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The CBC cuts and the $1.1B: one has real impact and the other is meaningless

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two weeks since the first word of the cut at the CBC…and my last post. Most days I felt so overwhelmed and saddened by the news it was hard to know where to start … so I stopped (for a while).

The more we learn, the more about this CBC cut is just wrong. The degree of impact on communities across the country is so much greater than the relatively small amount of money it would cost to prevent the cut. Take Sudbury as an example, where hundreds of people turned up at a rally Sunday. It’s about to lose half its radio staff. Less than half a million dollars would save these jobs. But without them, places such as North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins — not to mention the entire James Bay coast won’t get covered.

The sheer value of information and culture the CBC provides in places like Sudbury are impossible to measure and track and that applying dollar signs to this type of public service is simply impossible and meaningless.

That’s what irks me so much about the way the Harper government, through Heritage Minister James Moore, has responded to this cut. His approach has been all about placing a distorted value on a single dollar figure by suggesting the $1.1B that has been budgeted for the CBC is some crazy amount of money, that’s it’s even a mark of generosity, a financial line in the sand. It’s even unprecedented, according to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The truth is the CBC got $1.1B as far back as 1992. The figure dipped down in the late 90s, and was up over $1B every year since 2002. The CBC’s budget has had no increase for inflation in all that time. Put another way, if the CBC was granted the budget it got in 1992 in real dollars today…that would be $1.5B (and it would mean none of these cuts would be necessary and CBC radio could move into under-served areas such as Hamilton, Red Deer and Kelowna).

To further put the $1.1B figure in context, take a look at Canwest Global’s operating budget for 2008. It’s $1.7B. That pays for newspapers, television and the Canada.com web site –in one language. Compare that to CBC’s radio, TV and internet programming of nearly all Canadian original material in both languages, the Northern radio service in 8 Aboriginal languages and the international service. Does $1.1B for all that seem as “substantial” as Moore would have you believe?

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