a ‘true source of social and economic strength’. And for this, the CBC should be reproached by Canada's Liberal government and all Canadians alike.

Jim Wielgosz is a former senior policy advisor to Cabinet ministers in the previous Conservative government, including Aboriginal Affairs ministers Bernard Valcourt. He now works in the voluntary sector helping empower people to develop employment and life skills.

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