A future for the CBC: multi-channel, subscription-based - Macleans.ca

A future for the CBC: multi-channel, subscription-based

On what to do with the public broadcaster


A future for the CBC: multi-channel, subscription-basedLast night on the CBC, we discussed … the CBC. (As, it seems, are a lot of people these days.) I got a little tongue-tied, possibly due to the effects of an unfortunate haircut, but here are the points I would have made if we’d had the time and I’d had the presence of mind…

– The CBC is caught in a perpetual dilemma: whether to be an elite service providing programs presumably too high-brow for the private networks, or a broad, inclusive service that draws the nation together around the televisual hearth. It has traditionally resolved this conflict by being neither. It has not produced consistently high-quality programming, and has seen its average audience share dwindle over the years.

– The current leadership has tilted strongly to the populist option, offering fare that is often indistinguishable from what’s on the private networks (what is Jeopardy!). While this strategy has broadened the corporation’s audience somewhat — ratings have been rising in the last couple of years, to 8.7% of prime time viewers — it has only made its existential dilemma more acute: If there was ever a case for public funding, it was to produce programming that the private networks wouldn’t.

– You could make that case in television’s technological infancy, when it was impossible to charge audiences directly for the programs they watched. Selling advertising was one solution to this problem. Public funding was the other, one that many people came to prefer as the failings of the advertising model became clear. That is, there was no way to measure the intensity of viewer preferences — how much they wanted to watch a show, not just whether they had the set tuned to it. So advertising buys, and therefore programming decisions, were biased to the median viewer, ie to the largest number of eyeballs. Instead of selling programs to viewers, television networks sold audiences to advertisers.

– This tended to produce a lot of very safe, very similar programming, all aimed at the same mass audience, and as such gave private TV a bad name — an example, it was said, of the philistinism of “the market,” viz. you and me. But in fact it’s not true of “the market.” It’s only true of TV. In most markets, there is an almost limitless variety of tastes served, from high to low, narrow to broad. You don’t have to take what the largest possible audience wants when it comes to, say, sweaters. You can buy a cheap mass-market sweater, or an expensive designer item. If your tastes are very particular, you can have one hand made.

– So the case for public funding (and, analogously, regulation) was not to supplant the market, but to create one: to replicate that diversity that exists in most other markets in the supply of television programming. That’s why it is so contradictory to have advertising on CBC TV: if there’s one thing that everybody should agree on, it’s that the Corpse has to kick the advertising habit.

– But public funding has its own problems. One, it has proved notoriously unstable: if advertising revenues expose the CBC to the ups and downs of the business cycle, public funding leaves it hostage to the whims of its political masters. And two, it insulates the network from any direct connection with the audience: if advertising finance biases programming to the largest audience, public funding obviates the necessity of reaching an audience at all. Rather, it too often serves the interests and values of the people who produce it.

– With the advent of pay-TV, and now pay-per-view and video-on-demand, that dilemma has been resolved: viewers can pay directly for the programs they want to watch.

– And passionate, paying viewers, it turns out, are the key to excellence. I can pull a dozen shows at random out of the TV listings, and I’d challenge anyone to say whether they were on private or public TV. The much greater signifier these days is between conventional “free” TV and the cable/pay channels, like HBO. That’s where the best TV is being produced these days, specialty pay channels catering to all sorts of different tastes, in a way that would once have been associated with public TV.

– So there is no longer any necessity for public funding, and lots of reasons to want to get rid of it — the first being its lack of necessity (logic suggests we should reserve scarce public dollars for those things that cannot be paid for in any other way. See Coyne’s Third Law: “government should only do what only government can do.”)

However…. Even if you still think there’s a case for public funding of TV, the time has surely come to reconsider the CBC model, ie as a full-service, “flagship” broadcaster. It makes no sense to aim all these public dollars at one spot on the dial, where they can be so easily avoided.

– So — a couple of alternative models to consider. One would just be to funnel all public funding through Telefilm, ie to fund programs, rather than networks, on the principle that we want to see “Canadian stories” (I don’t, but supposing I did) at any point on the dial, not just on the CBC.

– The other would be to put the CBC on pay, as Newsworld is currently. I don’t think you could get enough people to pay enough money to support the existing CBC network. But if you divided up the network into several specialty channels — Artsworld, Sportsworld etc — you could probably persuade people to pay the smaller fees they would presumably require. As a transitional measure, you could put these channels on the basic service tier, meaning cable (and satellite) subscribers would be obliged to pay for them, but with the understanding that at some point viewers would be given a choice whether to subscribe or not. It’s interesting in this regard to note the current management’s addition of several channels to the CBC’s portfolio.

– At the very least, subscription fees should be used to get advertising off the CBC. But it could and should also replace some or all of the funding it receives from the government. Perhaps there are some purely public services it performs that its viewers should not be asked to fund. But generally speaking there is no longer any public good case for public funding: that is for making everyone else pay so that the CBC’s supporters don’t have to.

– It’s traditional at this point to make an exception for CBC radio, and I suppose I could as well. It doesn’t take advertising, its audience seems to care more about it, and it doesn’t cost all that much. But satellite and internet radio is making the case for CBC Radio largely obsolete as well. You can find just about every conceivable form of programming on the ‘net, with lots of Canadian content. So I’d make the case for reforming CBC radio as well, though with rather less urgency.

Filed under:

A future for the CBC: multi-channel, subscription-based

  1. The CbC is between a rock and a hard place. When the private broadcasters like canwest and its various bloodletting subsidiaries are now stepping up for ‘public financing’, yet the mother broadcaster is being forced to sell off ‘assets’ (so how much do you get for a George Strombopolous?) there aren’t anything but hard decisions. I don’t agree that putting up fee-wall barriers for specialty products is necessarily the obvious step, since the for-to-mentioned private examples have demonstrated that, once they’ve got you paying, they then lower their standards of products.
    All I ask is that they protect their news/journalism department; stop bidding on most big expensive programs/shows but instead look for unique opportunities — why didn’t they jump in on the HBO stuff back when other stations wouldn’t touch it? — and get their ear closer to the home ground.
    I’m also wondering why they haven’t thought about dedicating a block of time for ‘Classic CBC’, which could include numerous news programs, some of their older shows like Quentin Durgens MP etc that would be low-cost home-grown product for a two-hour block each week. I dare say if they had to go the route you are suggesting, that would be something that would fill up a block, but they should be using it now on their free channel.

    • “a block of time for ‘Classic CBC”

      Yes please. Would love to watch The Beachcombers and King Of Kensington again.

      I think CBC Radio should be saved, tho the argument for that is a lot less compelling since Peter Gzowski died, but CBC TV should be cut from the public teat and left to sink/swim like every other tv station. I think CBC would improve if they had to compete for $$$ instead of bleating for cash from pols all the time.

      • Can I just add another call for some classic CBC.

        There actually has been some great stuff produced by the CBC, especially way back in the day, and I think some of it could find quite an audience these days (including, ironically, among the young, who never saw some of the stuff back in the day). Some of it might come off as “cheesy” (though, if it’s cheesy enough, that can actually be an advantage!) but some of the public affairs stuff would be downright fascinating, imho.

        And some HNIC Classic a la NHL Classic on TSN. I’d love to hear Foster Hewitt again with some regularity.

  2. I wrote a paper a few years ago that wa about public funding/regulation/can-con etc.

    I don’t recall the name of the Royal Commission from way back when that set up the model but the tag-line that came from it was “Either the State or the States” meaning that if the government did not step in then Canadian cultural and radio-televisual entities would not have the financial or structural wherewithall to survive (this was at the very beginnings of the television age if I remembercorrectly) and I think that still holds.

    Sadly, I don’t know whether Canadians care anymore.

    • Sadly, I don’t know whether Canadians care anymore.

      DITTO ….. and I should not feel that way, but I also think this is the way many Canadians feel about a lot issues including newspapers and politics …. I am just about ready to delete even this site> had enough of the non accountable, accountable.

