As Postmedia and other newspaper empires pull paywalls down over their digital incarnations, CBC minions on Twitter have been caught crowing about their “no paywall” status, purchased by the taxpayer at the sensational bargain price of $1.2 billion a year.
It may be hard for readers to feel bad for the cartelizing Paywall Gang, but it is surely a tactical error for the CBC to call attention to its incredibly expensive “free” nature. The Broadcasting Act says the Corporation shall operate “radio and television” services; it doesn’t say anything about a website, much less a website that functions as a telegraphic gazette. Of course, times change and new media paradigms develop and blah blah blah, but the distinction here is crucial: The original pretext for the creation of the CBC was the limited, theoretically public nature of broadcast spectrum. To the degree that the CBC is now just one digital content provider among many, with a hypothetized mandate that puts it in a position to compete with newspapers, it can rightly be privatized, or destroyed, or handed over to its own employees, in order to unburden the public treasury.
Polls always demonstrate high levels of purported political support for the CBC. The public subsidy to the CBC is a forced transfer of wealth from people who don’t like it to people who do, and the “dos,” unsurprisingly, like the set-up just fine. In the U.S., donor-funded, non-profit “public” radio is equally adored by fans; the only difference is that they’re asked to chip in for their preferred electronic smarm or go without. No social or economic arguments against privatization of the CBC are possible. It’s nothing but a zombie, slowly sucking up a dwindling fund of goodwill and nostalgia. Mr. Dressup is dead, folks.
Colby Cosh, “Why the CBC has outlived its usefulness”, Maclean’s, 2013-06-06
June 6, 2013
QotD: The CBC is “nothing but a zombie, slowly sucking up a dwindling fund of goodwill and nostalgia”
May 14, 2013
In Maclean’s, James Cowan makes the case for liberating the CBC from the shackles of government subsidy, as it’s now out-competing private business in several fields:
The online success of the CBC should be laudable. Its website received an average of 6.2-million unique visitors last year, making it the most popular Canadian website. Around 4.3-million people visit the CBC News site each month, besting both The Globe and Mail and Huffington Post. Adding to this success is an ambitious five-year plan that will open digital-only news operations in cities like Hamilton and Kamloops and allocate 5 per cent of the overall programming budget to digital content. Once upon a time, it was only private TV and radio broadcasters who had reason to grumble about competing with the Crown corporation; in building its online empire, the CBC is taking on everyone from newspapers to Netflix.
In doing so, the CBC has strayed a long way from its original purpose: to sustain Canadian culture when and where the market cannot. The problem is, the CBC’s traditional funding model now allows it to build its digital empire unfettered by economic reality. In its last quarter, 60 per cent of the company’s expenses were paid by government subsidies while just 21 per cent of its revenue comes from advertising. All media companies are struggling to adapt to shifting consumer and advertising patterns brought about by the digital age; only the CBC had $1.2 billion in government cash to fund its experiments and ease the transition.
Broadcasters would argue the CBC has always operated from an unfair advantage. But the current scenario is different in several respects. For one, the Corp.’s legislated mandate to be “predominantly and distinctly Canadian” arguably placed it at a commercial disadvantage. Further, capital and regulatory requirements made it implausible for commercial broadcasters to serve many areas of the country. But nobody needs to ask the CRTC’s permission to create a website, and the startup costs for a digital service are far less than those of a television or radio station. If small cities like Kamloops need a local digital news service, that’s a need that could be plausibly served by entrepreneurs. The CBC is increasingly no longer complementing the market, but instead meddling within it.
January 24, 2013
Andrew Coyne makes some good points about Sun TV’s hypocrisy, he could have made a stronger case for getting the CRTC entirely out of the business of deciding what Canadians can watch on TV:
When the Sun News Network first loomed on the national horizon two years ago, before it had even begun broadcasting, sections of the Canadian left reacted as they do to most things: with hysterics.
A petition was launched — from the United States, as it happens — demanding the CRTC deny Sun the licence it sought, claiming “Prime Minister Harper is trying to push American-style hate media onto our airwaves, and make us all pay for it.”
[. . .]
Well, that was then: much has happened since. Teneycke lost his job, briefly, after questions were raised about how the bogus signatures found their way onto the petition. The network has mostly avoided peddling hate, unless you count that business about the Roma. And, less than two years since its launch, Sun is back before the CRTC, asking to be put on basic cable.
