We Love the CBC But…
It seems the old adage is true: everyone’s a critique! In November 2012 the CBC/SRC appear in front of the CRTC for the renewal of its multiple licenses. In the weeks leading up to the hearing, organizations and individuals across Canada have been submitting their opinions on the proposed changes to Canada’s national broadcaster. It is clear from the submissions that Canadians love the CBC, but have very strong feelings on the way it should be run. The CBC is an integral part of Canadian society and, as a Crown Corporation, its purpose is notably different from that of other broadcasters. The terms of the upcoming license renewal will have an important impact on the future of the CBC and its responsibility in the promotion of Canadian talent. We have culled quotes from various submissions to encapsulate the variety of opinions on different issues that will be debated during the hearings.
CBC is our national public broadcaster and is mandated to show “predominately and distinctively Canadian” programs. Many submissions are critical of the CBC’s English television programming choices. They feel that the existing schedule includes too many American feature films and reality entertainment productions that appeal to commercial investors but do not take risks and present Canadian narratives that are unavailable on private stations. And recently CBC/SRC has proposed allowing commercials to air on its Radio Two and Espace Musique radio stations, raising new concerns about the quality of future radio programming.
The CBC/SRC has requested to alter the name of programming categories, which would result in increased flexibility. For instance, rather than having a separate weekly quota for drama and comedies and for documentaries, these would all be included in the category of Programs of National Interest, as is the case for private broadcasters. Submissions from the Director’s Guild of Canada and the Documentary Organization of Canada are vocal in their disapproval of these changes. In recent years, there has been a decrease in the number of original long-form Canadian documentaries produced and these new changes could result in an even greater decrease.
The CBC’s request to eliminate children’s and youth programming quotas has been met with a similar unease. As noted in the submissions, there has already been a decrease in the number of original children’s and youth programs. In order for the CBC to remain relevant it must build new audiences. It is argued that ignoring the under-18 demographic inhibits the CBC’s ability to develop lifelong relationships with Canadian audiences.
Top Concerns for the Future of CBC/SRC Programming
- The Impact on Programming on Radio Two and Espace Musique from Commercials
- CBC television programming choices: Quality vs. Audience Chasing
- Changes to Regional Programming
- An Appropriate License Term
“If the Commission accepted this request, it would be enshrining the CBC’s current levels of Canadian programming; we believe it should be higher. Why should Canadians accept that their own public broadcaster is giving away one quarter of their prime time to foreign programming that is readily available in a multitude of other conventional, specialty and online services?” – ACTRA
“PIAC/OpenMedia.ca are concerned that increased repeats and fewer original Canadian primetime series will result in less innovative programming that is distinctively Canadian and instead produce cheaper programs such as “reality-show” programs that do not represent the high quality creative dramatic programs in which Canadians can see themselves reflected.”- Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Open Media.ca
“In a small French market like our own, it is important that public broadcasters contribute to the development and dissemination of new programs that reflect to the needs of future generations. Despite the presence of new media, francophone children continue to watch predominately Canadian television programming.” – AQTIS – ARRQ – SARTEC – UDA
Commercials on the Radio
“We need to develop a funding framework that gives the CBC the ability to preserve its distinct character, produce high quality content and complements the existing radio market in Canada.” – Fédération nationale des communications
“We do not object to allowing commercials to be broadcast on Espace Musique to enable them to achieve their unique role in Canadian Radio as long as the license modification is accompanied by an agreement that outlines the respective proportions of music broadcasted by categories and sub-categories.” – AQTIS – ARRQ – SARTEC – UDA
“The FCFA recommends the creation of a fund to support local television programming for communities with a second official language minority group.” – Federation des communautes francophones et acadienne
“There are no more cultural programs on Acadian or Francophone artists, or Francophone economists in programs about finance or Acadian political commentators in current affairs programs. This situation is very distressing for Acadia (speaking only for our region) because, when our opinions are not solicited, we feel like second class citizens .” – Société Nationale des acadiens (SNA)
“Our recommendation to the SRC is to produce all genres of programming in the regions outside of Quebec: dramas, documentaries, variety shows, children and youth programs and to collaborate with independent Acadian and Francophone producers.” – Association acadienne des artistes professionnel.l.es du Nouveau-Brunswick
“Aversion to risk taking and overreliance on advertising revenues – has caused the CBC to increasingly ape the lineup of its private sector brethrens, rather than fulfill its mandate of championing Canadian programming.” – ACTRA
Fee For Carriage
“Every year CBC/RADIO-Canada receives more then one billion dollars in parliamentary appropriations to fulfill its mandate to the public. In return for the financial sum, Canadian citizens have the right to expect the highest level of transparency to ensure the Crown Corporation is responsible with the funds, that is to say, uses it in accordance with their mandate.” – Quebecor Media
Opinions, Concerns and Remarks on the Licence Renewals
“Despite all its faults, CBC remains an essential service. When it comes to information, CBC is the only one who can offer us a truly Canadian view on the world.” – Florian Sauvageau
“Canadian Cultural life needs exchanges and conversations, we support SRC’s request for a larger distribution of ARTV and RDI services in Anglophone markets.” – Alliance des producteurs francophones du Canada
“A renewed licence should encourage the national public broadcaster to pursue innovation and risk-taking in its programming to best serve Canadians while ensuring that these initiatives do not come at the expense of provision of its core radio and television service.” – Open Media and Public Interest Advocacy Centre
“The CBC has an obligation and a responsibility to provide Canadians with a forum in which they can see their stories and their heritage reflected on their televisions, broadcast from their tablets and streamed from their radios”. – ACTRA
 Broadcaster’s Act, Section 3m, 1991