  3. But I don’t pay to watch CTV and Global (other than my regular cable), why in the world should I have to pay to watch CBC,a public broadcaster, the same way people pay to watch HBO??? It’s almost ridiculous.

  4. Andrew, on radio:

    I think the reason people make an exception for CBC radio is because a lot of the programming is really good. Metro Morning in Toronto claims to be the number one morning show. The interviews that are landed on ‘As It Happens’ are not only excellent, but they usually take a more global perspective than other news shows.

    To me CBC radio is a bit like the LCBO. The reason I don’t want the LCBO privatized is because it is one of the best Liquor/Beer /Wine stores I have ever been in. In my opinion, CBC radio 1’s prime time (that is during rush hour) shows are excellent.

    But if I stick to my ideology on government ‘because the quality is good’ isn’t a good reason not to privatize the LCBO or the CBC. But I’m worried that the quality for both will suffer if they ever are privatized.

  5. All I watch now is Coronation Street and Jeopardy, so I am not much of a supporter, since both would get picked up somewhere else if CBC didn’t do them. I used to love the radio stuff, but it has gone badly downhill in the last 10 years.

    There is nothing else that I would subscribe to, so unhappily (since it would be sad to see it go), I would not actually miss it as part of my tv viewing.

  6. I’d consider the CBC something of a public good. At least its news and documentary facets are. Insofar as I’m guessing Coyne thinks we should cut off all the museums, art galleries, symphonies, operas, and ballets from the public purse (sink or swim), I can understand why he’d feel similarly about the CBC. That said, I do think these things do provide value.

    Do you feel this way about all state-sponsored broadcasters, including the excellent ones like BBC?

    • That said, I do think these things do provide value

      Not for people who don’t avail themselves of them, is the point. I consider myself highly sophisticated (I eat hotdogs with a knife and fork, for example) but I don’t go to museums, art galleries, symphonies, operas, and ballets. I also only watch CBC for hockey. Basically, the argument is that people who are interested in going to these galleries or watching these performances should bear the cost, because they’re the ones actually benefitting. The logic is kind of compelling in that way.

      • It’s logical for public broadcasters to support quality programming, which is occasionally synonymous with high culture events like opera and ballet. The real problem is when public broadcasters support crap masquerading as quality.

      • “The soft bigotry of low expectations,” strikes again.

        The CBC is equivalent to Hansard in that it is the archive of the Canadian experience. Anyone who thinks either is insignificant in the grand scheme of things should be horsewhipped on the steps of Parliament.

  7. I don’t understand why you want to breathe new life into the Corpse. The only thing the CBC does which is both worthwhile and unique is news, and Newsworld already exists (although I would be very surprised if subscriptions alone or cable fees are enough to pay for it). I am surprised you seem to be tiptoeing around this issue. A true libertarian conservative would advocate selling off or burying the Corpse. I guess there are no true conservatives left in Canada … perhaps you could convince CBC to pay an indie production company to make an edition of Hot Docs called “Lament for a conservative” (pay per view only).

  8. “Perhaps there are some purely public services it performs that its viewers should not be asked to fund”

    Andrew, you know I love you, but……

    The CBC is a large news agency. At a time of national crisis only a large news agency can cover events toward the protection of national security. Don’t you agree that the big newsrooms — both public and private — have a value, are an asset — to our Nation that is a necessary expense to protect freedom and democracy? Don’t you think that at least one of these big news agencies should be in the public domain?

    I don’t reject a pay model for some of the public broadcaster’s offerings, but your panel on At Issue might have made the important distinction between the news programming and all the rest and then when you proposed a pay model you would have had a softer way to put that idea out there.

    • a panelist promoting self-immolation of our national voice while at the same time benefitting from the same? interesting … hypocritically self-serving but interesting.

      • Right. So it would be better — less “hypocritical” — if I took the CBC’s dime and argued for more public funding? Besides, I “benefit” nothing: I’m paid for services rendered. If the CBC didn’t think they were benefiting at least as much from the exchange, they wouldn’t pay me.

        • I’ll argue you are a hypocrite because you take the Queen’s shilling. Period.

          • Why does CBC lets AC spew his laissey faire economics, which got us in this economic mess is questionable. Maybe because they are are balanced network as opposed to CON TV.

  9. At least you admit the haircut is unfortunate.

    It truly is a Brave New World out here and unless the CBC can approach the excellence of a BBC, which would, of course, require consistent ongoing support, something which Canadians and their governments cannot seem to do, then I agree that pay is the way to go.

    • That’s the problem, we’ve given consistant ongoing support for years (at least the last 50) and what we’ve ended up with is Coronation Street and Jeopardy. We’re tired of giving over a billion dollars a years for mediocre, banal programming. The CBC has never been as hungry as the private networks and production companies. They know that, no matter what, the taxpayers are on the hook for their costs. Look at what’s happened to CBC radio lately. No one I’ve talked to likes the changes that have been made to Radio 1. They’ve been told by the CBC honchos that it’s elitist to like classical music and that the formats had to change to be more inclusive. So that they’re just like the FM stations, without the younger FM audiences. Nobody under 50 likes to listen to AM, I’m sorry.

      I agree with Andrew, the CBC TV needs to be put on a PBS model. They can’t manage a BBC type gig. If you want to watch Quentin Guergins MP (even I’m not that old!!), etc, then maybe they should put together a CBC DejaVu station to go along with CBC Newsworld. The rest can just go away.

      • tired of giving over $1B but not tired of losing $14B extra? and jobs; and hope.

  10. I have often wondered why we can’t slice off the CBC Radio then keep and expand it’s services as it’s a lifeline for our rural communites everywhere and then sell the TV section to a Crown Corporation with a mandate allowing them to setup something along the lines of PBS or BC’s Knowledge network or some such or even go the route Andrew is suggesting which more and more sounds like the way things will be going at some point in the future. If the CBC were ever to really open it’s books and the trough examined carefully I have a sneaking suspicion there would be a lot of very upset taxpayers.

  11. Lots of praise for the BBC, but its position is largely a result of huge government protection. If the UK was next door to the States, you would see a different result.

    And of course, Coronation Street is NOT a BBC program…

  12. Why does the fact that CBC offers programming which is “different” from private broadcasters make it “presumably” high brow or elite? I happen to reject that presumption.

    • Well, I do believe they show figure skating, but they do not show Nascar. They show the Nutcracker, but they do not show heavy metal concerts.

      • As opposed to all those other channels who broadcast Nascar and heavy metal (TSN and muchmusic, one in a blue moon).

      • How does figure skating make them any more high brow than than CTV or TSN? Besides, as Tonya Harding showed us, the cultural divide between figure skating and NASCAR is a pretty slim one.

  13. I admire your restraint in not suggesting increased funding for political panels on national newscasts, though.

  14. Speaking as a young person, who unlike most “young people” who do not care about the CBC, I truly do. I grew up watching the CBC and even Radio-Canada when my french got better, and am glad I did so. I don’t know what I would do without the National and Peter Mansbridge because quite frankly I am scared silly of the anchors on global and CTV newsnet.
    I love the Rick Mercer Show, This Hour has 22 minutes, Air Farce (RIP), Hockey Night in Canada (espacially compared to TSN, gag gag), the Fifth Estate, all the election coverage (yes yes even in this digital age, there are some of us, even the under 30 crowd, who likes to get their news from the TV), and then all the shows on Radio-Canada, even though I admit it is sometimes centered mainly to Québec (and even there mostly to Montreal) but I can live with that.
    All of that to say, I wouldn’t be who I am today or where I am today if it wasn’t for the CBC. It will be a very very sad day for Canada and canadians if the CBC is privatized… which by the by, is what the Conservatives have secretly been wanting for years, I kid you not!

    • But what makes you think that once CBC is “privatized” (or being switched to the pay-by-viewers model that Mr. Coyne is proposing here), none of the shows that you love will continue to exist? Isn’t this the whole point of discussion here, that people should each pay for and sustain the channels/shows they love, instead of taking people’s tax dollars to pay for something they don’t even watch?

