State broadcaster slashes services in … Portuguese and Russian?
by Brian Lilley
I’m not sure how much longer Canada can last.
On Wednesday our national unity took a deep blow when CBC announced that it will deal with its budget cuts by slashing services that few Canadians knew existed.
The state broadcaster will stop broadcasting in Portuguese and Russian through its Radio Canada International arm. Thankfully RCI will keep broadcasting to the world in Arabic, Mandarin and Spanish which just could save national unity. CBC will also stop broadcasting over the shortwave band and will sell specialty channel Bold, two more blows to the Canadian fabric.
Of course I’m being sarcastic, but the idea that cutting CBC’s budget will hurt the country is held by some.
On Thursday, a union rep for CBC workers told me that Canada could not survive without the state broadcaster. Given that few Canadians watch CBC programs each year I don’t know how she kept a straight face.
The service cuts that I highlighted are hardly the type of thing your friends or co-workers mention to you at the water cooler. Yet those were all service cuts highlighted by CBC president Hubert Lacroix as he announced the 650 job cuts.
Did you know that CBC was broadcasting in Portuguese to audiences in Brazil? Did you know about the Russian programming or the shortwave? Do you think that continuing an online radio station in Arabic or Mandarin is a good use of tax dollars when other priorities are being squeezed?
CBC showed some sanity in deciding to cancel two planned sports specialty channels, one in English and one in French to compete with the likes of TSN. The bigger question though is why did they think they should be launching an all-sports cable channel to compete with the private sector?
And speaking of competing, why is CBC still a major shareholder in Sirius XM satellite radio service? CBC helped set up the Canadian version of Sirius in 2005, putting $12-million worth of taxpayer’s money at risk. When did becoming a venture capital investment firm become part of their mandate?
Since taking a stake in Sirius, CBC has been able to make sure that all those shiny satellite radios that come with new cars give prominent placement to their programming while helping to keep private sector competitors out of the market. That’s not really part of their role either.
In fact, when you look at all the areas that CBC is involved in that have nothing to do with their parliamentary mandate of providing radio and television services to Canadians, you can only come to one conclusion — they still have too much money.
CBC put this on full display earlier this year when they were found to be paying to import pornography from France to post on their website for Canadians to view for free. The series Hard was eventually removed from their website after public pressure and apparently didn’t cost that much but it was still a sign of a broadcaster not knowing what to do with their oodles of cash.
Even worse is their decision to launch a free music service that streams pop songs from the latest American artists. This service, which costs huge sums of money to pay the artists’ royalties and for the computer servers, was launched just ahead of budget cuts.
CBC chose to put money into porn, satellite radio and online music by Aerosmith. I won’t cry with them as they mourn the loss of Portuguese radio services.
Categories: Contributor Columns