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Is it time to defund the CBC?

Posted on April 11, 2024 by Taber Times

The CBC just got another cash infusion from the Trudeau government and treated itself to a fresh round of bonuses.

Cabinet documents show the government boosted the state broadcaster’s budget by $96 million, bringing annual funding to more than $1.4 billion.

Documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation show the CBC also handed out bonuses, costing $15 million, while at the same time reportedly laying off about 600 people.

Why are we paying a king’s ransom for a broadcaster so few Canadians watch?

To understand why it’s time to defund the CBC, let’s look at its costs, purpose and results.

The money spent on the CBC could pay the salaries of about 7,000 cops and 7,000 paramedics. It could buy 2,400 homes in Calgary. It would cover groceries for about 85,000 Canadian families for a year.

The CBC has dished out $114 million in bonuses since 2015. There are 1,450 CBC staffers taking home six-figure salaries. Since 2015, the number of CBC employees taking a six-figure annual salary has spiked by 231 per cent.

CBC’s CEO, Catherine Tait, was questioned about reported layoffs and bonuses by CBC anchor Adrienne Arsenault.

“The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, through an FOI request, showed $16 million were paid in bonuses in 2022, can we establish that is not happening this year?” Arsenault asked her boss on Dec. 4, 2023.

“I am not going to comment on something that hasn’t been discussed at this point,” Tait replied.

Tait, who’s salary and benefits range from $472,900 to $623,900, doubled down on being entitled to entitlements during her committee testimony in January.

And we now know the bonuses were indeed handed out.

The CBC costs a lot of money, so what about its purpose?

When the CBC started, it mostly provided the hockey score, the weather report and some variety shows to compete with radio powerhouses in New York. Nowadays, this information and entertainment flows from dozens of other sources.

One of the justifications the CBC uses to keep its government funding is that it provides vital information for Indigenous Canadians.

Last year, the CBC spent $6,426,320 on Indigenous services, or just 0.3 per cent of its total spending. That’s less than half of the money recently spent on bonuses.

In contrast, the Aboriginal People’s Television Network, APTN, receives about $1.7 million from the federal government per year to produce special events. The Winnipeg-based channel includes newscasts, online reporting and an investigative journalism team with about 27 per cent of its programming in Indigenous languages.

Despite the CBC’s ballooning costs, a dwindling number of Canadians are watching it.

It has a 4.4 per cent audience share for prime time TV, meaning 95.6 per cent of Canadians are choosing to not watch CBC.

CBC’s newscasts also have tiny audiences. Blacklock’s Reporter reported the audience for CBC’s 27 local TV newscasts totals 319,000 people. That translates to less than one per cent of Canadians watching the supper hour newscast.

Tait told the Heritage Committee that while the TV audiences were plummeting, people are tuning in using its app called Gem instead.

How many people are subscribed to this app that’s taking up the viewership slack from TV?

“We don’t give that information out publicly,” Tait testified.

So, TV ratings are abysmal and the CEO says the CBC is making up for it via the app, but she won’t tell us how many people are using it.

That’s like the kid in elementary school who swore he can turn invisible, but only when you weren’t looking at him.

The CBC is missing the mark on its cost, its purpose and its results. It’s a huge waste of money, very few Canadians are watching it, and it should not be forcibly paid for by taxpayers.

It’s time to defund the CBC.

Kris Sims is the Alberta Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and a former member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

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