      So you’ll pay for the CBC/Rad-Can with all the stuff that you like, while *I* will give my money to, say, RDS here in MTL (because no language laws make Anglos want to learn French faster than a dismal,bordering on disdainful coverage of the Habs on HNIC) and whatever channels that carry shows of the calibre of Mad Men, the Rachel Maddow Show, and Gossip Girl? Instead of me having no say at all in my tax money going to (what seems to me) very unfunny comedy shows, badly written drama series like Little Mosque on the prarie and HNIC?

      Also, I just don’t understand this pervasive notion of private broadcasting must equal to inferior, shallower quality of television. How about drama and documentaries produced by HBO, showtime, Discovery Channel? I’d pay for any good content, Canadian, American, or Japanese. I assume for many people who watch the CBC for its “canadian-ness” (which I don’t), *they* would pay for it by that criteria. Just don’t mix ours together.

    • No kidding. But hoping for the demise of the CBC was one of our worst-kept secrets, by the way.

    • Right on!
      Programs like Newsworld (the best newscast in Canada), Fifth Estate, etc. would be a great loss
      for Canadians. Again political agenda being rammed down our throats.

  15. yet again more opinion that thinks Canada should cut off its nose to spite its face.

  16. I leave it to you to justify the existence of the CBC, but the beleaguered Canadian taxpayer, of whom 90+% don’t watch the CBC, will not justify throwing $1.17 Billion annually into that black hole.

    10,000 CBC employees divided into $1.17B equal a per employee subsidy of $117,000 !!!!

    $1.17 Billion divided by the average CBC market share amounts to about $1,250 subsidy per CBC user !!!!

    Now tell the Canadian taxpayer why Billions more should be poured into the CBC black hole ???

    • Can you back up your assertion with actual proof? Doubt it.

  17. Hmmm…..Mr. Coyne, do you still have the first dollar you ever earned? You don’t want Canadians to spend on anything – except perhaps subsidies that magazines get.

    We need the CBC. Otherwise, programming will be constant crappy reality shows, infommercials, poor sitcoms and the other garbage we see on other channels.

    And, none of the other channels do the great documentaries and Canadiana that CBC does.

    • I’ve heard that MacLeans receives subsidies, as do most Cdn mags, but AC is all for cutting subsidies for any and ALL industries. I watched him on a round table discussion on CPAC a month or so ago. It might have been a repeat. I hope he agrees what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Does anyone know how much MacLeans receives from the taxpayers .

  18. Why is it that whenever I see an article by Andrew Coyne I can always predict what he is going to say and inevitably disagree with his point of view. He believes the collective good of our nation is always best served by the self interested private sector who are not accountable to society at large yet come clamouring for bail outs when they screw up.

    • They are accountable to their customers: if they don’t make a good or service people want at a competitive price, they lose sales. They are accountable to their employees: if they don’t offer competive wages and benefits, they will not be able to attract and keep good people. They are accountable to their shareholders: If they don’t earn a competitive rate of return, they will lose investment and ultimately go out of business. They are directly accountable to all these groups, each of whom is representative of society in that respect (the value of a good to society can be measured by the price people are willing to pay for it at the margin). It’s just that they are held to account by competition, rather than by regulation — by prices, rather than police.
      If there are other ways in which they should be held accountable, for example if they pollute the air or otherwise impose costs on society at large not captured in conventional cost calculations, then by all means let them be held accountable, in whatever way is required, including the state. But don’t assume that the state is the only means of holding them to account, or necessarily the best.
      That’s the only difference between you and me. It isn’t that you want them to be held to accountable to society and I don’t. It’s just that we want to do so in different ways.
      As for bailouts for companies that “screw up,” I believe my record on that is clear. Even predictable.

    • I love Rick. He’s my favourite left-leaning columnist. He has authenticity and wit that his comrades sorely lack.

  19. People have pointed out here that there’re are a number of ch’s we don’t pay for now – why on earth would we pay for cbc, unless the quality improved. I’m not generally a tv person, but when i’m free-loading off someone elses sallellite, pay per view or whatever i rarely see any evidence of good quality. If the private sector is producing largely garbage AC, what on earth makes you think the same model will improve the cbc. I rather think you’re missing the pt – there’s way too much coverage for way too little available talent/material.

    • This isn’t a public vs private argument: it’s pay versus free. I’m not arguing for privatization of the CBC (I’m not arguing against it either): I’m arguing that we should charge for it.

      • I’m puzzled that public funding of the cbc hasn’t produced the same degree of quality programming that the bbc is noted for. Perhaps it’s even more heavily funded per capita, and it could be their quality has dropped off as well as ours? I know their model has worked in the past because the emphasis has been on the folks who produce good programming, and not married to some idiotic popularity meter. They weren’t ashamed of holding elitist views, of raising the bar on public discourse for example. I suspect the cbc’s problems lie in a top heavy, unproductive bureaucracy. In fact, on this pt i hold common cause with many conservatives – although their prescription of abandoning the role of govt altogether, is not one i can share.

  20. I watched the CBC political panel last night and listened carefully to your viewpoint. I see very little new in what you are now writing and I believe you are totally out of touch with the Canadian public and its respect for CBC, including our wish to see it continue as Canada’s public broadcaster.
    Sure you will always get people – The Hon. James Moore included – who take every opportunity to try and get rid of CBC. But there are many many Canadians who see it as a necessary and valuable part of who we are and what we stand for as Canadians.
    It is a pity that you did not listen more carefully to your two colleagues on the CBC political panel. Both Allen Greg and Chantal Hebert made reasoned arguments for maintaining CBC as a public broadcaster.
    Clearly you have not traveled – or if you have you are ignoring – to the many small communities across this country. There are still plenty of places where cable is not available and/or the choice is limited. But practically everywhere across Canada you can pick up the local CBC channel.
    You and many other of the CBC critics have zeroed in on its showing Jeopardy. But none of you say what is so wrong with that. What I believe it has done is bring more people to watch CBC in that time slot and they then stay for what follows – such as the Rick Mercer Report (I expect you don’t like that either).
    And what is all this nonsense about HBO? Have you ever actually watched it? Its quality is no match for programs like the Fifth Estate, Marketplace or the Doc Zone to name a very few of the many excellent CBC shows.
    The CBC is not asking for an additional handout – it asked for an advance to help it through this difficult period.
    I am in full support of the government continuing to fund CBC.
    I suggest you get much better informed before commenting further.

    • Right on!

    • Right on Roger Emsley!
      I couldn’t have said it any better!

    • I don’t doubt for one second that there are many Canadians who greatly value the CBC, for all the reasons you mention. Presumably they should be more than willing to pay for it. What you don’t explain is why the people who don’t value the CBC and never watch it should have to pay for the pleasure of the people who do.
      We are not entitled to reach into our neighbour’s pockets just because we feel like it. To show that something is a public good — something that must be paid for out of taxes, because there is no other way to pay for it — you have to show there’s some benefit that accrues to people who won’t pay for it, such that they should be forced to pay for it. And, since public funds are scarce, you have to show that the case for public funding of x is greather than that for its rivals y, z and so on.
      But you can charge for TV now (in most parts of the country, where most of the population lives: the vast, vast majority of the population have access to either cable or satellite.) And it’s hard to see how people who don’t watch, say, Sophie, benefit because other people do. And there are any number of other, more demonstrably valid public goods. So the case for subsidizing the CBC — not for whether it should exist, or whether it should be in public hands, but whether it should be paid for out of taxes instead of fees — looks a lot weaker than it might have in the past.