Well, asking is not quite the word. The network, never shy about self-promotion, seems almost an infomercial for itself these days. Network personalities have been drafted to explain the urgent public necessity of making Sun mandatory carriage, that is of taxing everyone with cable or satellite service. Viewers are directed to a website, where they can send an email to the CRTC in support of its application.
[. . .]
But if fairness is what we’re after, there’s another way to go about it. Rather than give every channel an equal chance to stick their hands in the public’s pockets — to force viewers to pay for channels they would not pay for willingly — it is to grant that privilege to no one: to leave viewers free to decide whether or not to subscribe to each channel, on its own merits. And yes, in case anyone’s wondering, that includes the CBC. (Notwithstanding the princely $500 a pop the corporation pays me to bloviate on At Issue, I have been rash enough to argue, publicly and often, for defunding the CBC.)
For goodness sake, it is 2013. The circumstances that might once have justified such regulatory micro-managing, in the days when there were only three channels and barely room for more on the dial, are long gone. Then, a new or special-interest channel might have made the case for market failure: since it was impossible for viewers to pay for channels directly, there was a built-in bias to the biggest audience, and the programming that tailored to it.
January 15, 2013
In an article designed to stir up controversy over aid to Haiti, Kathy Shaidle provides a neat thumbnail portrait of Don Cherry:
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) says taxpayers must keep funding this great unwatched billion-dollar behemoth because the network has a never-hear-the-end-of-it “mandate” to “reflect Canadian values.”
Which “the Corpse” does indeed, but for just about nine minutes every Saturday night, and only during hockey season, and by accident rather than design.
That’s when Don Cherry’s red light goes on and the former Boston Bruins coach begins bellowing about the fruitcakes and foreigners destroying his beloved game.
He’s old, white, loud, and uneducated. He’s bigoted, mawkishly patriotic, and he dresses like an Edwardian time traveler stuck in 1970s Detroit trying to pass himself off as a pimp — and Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner has also been the CBC’s highest rated… thing for generations. It’s not even a show, you see, just a segment — possibly the only “intermission” in history that prompts people to run to their seats instead of away from them.
By lucky chance, “shhhh!” is the same “word” in both official languages, and that’s the sound heard in sports bars and rec rooms across Quebec and the ROC (Rest of Canada) as the show’s familiar intro gallops into millions of ears.
To the countless Canucks who can’t stand him, however, Cherry is a perpetual outrage machine. The coach doesn’t make “Kinsley gaffes,” either — those “controversial” statements which accidentally reveal some embarrassing truth. Cherry tells embarrassing truths on purpose. His only “crime” is saying things lots of his countrymen agree with but aren’t allowed to say — or even let themselves think — anymore.
June 4, 2012
I was in the same room as the TV yesterday, which was tuned to the CBC’s “coverage” of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations along the Thames River. Every time I paid a bit of attention, Peter bloody Mansbridge was committing another linguistic atrocity (HM-C-S Belfast? She’s a former Royal Navy ship, not an RCN vessel, Peter — oh, and she’s a light cruiser, not a “battle cruiser”). And aside from the Royal Barge, and the canoe from Peterborough, the boat that got the most attention was a bloody power boat that apparently was in a James Bond film. Crikey!
It seemed as though every appearance of a maple leaf had to be relayed to viewers — not, mind you, actual footage of the things they were talking about. The mandate seemed to be to keep the faces of the presenters front-and-centre all the time when they weren’t showing the Royal Barge. And on the odd occasion they’d show part of the flotilla, the CBC personalities felt the need to talk as much as possible even while they weren’t on camera.
From the National Post, Scott Stinson on the banality of it all:
Long after the royal barge had passed my vantage point near Chelsea Bridge on Sunday afternoon, I nipped into a London pub to warm up, dry off, and catch the rest of the proceedings on the television.
After the first few times someone on the BBC broadcast gushed about this or that aspect of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, I chalked it up to a mild case of homerism. The 1,000-boat flotilla was, after all, an impressive spectacle. Then I noticed how often the commentators were using the pronoun “we” when describing things, as in “we are all so anxious to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty.” So much for journalistic detachment. By the time one of the broadcasters was positively marvelling at the skill and ingenuity of the captain who was in the process of docking the royal barge, it was apparent that most of the Beeb’s broadcast team had gone right bloody native.
I mean, shouldn’t docking a boat be part of the job? Would we not expect that the person given the task of piloting the Queen up the Thames be better than decent at it? Yet, here was the commentator, oohing and aahing at the fact that the captain of the Spirit of Chartwell had pulled up alongside the dock and was now moving the boat sideways up to it for a gentle landing. “Look at that!,” he enthused. “It’s amazing!”
