On Tuesday, the CRTC renewed the CBC’s broadcast licences for 5 years with a series of conditions and commitments to Canadian programming, including local and regional production. The CRTC noted the CBC’s financial challenges – the budget is expected to be nearly 20% lower in 2018 than it was last year due to cuts – but did very little to help the public broadcaster boost revenue.
The Canadian Media Guild had recommended a new fund to support local and regional programming by public and community broadcasters, to be paid for from a small percentage of cable and satellite revenues. Instead, the CBC will be permitted to run a limited number of commercials on CBC Radio 2 and Espace Musique for 3 years. The revenue that will generate is a drop in the bucket compared to what is being lost through federal budget cuts and shutting down of the Local Program Improvement Fund, which will be fully phased out by next year.
“Canadian programming isn’t made with fairy dust,” says Marc-Philippe Laurin, president of the Guild at CBC. “In 2009, the CRTC told the CBC it would examine the public broadcaster’s revenue needs for local programming at this hearing. This was the golden opportunity to redirect resources within the system to support local programming, including to French-language communities outside Quebec, and the CRTC reneged on its commitment. That’s disappointing.”
“We will continue to call for better regulatory support for local programming in Canada,” says CMG national president Carmel Smyth. “Placing expectations on CBC in its licences is an important part of the equation. Equally important, is making sure the public broadcaster has a way of paying for these crucial public services.”