      • AC, you say we aren’t entitled to reach into our neighbours wallet without demostrating a common good. Fair enough, but we do this all the time. I may be out of date but aren’t there all kinds of subsidies, awards, CC grants for say aspiring authors? I don’t read much Atwood myself, but neither do i begrudge her or other authors a leg up, or fret that my tax $ help to support her art form ; i’m fairly sure only a small% of the pop read her books. Indeed doesn’t this very magazine receive some public goodies?
        We don’t live in a fair world, and the elephant living next door isn’t getting any smaller. Either we make intelligent decisions to give our culture the support it deserves and live with the cost, or we call it a day and start learning the star spangled banner, that is, if we ever get the hang of our own first.
        Funny fact: at our morning HS assembly i v’e noticed a lady who can actually sing the anthem, rather beautifully too! Turns out she’s an American opera singer who’s subbing at the school. O Canada indeed! :)

        • KC, are you a high school teacher?

          • No, afraid not. My wife teaches at this school, i sub from time to time. I own a small business on Van Isle which i return to in the spring through auumn. Hopeflly it’s still viable when i get back in a couple of weeks. This of course is thereason why i have so much time on my hands.

          • My spelling and lack of computer skills should have been a clue!

          • Kc, cool. Van Isle in the spring and autumn must be paradise. I did the West Coast Trail a few years ago in the late summer and it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

            To fix the typos, I recommend downloading Google Chrome. It’s free, it’s a better browser than Internet Explorer and it highlights spelling mistakes as you type them, just like a word processor.


          • CR
            Thanks for the tips. Yes i thank the creator for everyday l live on the coast. I’ve only walked parts of the juan de fuca trail, which abuts the WC trail. I’m also lucky enough to spend a bit of my summers sailing the coast – it’s the most lovely place i’ve yet seen on this earth. If you get a chance to go out to the QC islands, do it – the most extrordinary place you can imagine – if you don’t like rain, go in aug/sept.

      • “We are not entitled to reach into our neighbour’s pockets just because we feel like it.”

        Um, yes, we are. Spare us the moralising about taxation. This is Realpolitik, Andrew. If people want to start a tax revolt, they’re perfectly welcome to try.

      • .
        The CBC benefits all Canadians whether they watch it or not, with programs like Fifth Estate, to mention
        one. There are many instances of reaching into other peoples pockets, what about those who don’t have children paying all of there life into provincial school tax on their property.

    • Well said indeed! And why oh why must he always say “tax payers money”!?? As if we don’t know it’s our oh so precious taxes who pay for everything.

      • I think Coyne uses the TPM (taxpayer’s money) formulation because so many people confuse it with OPM (other people’s money).

    • Wish I could have said it as well as you did. I don’t know of anyone who does not watch nor appreciate the many fine programs that CBC offers. What does distress me is that, due to the budget cuts over the last decade, there is more repetitive news programming , more advertising, but less money available for foreign coverage of world events. But, I’d rather visit English Al Jazeera or alt. media than CNN.

  21. You are on the right track, but we have to go further. We pay over $50/mth to our cable company for 67 channels, few of which we actually watch but they all come bundled. We tend to watch CBC primarily supplemented by occasional choices of movie channels mainly in the evenings. We enjoy CBC’s News World (with the BBC World news at 6:00pm), the Passionate Eye and similar programs and would be happy to pay a good share of my $50/mth as a subscription to exactly the channels and the programs I want to watch.

  22. I think the CBC provides a valuable service in many ways, but the most important to me would be on the cultural level. It is one of the few things that separate us from the US and the constant bombardment of consumerist ideals . I am proud to be a Canadian, and think that we should preserve as much “Canadiana” as we can. That being said, in a few years this whole conversation may be moot because we are moving very quickly towards the Internet or some derivative thereof as replacing what we currently call Television. As evidenced by the rapid decline in TV advertising dollars in the US, and I imagine here in Canada as well, and the large increase in advertising dollars to Google and many other Internet entities, the writing is on the wall. The real issue here is should Canadians continue to support a rapidly declining technology, that daily is losing viewers to the smaller screen. American TV Networks have already begun “Broadcasting ” their biggest shows on the Internet, and when the right business model is found, will eventually move more and more in that direction. It’s already a proven fact that people will pay for internet “TV” programming. Perhaps it would be wiser to morph the CBC, over a period of time, into an Internet based broadcaster that will be relevant to future generations of Canadians. The multi-channel aspect of Mr Coyne’s idea would take on a whole new meaning on the web. The huge expense of traditional broadcasting in terms of equipment, employees, etc, would be much lower, and the savings could be spent on not only better, but a much larger variety, of programming, offered simultaneously. The interactive nature of the internet is something TV cannot compete with. Imagine being able to watch any show produced by the network at the time of your choosing without having to buy Tivo.
    Just some food for thought.

  23. I don’t recall Andrew being tongue tied before. I would suggest he was being too polite to criticize CBC on CBC. There should be no argument on this subject. Withdraw publice funding. Put CBC on pay for view and allow those who support CBC pay for it. I do not watch CBC. The strike a few years back should have told the CBC brass in spades that Canadians could care less about CBC other than for Hockey Night In Canada. There was no hue and cry for its return to the airwaves. However, it is blatantly unfair to allow CBC to compete directly with the private broadcaster and provide government assistance at the same time. Its time to change the CBC. Eliminate the public funding over say three years and allow the transition to a pay for view service.

    • Wow, just perfect, pay per view.
      Why is it no one respects canadian culture? Despicable.

      • Canadian culture must be a fragile thing if it relies on the CBC for life support.

  24. People have pointed out here that there’re are a number of ch’s we don’t pay for now – why on earth would we pay for cbc, unless the quality improved. I’m not generally a tv person, but when i’m free-loading off someone elses sallellite, pay per view or whatever i hardly see any evidence of good quality. If the private sector is producing largely garbage AC, what on earth makes you think the same model will improve the cbc. I rather think you’re missing the pt – there’s way too much coverage for way too little available talent/material.

    • Oops, that’ll teach Ac, read me twice and weep buddy! :)

  25. I’m not amicable to CBC because the directors are appointed by the Cabinet (which does not respond to the people); thus, I doubt its news content. It can be a mouthpiece of government with “tainted” information. For this reason, I do not watch or listen to it.

    • I completely agree. Public funded Televisions does not require Political influence to represent the Canadian public, but that is the signal most obvious trait of the CBC. Its seldom successful at entertaining and always successfully arrogant and annoying.

      • The CRTC and the CBC should both be abolished, nothing but Socialist/Communist propaganda claptrap.

        • Yeah, let’s replace it with neo-fascist clap trap, that’ll work!

          • What about not replacing it with anything KC? Or, if a group in Canada were successful in organizing something along the lines of PBS I wouldn’t be opposed, as long as taxpayer dollars are not involved.

          • Somehow we have to be prepared to bear the cost of defending our culture. Can it be achieved through the pbs model?? But name me one major western democracy that doesn’t defend its culture, one way or another. I just can’t shake the feeling that consevtives just don’t care at all.

  26. Broadcast TV is such a mess in Canada. The private networks are government-protected rebroadcasters and the CBC is being too many things for too few people.

    I hope we can all agree CBC TV is in poor shape, even those of us sympathetic to the concept of a public broadcaster. I like the idea of focusing on content rather than distribution, as in one of the alternative models you suggest. Distribution is easy. The trouble remains that I can have 1000 channels and nothing worth watching.

    Assuming (for the sake of argument) we want to be cultural nationalists, we ought to be rational about it. CBC TV is not protecting or promoting Canadian culture in any meaningful way. Let’s try something new.

    • You’ve pinpointed it exactly; there’s very little worth watching, We’ve basic cable but my DH had our local cable people put in a box this week on a trial offer. Well, half of the channels in the pamphlet they provided, supposedly as part of their offer, are unavailable. Those that are are rehashes of old programs.

      Journalism in this country and in the US is also in a sad state. We no longer have investigative journalists. They’re all pundits/shills. Should our govt. even consider bailing out Canwest/Globe media. Why is AC or the CRAP supporters mute on this, or am not reading the RIGHT media????.

