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CBC Cuts: Poll Shows Majority Of Canadians Wants Funding Kept Intact

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OTTAWA - The Conservative government's long-standing promise to keep the CBC's federal funding stable appears to be in tune with public opinion.

A Harris-Decima survey conducted for The Canadian Press suggests 46 per cent of Canadians would like the CBC's funding to stay at the current level and 23 per cent would like it to be increased.

On the flip side, twenty-two per cent say funding should be cut, while 12 per cent say it should be eliminated altogether.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has said for years that it would not cut the CBC's budget, while noting recently that the CBC will not be immune from government-wide belt-tightening.

The future of the CBC has been a subject of debate in federal politics this fall, with the Crown corporation under parliamentary scrutiny for its tardy approach to access to information. That's led the National Citizens Coalition and a some Conservative MPs to launch petitions to have the CBC's funding cut. Earlier this fall, the Conservative party sent a survey out to its members asking whether the broadcaster was a good or bad value.

The Harris-Decima poll would suggest there isn't a wave of support for cutting the CBC's $1.1 billion subsidy.

"The biggest conclusion that I drew is that for the most part, the public seemed to be saying steady as it goes and half of them basically are saying, I'm more comfortable given these options to keep the funding as it is," said Doug Anderson, executive vice-president at Harris Decima.

The survey found that Canadians who wanted the funding decreased or cut completely were more likely to be Conservative supporters, men, those over the age of 50 and respondents living in Alberta.

Those who were for increased funding were most likely to be from Atlantic Canada, New Democrats, and those with household incomes exceeding $100,000 annually.

The Conservatives initiated a study of the Crown corporation's battle in the courts with the Information commissioner over who has the right to examine records it has blocked from release.

CBC President Hubert Lacroix is expected to testify at the committee next week. He has yet to take a position on whether the corporation will agree to a Conservative-led motion to have the CBC turn over internal records related to access requests.

The NDP and Liberal MPs on the access to information committee have boycotted its proceedings, arguing that its activities are treading on the jurisdiction of the courts. The Canadian Bar Association has also said that the committee should hold off on its study until the Federal Court of Appeal has dealt with the CBC access issue.

Meanwhile, the Liberal party has mounted its own petition to protect CBC funding.

The telephone poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted between Oct. 27-31 and it has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

By Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press