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Editorial: CBC checkup

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CBC logo

Last November, the CBC put forward the idea that maybe, just maybe, it should forgo advertising — and it could do that for the low, low price of an additional $400 million a year in government funding.

At the time, the CBC argued in a policy document that the change was needed: “We are at a critical juncture in our evolution, continuing to operate under a business model and cultural policy framework that is profoundly broken.”

Broken, but not broke; after years of cuts, the CBC got a $675-million pledge from the Trudeau government last year, including $150 million in increases annually through 2021.

Maybe it’s time for a public examination of where the money will go.

And not an internal navel-gazing or “re-imagining” either — the CBC establishment does that almost constantly already. No, more an examination of what the CBC does, and what we — the people paying for it — want it to do.

A few questions that might be considered?

Just how should the CBC fit in a media world where it is already the financial elephant in the press room, an elephant gaining substantial financial weight with every passing year while other media shrinks?

Should it be competing virtually unfettered in the digital realm, selling $25 million a year in advertising and operating its websites like any private operator, all the while leaning on its substantial and publicly subsidized newsrooms to provide stories, photos and video?

Should it be spending taxpayers’ dollars to purchase and give away CBC-branded material at parades and events like the Regatta?

Should the CBC be in the “personality” business, offering up staff in exchange for public support for the broadcaster? (When you ask for a CBC personality, a decision on whether a personality will attend is made by CBC communications staff who ask questions like, “Is it possible to have any of the following visibly associated with event? Host photo in event program — Host photo on event website — Host bio in event program — CBC logo in event program/publicity — CBC logo on event website. The organization should make every effort to mention the CBC host in any promotional material including media releases, websites, newsletters, etc.”) You can see the local CBC’s request form here: http://www.cbc.ca/nl/community/host-request/ — the CBC will even provide its own banners.

Should it be using its own airtime to congratulate and promote itself for its role in charity fundraising?

Should the CBC’s digital arm be expanding, as it is now doing, into opinion content, using its hefty financial resources to pay for it?

Should the CBC’s primary function be public service journalism, or ratings competition with private broadcasters?

There’s a huge value in a properly funded public broadcaster — it can do things that no private broadcaster does.

But public funding also means the elephant answering to the public, instead of just sitting wherever it wants to.

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