      • I do think we might want to keep the CBC around for when journalism collapses. But the notion that it is better to have government journalism than none at all seems to justify taking over the newspapers, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
        The silver lining to having weak media institutions is that we really don’t need to lose sleep over this little crisis. We haven’t got much to lose, and it might be easiest to start fresh.

  27. HBO and Showtime have access to a domestic market of 350 million. Because the shows are better financed they have higher production values and thus greater access to the global market. They operate at the very heart of the industry, amidst the marketing machinery and the star system. And still, when they have a patch of bad luck with programming, like HBO recently, they are marginal. Economies of scale work against a pay model in Canada. I don’t sense you’ve done enough research to formulate an opinion.

    • Welcome to Coyneworld!

    • Making it pay per view is a sneaky way of saying “bury the Corpse” without being politically incorrect and actually saying it. The only way the Communist Broadcorping Castration could survive pay per view is if it had a wider appeal including in the U.S. and world market and could make revenues from it. I actually think there is a lot of potential for this. Even the hokey old shows like the Beachcombers and the King of Kensington might even sell in some markets with subtitles – look at the example of that cheap Brazilian soap opera that is so popular in Russia. News would need to become less Canada-centric (i.e. Toronto and Ottawa-centric) and more international, which Canadian viewers might also find interesting. But we are a country where mediocrity is the norm and losers are rewarded, particularly in the cultural sphere. No danger of anything that excellent and visionary ever being produced here.

  28. I see people on this board writing about Canadian culture. I have lived 67 years on this earth and in Canada and I cannot for the life of me describe what is Canadian culture. It defies definition. God we couldn’t even tolerate the reenactment of the battle of the Plains of Abraham.

    Our culture in my opinion is the same as American culture. There is not much difference. In fact we lose all our talented artists to the United States. They then entertain the folks back home.

    I recently went to the Canadian Pavilion at Epcot in Florida. I was embarassed. Is our culture the beaver, the Mounties and snow? Yikes. It was embarassing.

    People defend the CBC as protecting our culture. When I watch CBC I see propaganda and none of it has anything to do with Canadian culture.

  29. My understanding is that CBC (including its French part) is required to provide basic TV and radio programming to Canadians throughout our vast country. In many northern communities private broadcasters are either not available or expensive to get and CBC is almost the only steady source of information and entertainment. Also most communities outside large urban centers don’t have access to high speed Internet and cannot get programming and info that way. A Francophone who goes to work, for example at Fort McMurray, cannot get any French programs other than by the French part of the CBC, unless he can afford an expensive satellite installation. Anglophone miners in Northern Quebec would have similar probles without access to CBC.

    Moreover, private networks depend greatly on economic conditions as we see right now. Canwest could go bankrupt any time and what then? CBC is a steady and reliable network precisely because it is public. Finally, if countries like Britain and France can maintain public networks, why not Canada?

  30. The problem I have is that I have no intention of spending $50 per month to subscribe to tv when all I watch is a few shows from CBC. For whatever faults CBC may have, I still consider it the best channel on tv. When people say that CBC produces bad programs, I’m really not too sure what they are comparing them to because I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time over the years flipping through channels and I don’t recall seeing too many shows that worth watching, period.

    Right now I’m lucky enough to receive HD-CBC over-the-air. With this I’m able to show a few kids programs to my children, watch a few news programs, some sports (especially HNIC), the odd movie and the occasional entrainment type show like The Hour. If other Canadians can enjoy a similar amount of programming from CBC then surely the CBC is worth keeping in its current state. Well, maybe not – I don’t know how much money it costs to run the CBC and whether it is worth trying to save those dollars (I strongly suspect that it is worth it). I do know however that a lot of people depend on CBC for free tv viewing and that it plays an important role in this regard.

    CBC radio is great I think. I listen to it a lot. Even if I wanted to listen to a different radio station it is difficult because of all of the advertising. Not to mention infomercial radio shows that are passed off as news etc. Furthermore, shows like Ideas and The Current are absolutely priceless.

    • Right on Doug!
      There certainly is an important role for CBC in our Canadian identity.

      • Gd for you guys!!!

  31. Perhaps the CBC should look at the CKUA example. CKUA is a network of radio stations in Alberta which serves virtually the province’s entire population, and of course, due to spillage across the borders, some of B.C,’s , Saskatchewan’s, and Montana’s people as well.
    What is unique about this service is its funding. Years ago, the province took over operation of the station from the University of Alberta in Edmonton (CKUA is one of Canada’s oldest broadcasters, going back to 1927) and ran it like a crown corporation until the 1970’s. At that point, the station was expanding its reach by adding repeater transmitters around the province, thus increasing its potential audience, but of course adding to its cost of operation. The government funding became enough of an issue for the station’s management to ask for, and receive approval for, running funding drives, a la PBS, to supplement its budget. The landscape has changed over the years, and now the network runs campaigns twice a year to provide the bulk of its revenue, it accepts commercial support similar to the PBS model, with limited acknowledgement of its sponsors, and receives no provincial funding whatever.
    During its funding drives, many subscribers, who pay monthly “dues”, and contributors of lump sums, come from parts of the world which cannot pick up the station off the air, but only via the internet. Of course, the bulk of the revenue comes from Alberta residents, but the point is, this service is successful without taxpayer funding and without commercials in the usual sense. CBC could survive, and at the same time, give its supporters the programming they want. It might just expose what being Canadian really means!

    • PBS’s budget was cut when GW came into office, IIRC,and appointed Colin Powell’s son to the BoDs. I was a big fan of PBS but it has gotten to the point that their months of pledge drives exceed their time of original programming. The majority of their programs are very old repeats. I happen to be listening to one while I’m typing. I enjoy Charlie Rose, Bill Moyers & the PBS/ BBC classics & a various others, but most are repeated ad nauseum. It will get worse as people will not have the money to support PBS due to this massive recession.

  32. Andrew, you were tongue tied on Thursday night. Most unusual for you. AT Issue is one of the TV events I look forward to each week. I don’t necessarily agree with Peter, Chantel, Allen, you or any of you all of the time, which is great! That’s what a lively honest and informative panel discussion should be. I watch a lot of News and News Programs, Canadian and US. Overall, the quality of reporting on the CBC and Newsworld is equal to or surpasses that available on other networks. Global has become Canada’s Fox News. If you had ever had the expierience of working in the US far enough south of the border that you cannot pick up CBC or Newsworld for any extended period of time as I have on a number of occasions, you would have a different appreciation of CBC News and Newsworld (at the time the CBC News online was lame, Internet service spotty). In the US you have a choice of Un-News (NBC,CBS,ABC) or propaganda (Fox News, what an oxymoron) Not everything can be approched from the “market” standpoint, our “Canadianness” has some value. I agree that commercials should have no place on the CBC, but schlock TV from the US may.What about the examples given previously of viewers in remote that only have access to CBC? Keep up the good work at Macleans, It’s a wonderful Canadian
    publication that has been brought back from irrelevancy.

  33. I have already discontinued watching CBC tv until such time as they discontinue broadcasting that wretched, abusive Greypower commercial with the shouting woman. No advertiser and no medium has the right to inflict calculated pain on its viewers and listeners, especially in the cause of selling something. The same goes for other networks that carry it. So I’m already watching more US television anyway. I started going off the CBC when they abandoned the AM radio dial, and there are lots of ways to get the news.

    • I actually like that commercial, if only because it dares to be politically incorrect enough to portray a woman as the road-raging maniac.

  34. How about privately fund CBC Radio with donation campaighn funding, like the USA National Public Radio (NPR) does?.

  35. “But if you divided up the network into several specialty channels — Artsworld, Sportsworld etc — you could probably persuade people to pay the smaller fees they would presumably require. As a transitional measure, you could put these channels on the basic service tier, meaning cable (and satellite) subscribers would be obliged to pay for them, but with the understanding that at some point viewers would be given a choice whether to subscribe or not.”

    ‘This message has been brought to you by Rogers. Rogers, where coming up with new ways to force you to pay for yet more channels you’ve no interest in watching matters!’

