Trudeau Saves CBC from Extinction with $150 Million Annual Budget Increase

Wednesday, Mar 23, 2016

For the second time since the election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government last fall, you could hear all employees at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) breathing a big sigh of relief.

The struggling public broadcaster received a reprieve from the new federal government after plans were announced today to provide the network with a $675-million investment over five years. CBC will receive a $75 million boost this year, followed by a $150 million annual increase until 2021.

It follows Trudeau’s campaign promise of increasing the CBC’s annual funding by $150 million per year.

The funding boost not only reverses the latest round of cuts made by the Conservative government: It slashed $115 million in funding per year beginning in 2012. In response, CBC reduced its annual budget by $130 million, which resulted in the loss of 657 jobs two years later. By mid-2015, it had shed 1,400 positions including 244 positions in newsrooms across the country.

More than 2,800 positions have been eliminated at the CBC since 2008 due to the Conservative government and changes in the media landscape. The network has lost its once-proud sports department, which is no longer capable of broadcasting professional sports.

In more recent years, the CBC lost the Canadian rights to cover the NHL in Canada; its once-leading sports department has been completely decimated, it is no longer able capable of broadcasting professional sports. However, it does have one last prized procession: The public broadcaster has retained the rights to broadcast the Olympic Games until 2024, in partnership with TSN, RDS, and Sportsnet.

Its renowned documentary unit also no longer exists as part of the latest round in job cuts. Overall, quality original programming – a key mandate for the public broadcaster – has greatly suffered. And its impact has been a vicious circle: Less money for quality programming means less viewers, and in turn less ad revenues that also support programming.

The latest plan indicated the CBC would pull away from television and radio and focus more of its resources on digital and mobile platforms.

Facing an existential crisis, just weeks before the election, the Canadian Media Guild revealed plans by CBC network executives to sell all of its properties and buildings across the country, including the iconic Toronto headquarters and the Vancouver studio – the second-largest English production centre outside of Toronto.

The Vancouver studio in downtown on West Georgia Street was recently renovated and expanded at a cost of $65 million just before the 2010 Olympics.

As of today, the pressure to resort to the drastic measure of selling all of its properties has likely been severed.

The CBC’s funding boost is part of a $1.87 billion, five-year plan to enhance Canada’s cultural sector. The budget allocates $550 million for grants and awards handed out to artists by the Canada Council for the Arts, $22 million for Telefilm Canada, $13.5 million for the National Film Board of Canada, $106 million for the programming at Canada’s national museums, and $281 million for the construction and upgrade of three national museums.

There is no federal funding in this budget for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s new $350-million museum building at downtown Vancouver’s Larwill Park.


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