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OTTAWA — Conservative leadership candidate Erin O’Toole is promising to effectively end CBC’s English-language public broadcasting operation, except for radio. But he says he won’t cut Radio-Canada, CBC’s French-language division.
CBC is a popular target during Conservative leadership races, as multiple candidates in the 2017 race had also taken aim at the public broadcaster’s news division. In total, CBC receives $1.2 billion in operating and capital funding from the government each year, and adds about $500 million in advertising, subscription fees, and other revenue sources.
O’Toole released a video Friday morning where he promised to cut all funding to CBC’s English-language digital operations, slash the English TV budget by 50 per cent, and aim to privatize the English TV operation by the end of his first mandate in government.
“The world of broadcast media has changed dramatically, but our public broadcaster is stuck in the past,” O’Toole said in the video. “When the CBC was created in the 1930s, it was an early way to connect the vast Dominion of Canada. Radio and later TV broadcasts were new and often the only way to connect the nation and tell our story.
“Almost a century later, Canadians are connected to the world with the swipe of their finger. They carry their own broadcast studio in their pocket and have unlimited streaming options 24/7.”
O’Toole said he would leave English-language radio alone, noting it is “commercial-free and delivers public interest programming from coast to coast.”
“We will also preserve Radio-Canada, which plays an important role connecting Quebecers and francophones across Canada in their own language,” he said.
O’Toole went on to attack the Liberals for increasing CBC’s operating funding after they were elected in 2015. The 2016 federal budget promised an extra $150 million annually for the CBC through 2021. That more than reversed the cuts imposed by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, which in 2012 had slashed CBC funding by $115 million over three years.
Earlier, O’Toole promised to also end the federal government’s aid package for print media, which totals $595 million over five years in tax breaks and measures to help non-profit media organizations.
During the 2017 leadership race, some candidates — including Kellie Leitch and Brad Trost — promised to outright scrap the CBC’s news operations. But O’Toole’s comments go substantially further than what the frontrunners in the 2017 race had pledged to do.
Maxime Bernier had promised to “streamline” the CBC’s mandate, and to make it ad-free and more reliant on fundraising (similar to PBS in the United States). Andrew Scheer was more vague in his comments , saying “news is one thing I never believed the government should be in,” but didn’t propose a detailed plan for the CBC.
A few months before the 2019 federal election, Scheer only said he would review the CBC’s operations to ensure more focus on Canadian news coverage.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020