    Seriously, we don’t need any more redundant rerun channels on the cable dial, which is going to die in short order once internet distribution in HD takes root so isn’t any sort of solution anyways.

    • What tottally pi**es me off are these packaged deals. In order to get one channel that you’ll watch you’ve got to pay for a pkg of 5. Well, we’ve basically refused to do so. Except for one pkg. because it included TV5 – My DH from France must keep up with his French news. Totally understand.

  36. In a free society there is only one possible use for something like the CBC and it is to use it as a relay station for the remote areas where competing free enterprise cannot reach. Other than that, the other provider must pick the business if they want them and the end of it. To have a collectivist outlet enjoying the benefits of every government while pretending to be a outlet for the masses disseminating Marxism, Stalinism, Castrism, Chavism, and every other collectivist, or is it tyrannical ‘ism’, on the taxpayers back, it belongs to precisely any one of the regimes they miss so much in the list above.
    There si no case that can support them.

    • Right, you’d be just as hot to ban fascism i presume? Stalinsm??? Yeeshh!!! Poor Peter! Never realized he was so sinister i’m sure!

  37. If we follow Andrew’s suggestion, we will simply end up with an entity every bit as mediocre as Air Canada following privatization occupying some significant place in the market. If you think the CBC / Radio Canada is not fulfilling its mandate and/or is not worth the money taxpayers are putting into it (I am agnostic on the subject), the best thing to do would be just to shut it down, break it up and see what the market replaces it with. Both the NDP and the separatists should like this option – they will get a flood of high quality candidates for the next electoral cycle. Otherwise the danger is that the new ‘zombie’ entity will just come running to the government when it gets into financial trouble, which it will inevitably. You still can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

  38. Hi Andrew,

    Unfortunate haircut? Didn’t notice that.

    Yes, it’s true CBC produces few original quality TV shows. In their efforts to reach US viewing numbers, they tend to kill superior programs that have a loyal following, and replace them with realtiy TV. I do watch Little Mosque, although it cuts into the first half-hour of my must-see “Agenda” with Steve Paikin. And yes – I subscribe to TVO – a small annual donation appropriate to my retirement income.

    As far as viewer loyalty is concerned and building a list of subscribers, until CBC producers are willing to listen to their watchers/listeners, they will never build a paying audience. Look at what they did to Radio 2 – with long-time dedicated listeners – people who begged that their favourite classical radio station not be scrapped. Now, I listen to the “other” classical station with all its commercials, or my iTunes collection.

    Yes, I catch CBC News wherever I can find it – either Channel 6 or 26 – and I look for you three and Peter M and enjoy your comments. I have favourite journalist/commemtators, some of whom I learned to love on The Agenda and Don Newman’s Politics, another favourite.

    There’s lots of “lowest common denominator” viewing available. Surely, some channel could carry the “excellence” you mention. And no – we don’t need to pay a subscription for a channel that’s “hostage to the whims of its political masters.” But I would not describe CBC in that way. That’s probably why it’s in peril.

    A democracy needs to hear the truth in a world of conflicting ideas. There’s the rub: where do you find the truth?


  39. How about the PBS model. I send money to PBS each month and they produce the stuff no one else wants to so why not CBC?

    • I’ve never really understood the attraction of the PBS model. In past years, they put on neat special programming during pledge drives and you would never see it again. Recently, they produce endless “gurus” of money, health, diets, mind improvements. For a while they were infatuated with that Gary Null nut who only seemed to be interested in hawking his CDs, diet books, etc. If this is what paid subscription gives us then lets consider something else.

  40. I think Canada needs a public television that nurtures cultural development and provides very good news reporting. As a Canadian taxpayer, I consider ti one of the most important direct returns for my money. BBC is my preferred model. However, I am infomred that the current CBC offerings are affected by policies that a politically motivated government mandates, by a demand or competition with American news and by a need to be accessible to everyone. Thus, I temper my CBC news and programs with other channels. I am dismayed that the Cdn mosaic is crumbling and wondering when Candda will finally topple into the political American Empire, having already arrived economically, and socially. I also wonder if CBC will be around to tell me of that final Battle. It probably won’t even make CNN evenign news.

  41. I think Canada needs a public television that nurtures cultural development and provides very good news reporting. As a Canadian taxpayer, I consider ti one of the most important direct returns for my money. BBC is my preferred model. However, I am infomred that the current CBC offerings are affected by policies that a politically motivated government mandates, by a demand or competition with American news and by a need to be accessible to everyone. Thus, I temper my CBC news and programs with other channels. I am dismayed that the Cdn mosaic is crumbling and wondering when Canada will finally topple into the political American Empire, having already arrived economically, and socially. I also wonder if CBC will be around to tell me of that final Battle. It probably won’t even make CNN evening news.

    • It is the “nurtures cultural development” that gets us right wingers in a twist. You see cultural development because it promotes your culture. We don’t see our culture being promoted, so we see our tax dollars going towards propaganda.

  42. Andrew, I agree that reform is needed, but not in the way that you suggest.

    I would really like to see the CBC move in the direction that the BBC is in, but instead of paying a “licence fee” like you do in the UK, I would like to see everyone pay a “CBC” fee on their income tax, and have it raise with inflation. That way the CBC can drop all advertising, they will also know the exact budget they have to work with, which currently is difficult for them to know now.

    This set up would also benefit CTV and Global since they would get all the advertising dollars that the CBC is currently getting. CTV and Global will make more money and be able to make better shows. Win-win situation.

    • AC wont like that idee! Taxation without representation, or something!

    • Well, the BBC definitely produces better shows than the CBC does. Dr. Who, Top Gear, The Office, etc. So if my tax dollars have to go to the CBC so that the left has a forum to broadcast their political views at my expense, we should at least get a few decent shows out of it.

      I noticed one commentator went back to “The King of Kensington” as an example of a hit show on the CBC. I was born the year that show went off the air, and I am a college educated father with a beard on my chin.

      • Have to agree with you on the programming Terry. I grew up with BBC, it really is much better. Why can’t the CBC produce a better product? Can’t agree with you on the leftie bit, not entirely anway. It would be better if they made more of an effort to bring in more diverse views, But yr wrong in the sense that i’ll lay odds the CBC makes more effort to offer opposing pov than just about any private network you care to name.

        • Yes, but they don’t do it at my expense. There’s the rub. The New York Times is an unrepentant liberal paper, and the Wall Street Journal is an unrepentant conservative one. They both have their biases, but they are both excellent papers. You just have to remember their agenda.

          The problem with the CBC is not their agenda, it is the fact that I have to participate in it. So when a CBC radio host or featured guest calls people who believe abortion is immoral neanderthals, or that people who read or own a bible are ignorant, or that my catholic church is ghoulish, I remember and store it in my box o’ grudges about how I think my tax dollars shouldn’t have gone to that. I also make unflattering comparisons to the CBC to the various propaganda networks of the Soviet Bloc.

          I have no grudges with Air America, though I’m sure the exact same things are said on that network. I have no grudges because I don’t have to listen to it, and their executives aren’t entitled to my tax dollars to live a comfortable life while they are demonizing me and mine to my fellow Canadian citizens.

  43. Why do canadian commercials suck so much? And why do they show the same damn commercial 1000 times per show? They show the same weak Telus or Ford or McCain commercial 3 times in one break! Are those the only companies we have in Canada. If your going to indoctrinate me at least make it amusing not a bludgeoning of mediocrity. This is a symptom of a tired industry with a monopoly license and no innovation. The whole industry needs a big shake up!

    • The worst one is that “you don’t drive like her, so why would you pay the same insurance premiums as her ?” commercial. I have to turn the television off when I see it. Apparently Grey Power doesn’t actually pay out that well either, so I’ve been told.

  44. The federal government should crowdsource the purchase of the CBC. Let Canadians (truly) own it, operate it and provide content for it in true Web 2.0 fashion.

