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CCA Presentation to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for its CBC Mandate Review

 

CCA Bulletin 13/07

March 26, 2007


The CCA has tabled a brief to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for its current review of the mandate of the CBC.  The CCA will appear in front of the Committee on Tuesday March 27.

While the CCA welcomes the opportunity of this public debate about the mandate of the CBC/SRC in the 21st century, we must point to the fact that what is required is a full-picture examination of Canadian Broadcasting’s “ecological system” and how efficient it is at ensuring that the national objectives set out in the Broadcasting Act (1991) are met. It is essential in our view to link the over-the-air television policy review, the CBC mandate review, the Canadian Television Fund review, the new media and other related issues within the context of a global strategy to ensure the production and exhibition of audiovisual Canadian cultural products on all possible platforms.

The CCA does not believe that technological changes necessarily require changing any of the provisions of the Act or modifying the mandate of the public broadcaster, which is at the core of the overall cultural objective set by Parliament of making quality Canadian programming available to all Canadians in both official languages and on all possible platforms.

The CCA believes that indeed, the CBC should be present on all distribution platforms and that adequate funding mechanisms must be found for it to pursue appropriate programming strategies, the determination of which, being an arms’ length institution, fall exclusively under the responsibility of its Board and management.

The real debate today is about means and political will, not about cultural objectives or mandates for the public broadcaster. Countless studies over the years have recommended adequate, stable and predictable funding for the CBC, and yet, nothing has been done by the successive governments over the past 30 years, except for successive cuts to CBC subsidies (now lower in real dollars than in 1975) which have sent the organization lurching from one crisis to another and, according to some, losing its way in the process.

It is the CCA’s contention that the government of Canada is responsible for ensuring appropriate and predictable level of resources for the public broadcaster to fulfill its mandate, mindful of the breadth of section 3 of the Broadcasting Act and the new platforms it must occupy to meet those objectives in the current technological environment.

As part of an overall solution to the funding and exhibition of Canadian programming, the CCA recommends that all forms of distribution systems be regulated by the CRTC in the appropriate fashion and that all be asked to contribute to program funding and talent development the way traditional broadcasters and distributors are. The CCA is further of the opinion that CBC/SRC should be freed as much as possible from relying on commercial revenue to fulfill its public mandate.

The CCA supports the fact that a substantial part of the Canadian Television Fund (CTF) should be dedicated to independently produced programs to be aired on the CBC on whatever platform deemed appropriate. Contrary to recent attacks on the Fund, we deem that the CTF is an effective and accountable instrument to achieve the objectives of the Broadcasting Act and that it can evolve into a multi-platform model for funding Canadian visual content. The idea of a similar fund for Canadian audio content could also be envisaged, unless all parties involved find the current regime satisfactory under this heading.

Finally, we believe that some changes should be brought to the governance model of the CBC. First, to extend the arms’ length relationship of the government to the CBC, the Board should be empowered to select, appoint and, if necessary, dismiss the President of the CBC. Secondly, Board members should be appointed by the government with reference to a profile established by the CBC Board itself, with some form of oversight by this Committee. Thirdly, we support the idea that, as is the case with other public broadcasters around the world, the Board should include CBC/SRC employees’ representatives, respectively elected by their peers of each official language community within the Corporation.

Federal Budget 2007 – Clarification re: National Arts Training Program

CCA Bulletin 12/07 on the Budget has caused some concern with those specifically interested in the National Arts Training Program, both on the government and the administrators’ sides. (The CCA certainly did not mean to cause any added stress and we apologize if we did!)

Based on the Main Estimates tabled on February 27 (the only official document currently available on how the various departments will spend the Budget), the CCA pointed to a decrease of five million dollars in the National Arts Training Program’s funding. According to the latest information, it appears that there are currently no indications that the program’s budget will effectively be reduced.  Like last year, the balance should appear in next fall’s Supplementary Estimates, political circumstances permitting.

This is another example of how the federal government is using Supplementary Estimates to push back formal commitments, which is a problem CCA has been raising for a number of years now in our federal budget analyses.  The “collateral damage” of the practice is that all involved have to live on an even shorter predictability than the one-year federal budgetary cycle. Viewed from the point of view of investing in the Canadian arts and culture sector, this is a somewhat questionable practice that we deem should be rectified.

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