CBC announced today at a town hall for staff that it is selling all its property across the country, including major production facilities in Montreal and Toronto. These buildings were paid for by Canadians to allow the public broadcaster to produce quality original Canadian programming purely in the public interest. The announcement confirms a trend to strip CBC of that ability.
“The decision to close down production centres is of great concern for our members as it should be for all Canadians, and seriously jeopardizes the CBC’s ability to do meaningful production in the future,” said Marc-Philippe Laurin, CBC Branch President for the Canadian Media Guild (CMG). ‘Our members believe the public broadcaster can’t only be a distributor, it has to also be a producer. This plan threatens the ongoing legacy of award- winning documentaries, drama and other quality production at CBC and Radio Canada.”
These decisions most likely stem from the continuing and tremendous financial difficulties facing our national public broadcaster, a fact CBC President Lacroix acknowledged earlier this month.
“It makes no sense to plan this now, when three of the four national parties are promising to restore or increase funding to CBC,” says CMG National President Carmel Smyth. “Just today
the Liberal Party committed to increasing CBC funding by $150 million. In recent months the Green Party committed to an increase of $285-million, while the NDP says it will reverse the $115-million budget cut. Why rush into such an irreversible decision now?”
In the words of former CBC President and Canadian cultural icon, Pierre Juneau:
“Public television cannot merely be a programmer. The particular ethics of public broadcasting demand that programs be designed with particular care. This requirement implies that the public broadcaster should also become involved in audiovisual production. While public broadcasters may buy or commission some programs, in-house production not only guarantees that programs will adequately meet the purpose of the broadcaster, but also ensures the perenniality of expertise—some would say a “culture” of creativity—particular to the public broadcaster.”
And as the Parliamentary Budget Officer pointed out earlier this year, asset sales are only a temporary fix. “Proceeds from one-time asset sales give the CBC a temporary cash infusion, which allows it to defer part of the Government’s operating subsidy until later in the fiscal year.”
The CBC has also cut more than 2,800 jobs since 2008 and has plans to cut another 1,600 by 2020.