    CBC 2.0 could be the tool that enables the intersection of every Canadian opinion, perspective, argument or joke. It doesn’t need executives, self-important personalities, cultural programming controls or GoC cash infusions. It can simply tap into the Canadian groundswell and become a truly Canadian broadcaster.

    Creating a firewalled, homogenous behemoth that needs funding and has to follow rules to remain relevant will result in failure. Today, most Canadians already know that they can get better information and support from each other than from corporations.

    bye bye CBC

  45. We who enjoy quality TV programming must not stand by and let political ideology destroy the CBC.
    CBC Newsworld with Peter Mansbridge is top notch, along with many other CBC programs.
    The cost per capita to maintain the CBC is well worth it, and is negligible compared to many instances of federal government waste. The reasons that CBC was established has not disappeared and must be
    continued for the next generation . The alternative is biased news and total commercialization .

    • “The alternative is biased news”

      Are you kidding me? The CBC doesn’t have a bias? There is not a social, biological, philosophical,etc.issue mother corp doesn’t have a position on. Global warming-check, gay marriage- check, evolution-check-check-check….
      I want my public broadcaster to give me the full story and then get out of the way and let me make up my own mind. I had parents that taught me to think for myself. No nanny corp please.
      If CBC tv and radio can do that good, if not let the unsubsidized private sector compete for my attention.

      • What, like CTV allows you to think for yourself and doesn’t have any bias ? Puhleeze.

      • Grow up! There’s no such thing as a totally objective pov! No doubt you consider Steyn objective – he isn’t. Are the private networks objective – hardly! And yes i know there’s a difference between a state broadcaster and Steyn.
        The cbc does a reasonal job of including a different pov eg., Coyne on its panel programme – it could do itself a favour by bringing in more diverse opinons. Far too many news consumers only want their own biases confirmed anyway – there’s no pleasing everyone.

        • To do away with bias, we have to open up ownership — to everyone who wants to participate. Letting anyone contribute, opine, report, argue, mash up or comment, there would be no general bias.

        • Steyn doesn’t receive my tax dollars in his pay envelope.
          The at issue panel has permanent members from Ontario and Quebec only.
          I don’t want my country using my money to insult my life philosophies with radio and TV programs I have no say in.
          Is any of this untrue or unreasonable?

          • Actually, I’m from Winnipeg.

          • I am, of course, speaking of the royal “from” Mr. Coyne. And don’t get me wrong, I much admire the quality of debate. I’m just say’in.

        • But, glak, I do want the CBC to spend your money insulting your life philosophies. How shall we settle this?

          • With dueling pistols of course.

          • Very good, Sir. Shall we say, in the field behind Aaron Wherry’s blog, at dawn?

          • Possibly a more neutral spot, JM. Perhaps the Feschuk compound. My second has reminded me to find a starter. I’m partial to Wells tossing one of his famous embroidered hankies. And of course there must be spoils, say the lovely O’Malley hand (or keyboard) which ever she’ll give up.

          • LOL Jack! Beware those sneaky cons – glak will probably bring along his raygun.

  46. I’ve always enjoyed the CBC programming and while some of the programming may not interest me, I can see that it may have value for others. However, for some years now I can no longer tolerate the CBC as the advertising in my opinion is far more aggressive than many americain stations. Not to mention the repetitive advertising (same commercial every break) that does little more than to make the viewer feel like a product. I also find that since september 11 the CBC seems to go too far in trying to be the ‘voice of canada’. I like the idea of canadian content and am more than willing to spend tax dollars for it, but not when the CBC insists on telling me why and how it is canadian.

  47. I find it most interesting that the negative comments about the CBC come from those who do not WATCH! Begs the question just how would they know?
    I am a faithful viewer, my opinion CBC has the most unbiased news reporting af any of the broadcasters. I I also get my US news from the News Hour also a public broadcaster!
    The CBC provides entertainment programs that are also high quality – Davinci’s Inquest (I do know it is no longer on the air) Heartland, Wild Rose etc etc
    The CBC provides a most important function for Canadians – leave it alone Conservatives and the like!

    • I don’t know a thing about you DG other than the above comment, but I have enough to profile you.
      Tell me where I get it wrong and how the CBC doesn’t reflect your bias.
      Your soft pro-choice, lean towards Darwin, recycle because you think we can forestall global warming (sorry, what’s this seasons catch phrase, oh! ya! climate change), cool with gay marriage,believe everything can be solved with gender equity, think PET was the best PM ever, still think Mary Walsh is funny and your sure Don Cherry is the anti-Christ.
      The difference between folks like you and folks like me is, I know I’m bias, but I don’t want my taxes paying for yours to prevail.

      • Her “type” also outnumbers yours about 50-1 in Canada.

  48. The people are not cultural nationalists. They’re just people. That’s why they overwhelming prefer to watch US programming – because that programming is relatively free of govt-mandated B.S. such as nationalism, socialism, national-socialism, communism, multi-cult PC carpola, mediocre Can-Con productions, and so on.

    The so-called cultural nationalists are really just rent-seekers who want to make a comfortable living without having to participate in the rough-and-tumble world of the free market.

    The reason why politicians prefer to serve the rent-seekers instead of serving “the people” is that when someone is happy doing their own thing on their own time with their own money, they couldn’t be bothered with politicians – sucking up to them, writing them letters, giving them money, volunteering on campaigns, voting, etc. More happy people means less need for politicians and their, ah, services. In other words politicians are also rent-seekers who dislike the thought of earning an honest living in the real world and who wish to use the power of the state to tilt the world in their favor.

    The political rent-seekers band together with the cultural-nationalist rent-seekers in order to concoct a story that freedom to speak and freedom to choose are actually very harmful – and if not forbidden outright then they must be improved upon by forcing people to support, with their money if not their ears and eyes, whatever the rent-seekers decide they wish to produce. What they wish to produce is, inevitably, the kind of material that reinforces their own socialist, nationalist, elitist and obscurantist outlook. Which is precisely the reason why nobody wants to watch it or listen to it.

  49. Just to compare some of the news coverage, here is something I saw recently on the local news. It was reported that a local condo developer was decreasing the price of a new project from $1000/sq.ft (!!!) to closer to $500/sq.ft. The news said this was because of dropping labour costs and material costs, as told to them from the developer.

    Yeah, right. Labour and materials amounted to $500/sq.ft. What the local news failed to mention was that the developer had to amend the purchase contracts, likely because of delays and change in financing. Without lowering the selling price, they would have massive rescissions and the project would be canned. But the “news” couldn’t report even the most obvious of truths but instead decided to be a shill for the developer.

    That is just one reason why CBC is a better (and important) newscaster.

    I posted earlier and sort of pondered whether CBC is worth its price and now that I’ve thought about it a bit more, I have to say yes.
    1. television is an important media for disseminating information to people (I wasn’t immediately aware of this, but a bit of thought makes it obvious)
    2. given #1, it is important for all Canadians to have tv service
    3. we shouldn’t have to feel roped into giving $50/month to cable companies to watch one or two stations
    4. we cannot rely on other news outlets to deliver the news, as shown in one simple recent example above.

    • I’d like to respond to each of your 4 points Doug.
      1. TV is only as important if you watch it and take everything as gospel. Magazines also disseminate news, so maybe you could renew my Macleans subscription,
      2. What makes you think it’s up to your fellow citizens to furnish you with TV. Whether it’s Toronto or Butthole, Sask. you can purchase a news source.
      3. No one, let me repeat that, no one can force you to buy cable service or any other private service.
      We are however extorted by the Government to support the CBC.
      4. The private news outlets have “delivered the news” long before Mother Corp. came to be. Sometimes they get it wrong, but usually they are pretty good at reporting accurately, if a view of competing reporters is unencumbered.
      If airwaves are open to fair competition, regulation and cost there is no reason Canadians can’t get the best for their hard earned ( and in the case of Macleans columnists, ridiculously over compensated) dollars.

