Friday, October 7, 2011

CBC's time has come and gone

In a time where nations around the world are facing economic crises; where Canadians are struggling to pay their bills; and where the Canadian government is undertaking a massive strategic review to cut $4 Billion from the annual budget, why are Canadians still shelling out a massive $1.1 Billion a year to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)?

The Canadian government is not asking anything revolutionary when they are suggesting that Crown corporations and ministries live within their means – Canadian families do it all the time.  Their review is aimed at finding efficiencies where possible, and overall assuring that Canadians get a good value for their tax dollar.

The guiding question when considering the CBC’s funding should be why?  Why do they need $1.1 Billion of government money?  Why should they receive $32 from every Canadian, when there are literally hundreds of news agencies out there, which survive without my money?  Why should we give taxpayer money to the CBC when we can tune into TVO, CTV, or Sun News for free?

With a target of $4 Billion in savings, why not start by cutting the billion dollars from the CBC’s budget?  We’d be 25 per cent of the way there, meaning we’d have to cut $1.1 Billion less from health care, defence, agriculture, and various other federal government portfolios.

Animosity against the CBC is growing.  This week an online petition was released which calls for an “opt out” from the CBC.  It notes

“CBC gets $1.1 Billion of taxpayer funding a year and what do they show for it? A network that caters to a particular point of view and that competes with private broadcasters for advertising dollars and bids on popular television shows.

Furthermore, they have shown that they are unaccountable to oversight by the Information Commissioner in response to Access to Information requests.”

This comes at a challenging time, when the CBC has also been criticized for lavishly treating themselves and several high-profile celebrities to an exclusive red carpet party during the Toronto Film Festival.  With our money.  Ezra Levant estimated that this one night of prestige could have easily cost more than $1 Million (the CBC spokesman refused to confirm or deny that number).  What’s worse is that the people footing the bill (us) were not allowed to attend the party.

But Canadians are largely in the dark when it comes to how much money the CBC actually costs us every year.  A survey by Abacus Data found that 80 per cent of Canadians did not know the CBC received $1.1 Billion each year.  One quarter of those surveyed thought the CBC received about $100 Million – one tenth of the actual figure.  And more than 60 per cent of responders felt $1.1 Billion was too much.

It is clear that the CBC has outlived its usefulness, and is no longer deserving of hardworking Canadians’ billions of dollars in funding.  The CBC needs to compete, like every other news agency.  It needs to be privatized.

Privatization should not be dismissed as a fanatical conservative idea.  Nor should it be relied upon to fix every situation.  Canada’s military, for example, should never be privatized.  The military provides a unique service that cannot and should not be offered by any private company.  Further, they need to be under the direct authority of the government.  What’s special or unique about the CBC?

Privatization has worked across the world in several cases where the government is looking to save money while maintaining a service.

When Via Rail was privatized in 1987, they were able to trim their bloated pay roll by 60 per cent, which had the affect of reducing Via’s debt by 40 per cent.  Since becoming a private company, Via has become dramatically more efficient.

Margaret Thatcher’s privatization of several United Kingdom industries was “so successful in operation as to have won the highest form of flattery from other nations – imitation.”

Countries across the world are facing deficit and debt crises.  In Canada, the federal government is searching for $4 Billion in savings in order to balance the budget by 2014-2015.  Where better to start than by cutting loose a $1.1 Billion burden on taxpayers?

Visit www.cbcoptout.ca to sign the petition.