Julie Tremblay, President and CEO of TVA Group, has commented on CBC/Radio-Canada’s proposals in the Canadian Heritage consultation on Canadian content in a digital world:
“The idea of removing advertising from CBC/Radio-Canada in exchange for increased, guaranteed public funding, without first reviewing the public broadcaster’s mandate, is a bewildering suggestion which hopefully won’t fool anyone. CBC/Radio-Canada wants to have its cake and eat it too: more money, less financial risk, no commercial breaks and, most of all, no limits on its ability to compete with private broadcasters. It’s the perfect recipe if you want to deal a fatal blow to other Canadian broadcasters. The priority instead should be to review and clarify CBC/Radio-Canada’s mandate to make sure it complements the private broadcasters rather than competing with them.”
Like CBC/Radio-Canada, TVA Group also believes that the Government of Canada should look to Great-Britain for inspiration. But while CBC/Radio-Canada refers only to measures taken in Britain in the 1990s, TVA Group believes we should draw inspiration from the updated BBC Royal Charter drafted this year. Three elements from this review could and should apply to CBC/Radio-Canada.
First, like the BBC, the public broadcaster should be required to carry programming that is “distinctive” from what is offered by the private broadcasters, meaning that it is different in the following respects:
- Focus on specific genres: culture, education, children’s programming, public affairs, science, etc.
- Serve audiences that are diverse geographically, linguistically, ethnically, socioeconomically, demographically, etc.
- Carry innovative, experimental programming, taking advantage of the fact that the public broadcaster has a parliamentary allocation that should theoretically reduce its dependence on ratings.
The second point that should be included in the public broadcaster’s mandate is a requirement to consider the impact of its actions on the other members of Canada’s broadcasting ecosystem, including other broadcasters. The public broadcaster’s actions can indeed negatively impact other industry players in various ways, for example by bidding up programming rights and budgets.
Third, the government should make sure the CRTC has a mandate to impose appropriate accountability measures in order to enforce the guidelines set for the public broadcaster with respect to distinctive content and relations with the other members of the broadcasting ecosystem.
Together, these measures should make for healthier and more harmonious coexistence between the public broadcaster, private broadcasters and other media outlets that are being harmed by competition from CBC/Radio-Canada, giving them the breathing room they desperately need.
“We are pleased by the Minister of Canadian Heritage’s demonstrated readiness to consider comments from all stakeholders in the Canadian broadcasting ecosystem,” said Julie Tremblay. “In doing so, she will have an opportunity to hear the many voices from across Canada that have spoken out in the past few weeks to complain about unfair competition from the public broadcaster against many media outlets. A number of them, including TVA, Group, have predicted that, if nothing is done, Canada’s media landscape may well, in the not-so-distant future, be dominated by a handful of global giants plus CBC/Radio-Canada. Eliminating advertising from CBC/Radio-Canada in exchange for increased funding, without imposing on the public broadcaster a clear mandate that is complementary to the private broadcasters and based on distinctive programming, would only accelerate this worrying trend.”