      • 1. I disagree. TV is the most important medium for distributing information. Or perhaps it is the 2nd most important next to the internet. Either way, like it or not it plays an important role in our society. I suppose communication gurus will have a more accurate POV on this but I’m guessing this is correct.
        2. See above. I think it’s important that the Canadian population is plugged-in so to speak. It helps prevent mass ignorance. Unfortunately tv also serves as a distraction that probably is at odds with the idea of keeping people properly informed on the world. I’m not saying tv or cbc is perfect in this respect, but the best we currently have.
        3. You’re correct
        4. I mostly agree

        I grew up in a rural community and for the better part of 15 years or so we only had 2 channels, ctv and cbc. Cable and satellite have changed the situation but you see where this ends up. Either a person pays, or they only get cbc & ctv. As it stands I don’t have too many qualms against ctv but let’s ignore that for a second. If a person thinks that tv is an important vehicle for distributing information, that all people should have access to this information, and that all people should get this information for free because it helps have a better society, then I think cbc has an important role to play.

  50. If they want to kill it off, then do it quick and tastefully. Not that will happen as years of bad management and gradually strangling cuts force viewers of mind and taste away. Hmmm upon further inspection this has been taking place for most of my lifetime and still the debate of CBC’s relevance continues. It was never meant to make money, it should never have been competing for advertising dollars. It should have been held to Canadian content only. It was never possible but cabinet interference should have been prevented.
    Alas the bloated corpse of The Canadian Broadscorping Castration will slug forward providing fodder for politics and critics.

  51. This is off-topic I know – but generally speaking, journalists/columnists are not well-paid. Like many artists – they do not retire in style unless they write best-sellers like Stephen King.

    Also off-topic – sort-of – it sure is interesting to hear other opinions on a topic that’s dear to my heart. CBC? I’ve been mad at the producers many times but I admire and respect the people who bring us great documentaries and programs of substance and merit and interest. Okay. Maybe they don’t all appeal to all of you – but you have to admit we “socialists” also have a right to good TV, or a hearty laugh [Rick Mercer] or some solid dramatizations [even a Canadian story or two.]


  52. I disagree whole-heartedly. The CBC attracts journalists who want to delve deeper into stories than other outlets are willing/able to go. It is an institution and the fact that it is free to all Canadians is paramount.
    I believe Coyne would agree that though, as he says, “government should do only what government can do”, you won’t find the same level of investigative journalism on private networks, and were you to find one that did, there is the inevitability of that source being compromised by ownership (ie. 60 Minutes constantly producing stories stemming from books published by fellow Time-Warner owned firms, as well as CNN cross-over content).

    So perhaps in the case of quality programming, only the government, through its publicly funded television, can produce the high level of journalism that this country both desires and requires.

    Rex Murphy on why the CBC matters:

  53. Andrew,

    why do you not go after the comments of your colleagues on these subjects. Chantel feels it is her duty to remind English Canada that we are held hostage in our own country by the Bloc and Quebec on a weekly basis. Her comments on the show about Radio Canada and Stephen Harper were irrelevant to the conversation and just reinforces her own agenda. As for Alan, he is a train wreck as well. Each week we watch him long for the days of Pierre Elliot where the Liberals ruled the country and taxpayer money was held to the highest bidder. Their comments were outdated, lacked any substance or vision, and they attacked your comments without batting an eye. The future of the CBC is either PBS style funding (donations by viewers) or Pay-feed, where you can watch, download, podcast, stream, or other available forums. I agreed with you 100%, to bad the other 2 on the show have old style Liberal and Bloc mentalities.

  54. Two points:

    1. I noticed your haircut right away and thought you looked younger and more handsome than you have looked in many, many months. For a change, you didn’t look tired. (I have not missed a single episode of AT ISSUE in years.)

    2. Leave the CBC alone! I like it just the way it is. It is my only source for news on television. (I get other perspectives online.) ALL the DOCUMENTARIES are FANTASTIC and I never miss The Fifth Estate, Marketplace, The Nature of Things, Rick Mercer…well, you get the idea.

    • Lucy-

      Why do you want a 100% of the tax payers forced to support a non-essential entity who’s viewership is in the rating basement. Because you like that miserable little troll Rick Mercer, isn’t enough for me.
      I have no problem with a continuation of a non- commercial CBC radio, but even its leftist perspective must be addressed.

      • Well Glak…it is because so much of the information on the CBC is very valuable and maybe, just maybe, so many of the Canadians that would never subcribe to it (if that became the delivery system), might stumble upon one of the amazing programs and actually learn something “by accident”!

        And how odd that you refer to Rick Mercer in such a negative light…what exactly has he and his 30 minute programs done to deserve that? Perhaps you enjoy the kind of trash spewed out by Fox and the Red Eye comedy show instead. If that is the case, there is little need to dialogue further.

        • Not that this is the central point of discussion but why pick on Rick, Glak? Rick Mercer’s show has a huge following among my twenty-something friends which makes it an exception in CBC programming. Rick spends time with politicians of all stripes, Olympians, artists, students, the military, businessmen and blue-collar folks and treats all with the same mix of respect and gentle kidding. In his travels he performs capably one of the core missions of the CBC: He makes all of Canada seem connected like distant family and illuminates just how blessed we are to live here with each other. In what seem like pretty dark times, RMR reminds me that not all the news is negative.

  55. Andrew,

    You and Peter Mansbridge were the only reasons I watched the CBC, but I have stopped even watching that. The ‘National’ comes on too late and interferes with other Prime Time shows. I now watch Global National for the news, mostly for the visuals because the rest is far easier to read and watch online! Chantel Hebert is nothing but another Quebecois with an agenda and she is hard to look at as well. The rest of the ‘At Issue’ panel, excepting Kady O’Mally, are also boring. Kady is a fireball and easy to listen to.

    The CBC could best be used nowadays for airing their Pet Moron Don Cherry. Maybe rename it to the ‘Canadians Beating Canadians’ network. Hockey is anything but a sport. The WWE would be proud.

    Mercer’s show is good for the Rant, beyond that…BORING! Now that Air Farce is gone that leaves THH22M which is not even funny anymore.

    Sorry, but the CBC is not what it used to be and need be no more.

  56. As to some other comments. If I want ‘intelligent TV’ I watch PBS, National Geographic, Discovery, History, A&E, Discovery Civilization for real informative programs, and in High Definition. We also watch TSN in HD for curling.

    The CSI (original and Miami, not NY) shows get watched, but again in HD and they are really worth it, especially ‘CSI: Miami’ which has matured into top grade entertainment

    The Montreal and Halifax Comedy Fests are also regullar programs we will either watch or record on our DVR. We tried HBO and it is crude and not at all funny to our tastes.

    Jon Stewart is ALWAYS recorded and watched the next day and is the best satire and news show on TV IMHO. I stopped watching Colbert because there is just too much nauseating Colbert!

    ’24’ gets watched as do a few other dramatic shows, as well as ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ Forget the Survivor and Idol shows…BORING and mind numbing.

    None of the above are on CBC!

    The rest of TV is, as was said decades ago, ‘A Vast Wasteland!’ of meaningless tripe and fluff. All the channels we have with satellite and so few worth tuning to. Sad!

  57. Lucy:

    I’m with you!


  58. If Harper and Cannon and Mackay and etc. – or Mr. Coyne – are interested in what’s going on in Pakistan in relation to the Afghanistan mission they should probably have been watching CBC News this week; specifically Adrian Arsenault’s on the ground reports. Here’s an example:


    Today’s report from Karachi is equally singular. This on the spot reporting, intelligent and thought provoking is entirely absent from CTV, Global, or any of the United States networks. This quality of work alone makes the case, in my view, that the CBC is unique and the value it provides to Canadians cannot and will not be replaced should Canadians have to rely on private sector or subscription news sources.

    Over to you Mr. Coyne.

    • When you publish someone’s name, make sure you spell it correctly; “Adrienne Arsenault.” My apologies to Ms. Arsenault.