Friday, June 6, 2008

Guest Blog - CBC's driving me batty

Guest blog below sent to me by a friend. Interesting take on some recent CBC stances. There's been a few stories lately at CBC where I've been concerned they've been taking a stance as opposed to reporting the news and letting the listener decide. I see I'm not the only one thinking that. Lengthier than my regular posts but read on.


A few months ago when the CBC was bashing the province's new brand on a daily basis, I was particular irked when I was listening to Shift one night and the host (it wasn't Paul Castle, but a fill-in) had a marketing prof on the air from MSVU in Halifax. She said that the brand was great and that the province got a "tremendous bargain" if it was developed for only $229,000. The host was shocked and appalled by this and moaned on and on as she proceeded to make a complete fool of him. The next morning, the CBC again invited its listeners to send Terry Seguin their best attempts at mockery.

That is somewhat fine, there is a place for satire. But it isn't news or relevant information, which are two things one might expect from a program called "Information Morning" produced by an operation called "CBC Radio News".

So I emailed the CBC to inquire about how much they spent when they rebranded a few years ago. You might remember, with great fanfare, Robert Rabinovich unveilling the new "tone" that would play at the beginning of each TV and radio news broadcast. That was in early February, the CBC has still not responded to my email. How accountable.

This week they were telling Victor Boudreau that, before he goes ahead with a plan to cut taxes by $500 million and raise them by $350 million (i.e. a $150 million tax cut + $350 million of tax shifting from inefficient to efficient means of taxation), he should call a referendum. New Brunswick is allowing people to prospect and explore for uranium; essentailly look around for it, not mine for it. Experts say that you would have a greater risk of radiation exposure hanging around in an old basement for a few hours then laying on top of an exploratory drill hole with uranium at the bottom of it for a few weeks. The CBC however insists that we call off the exploration or, at least, hold a referendum. This is the same CBC that mocked Stockwell Day insessenantly (see petition to rename him Doris Day) for proposing referenda on serious issues. How consistent.

Despite the CBC's constant crying for government accountability and openness, the taxpayer-funded CBC opens its books to no one. Their "financial statement" from there most recent annual report is 16 pages long but that is mostly fluff, pictures, etc. There is no breakdown in terms of how much is spent on specific programming or how much is spent by province.

Here's an interesting factoid for you (that wasn't in the annual report, but I determined by sifting throught the CBC website). Ontario (population 12,861,940) has 4 CBC Radio 1 stations. New Brunswick (population 751,250) has 3. That is one station for every 3.22 million people in Ontario, contrasted to one for every 0.25 million in New Brunswick. Seems fair, equitable and an excellent example of resource managment, no?

Here's a better one for you. The 2006-07 CBC budget was $1,689,000,000. Yes, that is almost $2 billion. How much of it was spent in New Brunswick? No idea. However, this is what I was able to figure out.
CBC TV costs $624,930,000
CBC Radio costs $202,680,000
Radio-Canada TV costs $405,360,000
Radio-Canada Radio costs $152,010,000
That adds up to about $1.3 billion, the rest is spent on overhead, etc.
CBC TV has 18 stations, 1 of which is in New Brunswick. 1/18 of the CBC TV budget is $34,718,333.33.
CBC Radio (both 1 and 2) has 50 stations, 3 of which (all Radio 1) are in New Brunswick. 3/50 of the CBC Radio budget is $50,670,000.
Radio-Canada TV has 8 stations, 1 of which is in New Brunswick. 1/8 of the Radio-Canada TV budget is $12,160,800.
Radio-Canada Radio has 28 stations, 2 of which are in New Brunswick. 2/28 of the Radio-Canada Radio budget is $10,857,857.14.
Therefore, it is not unfair to assume that CBC in New Brunswick costs taxpayers about $108,406,990.47 every year.

I have long been a defender of the CBC, but at some point one has to wonder how much is too much? At one point there used to be individual programming for all of NB's CBC Radio stations. Now there are individual morning programs but everything else is provincial or regional. CBC could save, by my analysis, $8,107,200 per year if we had one CBC Radio 1 station in New Brunswick instead of 3. And I doubt anyone would even notice. Where else could they trim the fat?

Maybe New Brunswickers should have a referendum on whether they would like to see CBC service continue in New Brunswick or have the federal government transfer $108 million extra per year to the province, or, perhaps, in the form of tax cut? CBC seems to think referenda are such a good thing after all.
$108 million - or even $8 million - can go a long way. $108 million is more than the budget of New Brunswick's departments of Agriculture, Business, Energy, Environment, Finance, Fisheries, Intergovernmental Affairs, Justice, Natural Resources, Tourism or Wellness & Culture. $8 million would hire about 32 doctors per year or 160 nurses.

I know how I'd vote in that referendum, bring it on!

Crossposted - CanadaEast