By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
In his January newsletter, Bow River MP Martin Shields announced, ‘Heritage Committee Kicks Off with a Bang!’ He said the first meeting back in session at the Canadian Heritage Committee began with CBC President Catherine Tait, who “appeared after the committee passed a motion condemning the CBC for reportedly considering giving out executive bonuses even though they announced the CBC plans to cut 800 jobs,” Shields reported.
Shields backed up Lethbridge MP Rachael Thomas, who on Jan. 30 posted a video clip to her X page in which she confronted Tait about her worthiness to receive a performance bonus for her year’s work. Thomas fired off a quick list of stats that would seem to preclude Tait from receiving those bonuses. Compounding Tait’s apparent lack of progress with CBC is the fact that the broadcaster intends to lay off 10 per cent of its workforce.
“Under your leadership, trust in the media and especially the CBC has declined,” Thomas told Tait. “Fewer Canadians are watching the CBC, and in fact viewership has been cut in half since you took over in 2018. Ad revenue has plummeted; it’s decreased by 31 per cent from 2022 to 2023 and the number of CBC staff earning a six-digit salary has doubled. To add to that, in the last two years under your leadership more than 100 correction notices have had to be issued with regards to stories put out by the CBC. In your estimation, have you met the KPIs (key performance indicators) and therefore deserve a bonus this year?”
Tait replied, “I think I said earlier, I actually am not subject to the short-term incentive plan of the rest of the corporation. I have a performance pay based on my objectives, which correspond obviously to the company’s.”
“In your estimation have you met those metrics that are set out for you?” Thomas asked.
“Absolutely, yes,” Tait replied, leaning forward to answer. “What you’ve described are the industry trends. I do not control the number of Canadians who have left television to go online. By the way, equal to the number declining on CBC television that you continue to report, is an increase in millions that are watching Gem.”
Shields added a few specifics to the stats, noting:
-Since Catherine Tait took over as CEO, CBC Television’s market share fell from 7.8 per cent in 2018 to 4.4 per cent now.
-Tait’s total cash compensation for 2023 is between $472,900 – $623,900.
-Her maximum potential bonus falls under a range between $124,012 – $145,880
-Since 2015, the number of CBC employees earning $100,000 or more has more than doubled from 438 to 949.
-The CBC receives $1.3 billion in government appropriations, plus an additional $500 million in advertising and subscription revenue.
“So let me ask you, do you think CBC executives like Catherine Tait deserve a ‘performance award’ as she put it? While 600 jobs will be cut and 200 more won’t be filled?” Shields asked. He attached a survey to his online letter.
The situation was an interesting role reversal; whereas the media usually puts high-ranking government officials on the hot seat, this time it was members of parliament who put a high-ranking media official on the same seat.