Jan Moir in the Daily Mail:
Turn the royal trumpets to the parp and piffle setting. Muffle the funeral drums. For on a molten grey stretch of the Thames, with a global television audience of millions watching, something died yesterday.
It was the BBC’s reputation as a peerless television broadcaster of royal events. It just could not survive under an onslaught of inanity, idiocy and full cream sycophancy uttered, muttered and buttered on thickly by a team of presenters who were encouraged to think that they were more important than the events unfolding around them.
Someone, somewhere thought that their celebrity personalities were enough to see them through this all-day broadcast. How very wrong they were.
‘I’ve just spotted my 70-year-old dad out there,’ gurgled Sophie Raworth, as barges packed with senior royals and VIPs slid by, unremarked upon. Who was in all the other boats? We never did find out.
Yes, the BBC1 coverage of the Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant was historical — historically awful.
[. . .]
What were Beeb bosses thinking? If ever an event was crying out for a Dimbleby to dimble nimbly in the shallows, with that trademark mixture of gravitas, humour and sagacity, then this was it.
Instead, we got Sophie Raworth and Matt Baker, bouncing around as if they were presiding over the jelly stall at a chimps’ tea party, somehow managing to sound patronising about nearly everything.
March 29, 2012
My local MP also happens to be the federal Minister of Finance, who got his moment in the spotlight today as he unveiled the government’s 2012 budget. The media folks who were in the budget lock-up are just starting to publish their reports on the “wins” and “losses” as they see them in the new budget.
Initial Tweets concentrated on these headline-friendly moves:
- Old age pension eligibility will rise to 67
- Civil service will shrink by 19,000 positions
- Coinage change: we’re abandoning the penny (they cost 50% more to make than they’re worth, and we didn’t make it up in volume)
- Return the budget to balance by 2015-2016 and begin running a surplus after that
PravdaThe CBC, our government-owned TV/radio network, will see a 10% cut in funding
I’ll update this post as new information gets published.
Update: John Ivison at the National Post calls it “A grand vision of still-big government”:
For a government that has forsworn the vision thing to this point, Budget 2012 is Obama-esque in the audacity of its hope for the future.
“We see Canada for what it is and what it can be… Today we step forward boldly, to realize it fully — hope for our children and grandchildren; opportunity for all Canadians; a prosperous future for our beloved country,” said Jim Flaherty in his speech to the House of Commons, boldly going where no Conservative Finance Minister has gone before — save perhaps Sir George Foster, who served Sir John A. Macdonald.
Mr Flaherty summoned up Sir George in his speech, quoting the need “for long vision, the fine courage of statesmanship and the warm fires of national imagination….Let us climb the heights and take a look forward.”
If the rest of the contents fail to live up to that level of rhetoric, they do at least amount to a serious attempt to move beyond the naked bribery of budgets past.
Paul “Inkless” Wells calls it “Harper’s very political budget”:
Revolution, ladies and gents! Light the torches! In his December year-end interviews, Stephen Harper used the term “major transformations” a half-dozen times. He made fun of earlier majority prime ministers. They let the bureaucrats put them to sleep! For years! No chance of that happening to Harper. Major transformations, coming right up.
Fast forward to this afternoon. “We will eliminate the penny,” Jim Flaherty told the Commons. It was literally the first new policy measure he announced. “Pennies take up too much space on our dressers at home.”
Now you know why Trudeau and Mulroney and Chrétien were such snoozers. It was the pennies. Weighing them down all day. Cluttering their dressers at night. Pennies wear a guy down. Harper, the Interac Prime Minister, will be fleet of foot, full of vim, and ready for —
— major transformations? No. I don’t have a searchable electronic text of Flaherty’s speech, but I do not see the word “transformation” anywhere in it. The rhetoric is altogether more reassuring. “The reforms we present today are substantial, responsible, and necessary,” he said, and “We will stay on course,” and “We will maintain our consistent, pragmatic, and responsible approach to the economy,” and “We will implement moderate restraint in government spending.”
From the Budget overview itself, a welcome change to Canadians who shop in the United States:
Every year, Canadians take some 30 million overnight trips outside of Canada, often returning with goods purchased abroad. Modernization of the rules applied to these purchases is long overdue. Economic Action Plan 2012 proposes the most significant increase in the duty- and tax-free travellers’ exemptions in decades. The travellers’ exemption allows Canadians to bring back goods up to a specified dollar limit without having to pay duties or taxes, including customs duty, Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax, federal excise levies and provincial sales and product taxes.
