What's the CBC's problem? CBC President/CEO Hubert T. Lacroix answers

Would you pay an extra $200/year in taxes to get the CBC’s content to the quality of the BBC? That’d pull its funding roughly even to its British equivalent (per capita). I think I’d give that much up just for an equally awesome local version of Top Gear.

National Post – Words won’t fix CBC’s business model

The CRTC has acknowledged that [the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is] subject to the same revenue pressures as private conventional broadcasters and that our financing model is unsustainable given the service that the Broadcasting Act required us to provide. This is the same conclusion that repeated parliamentary committees and commissions have also come to over the last decade. The difference is those reports have no practical effect, while the CRTC is empowered to actually make these changes.

The usual challenge to our case is to say that we receive $1.1-billion in public funding and that should be enough. The fact is we, with our billion dollars, operate 28 services and broadcast in two official languages and eight aboriginal ones across six time zones. The BBC has public funding of $7.5-billion a year, France Television and Radio France together receive $4-billion, Germany $10.7-billion and PBS and NPR in the U.S. receive $1.2-billion from government sources (Nordicity study, fiscal 2007 numbers).

To deliver what we’re mandated to offer Canadians, we also need to rely on commercial revenue. Agree with it or not, that’s the system, created by act of Parliament, that exists in Canada. The CRTC itself, in many of its decisions, actively encouraged us to continue raising revenues from our commercial activities. Commercial revenues today make up close to 40% of CBC/ Radio-Canada’s overall budget. To read the analytical chapters of the CRTC’s decision, it is clear that commission recognizes both our financial reality and its precarious future.

Nonetheless, when judgment day came, and in a 50-page report, there was not a single proposal or suggestion for how the public broadcaster can continue to play its role in the system. I am, it is true, a little overheated.

We hear the CRTC chair state to the media that “there was just too much on the table to deal with in one sitting, so we decided to deal with the private broadcast system before turning to the public one.” Unfortunately, words said in a scrum will not fix our broken business model. The CRTC’s decision makes no commitment. We can only deal with what we know to be true, and that’s that we’ve been shut out. We are left with an advertising market under severe pressure, a 30-year history of stagnant public funding punctuated by periodic major cuts and a cost base that is increasing at 6.7% per year.

Over the last decade, my predecessor at CBC/Radio-Canada implemented permanent cost-reduction initiatives to generate $78-million in ongoing annual savings. Last year, I was forced to make cuts of $171-million, cancel programs and lay off nearly 10% of our workforce. This year, we’ve had to sell $155-million worth of assets to balance our budget — selling the furniture to pay the mortgage.