The Government proposes to increase the value of goods that may be imported duty- and tax-free by Canadian residents returning from abroad after a 24-hour and 48-hour absence to $200 and $800, harmonizing them with U.S. levels. This measure will facilitate cross-border travel by streamlining the processing of returning Canadian travellers who have made purchases while outside Canada. This change will be effective beginning on June 1, 2012. It is estimated that this measure will reduce federal revenues by $13 million in 2012–13 and by $17 million in 2013–14.
Campbell Clark at the Globe and Mail says the budget marks a strong change in the government’s formerly pro-military stance:
The Harper government is slashing spending on Canada’s international presence, with deep cuts to the military, aid and diplomacy.
It marks a reversal to the Conservatives long-ballyhooed policy of beefing up the military: It’s no longer just slowing the growth of Defence spending, but cutting it back, and delaying billions of dollars in capital spending on military hardware for seven years.
[. . .]
In fact, neither the budget nor the host of government officials attending a lockup to explain it provided a figure for the Defence budget for the coming year, and in the years affected by the cuts. Officials said that information was not being presented on budget day.
Still, it was clear that the impact will be deep. Since 2006, the Harper government has touted year-over-year increases for military spending, even when it announced two years ago the growth would be slowed. Now it’s cutting.
By 2014-15, more than $1.1-billion a year will be lopped off the regular Defence budget. But that’s not all. In addition, $3.5-billion in capital spending — the sums the military uses to buy equipment like planes, ships, trucks, tanks and weapons — will be put off until seven years from now, so that the government can save an average of $500-million a year.
Hmmmm. Slowdowns in major equipment purchases? I wonder if we’re about to get a Defence White Paper. We’re probably overdue for one of those…
February 27, 2012
Marni Soupcoff on the lasting legacy of former CRTC head Pierre Juneau, the mandatory “CanCon” ratio for TV and radio:
Former CBC and CRTC president Pierre Juneau died last week at the age of 89, and the requisite obituaries followed. Almost all of them congratulated Mr. Juneau on his most well-known achievement: having mandated minimum standards for Canadian content on radio and television. It is an unfortunate legacy.
The troubles with CanCon requirements are both moral and practical: It is not simply wrong to try to forcibly engineer a population’s taste in music in television. It is also impossible. People like what they like, and if what they like is Canadian, they will watch and listen to it even absent rules dictating that they must. If what they like isn’t Canadian, rules saturating the airwaves with all the Loverboy ditties in the world won’t make them tune in.
So even if you aren’t bothered by CanCon rules’ violation of freedom of expression, you should at least ask yourself how effective the regulations can possibly be — especially today. More and more people are selecting their music and television shows on their own, now, picking an episode from iTunes here, a free song download from a band’s webpage there. The idea that the nation’s culture can be shaped by mandating the nationality of prime-time content on TV networks and radio stations is as antiquated as it was flawed to start with. And we’re wasting money and time by continuing to force media outlets to comply.
And yes, my Cancon blog category is a backhand at the longstanding regulation.
October 19, 2011
Chris Selley can’t be accused of being a Terry Milewski fan, but he does agree with Milewski’s message:
The CBC recently sent Terry Milewski to Texas, the blood and guts state, where he asked conservative politicians and various experts what they thought of building more prisons, and filling them up, as a means of driving down crime. “Don’t,” was the basic answer. “It doesn’t work. That’s why we’re doing the opposite.”
It was a nice piece on a serious policy issue. It reminded us that the federal government seems to consider crime legislation inside a hermetically sealed chamber. But for that very reason, nothing any journalist says is likely to make any difference. If contrary evidence carried any weight in Cabinet, the omnibus tough-on-crime bill, C-10, wouldn’t be before Parliament. The fact that elites recoil at its provisions and spew champagne out of their noses is a feature, not a bug.
And, if I may briefly adopt the voice of a partisan blogger, the mainstream media would denounce the law of gravity if it somehow helped the Liberals (or the NDP, depending what day it is). The CBC, in the memorable words of Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, “lies all the time.” And Mr. Milewski, as we all know, chairs the left-wing media conspiracy.
This is not an ideal policy-making environment. But I’m going to try to change minds on a single, narrow, easily fixable issue: Mandatory minimum sentences for non-serious crimes. I can’t see any level on which they are supportable.