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Who Will Make the CBC Accountable for its $1.1 Billion Budget?

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It's tempting to assume Sun Media's frontal attack on CBC secrecy as the rantings of a competitor, and therefore questionable -- similar to rival football coaches trading insults.

In vintage Sun style, Pierre Karl Peladeau, president and CEO of Quebecor Media which owns the Sun newspapers and Sun TV News, went after the CBC in the pages of the Sun, raising points that have little to do with direct competition.

Over the years, a lot of us have questioned CBC arrogance and methods. To little avail.

Apart from the CBC's penchant for secrecy on how it spends the $1.1 billion of taxpayers' money it gets from the government, what I find unacceptable and disgraceful, is the CBC bidding on programs that the private sector would run, but can't match CBC funding which is given to them, rather than earned by them.

I'm thinking of NHL hockey games, Olympic coverage, the Grey Cup. Instead of Masterpiece Theatre, the CBC bids on Jeopardy, which is more suited to private sector TV. CBC bidding raises the price -- surely not what the intent of those who started the CBC 75 years ago.

Until reading the Peladeau piece, I hadn't realized the National Post had dropped its "CBC Watch" feature, which periodically documented the vagaries and insanities within the CBC. We readers lost a genuine public service.

For a while, the Post was the only media watchdog on the CBC -- mild accountability. As Peladeau mourns, the Post has become something of a commercial partner with the CBC. Pity. Another voice smothered with dollars as a gag.

Peladeau complains that CBC's budget for celebrating its 75th anniversary should be public knowledge. Of course it should. Secrecy is not protecting news sources or program strategies, but costs of celebrating itself. Such use of public money is self-indulgent and wasteful.

Why is the CBC allowed to keep secret the number of vehicles in its fleet? Or how much it spends on entertainment? Or what it pays Peter Mansbridge?

A parliamentary committee questions why CBC viewers are declining. Why are people choosing other channels over the CBC? Such a decline would worry private sector stations, but not the CBC, which is assured public funding and cares not a whit what anyone thinks. It answers only to itself.

Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault criticizes the CBC for responding to only 60 per cent of information requests -- and takes an average of five months to respond. Then dismisses some requests without even examining the issue.

Tory MP John Williams says the CBC is becoming a caricature of itself.

Peladeau sees Sun Media as the only ones left who will risk calling the CBC to account, since Canadian Press depends heavily on the CBC for revenue (the Sun no doesn't subscribe to the CP news service). Also, the CBC favours other newspapers for ads, but not the Sun.

Of late, the CBC has counter-attacked Sun Media. Odd, because usually the CBC ignores sniping, knowing that like bad weather, the storm quickly passes. Attacking Peladeau indicates CBC vulnerability. I'd be tempted to say "guilt," but like those who once occupied the Kremlin, feelings of guilt are beyond the CBC's comprehension.

The answer, of course, is to cut funding for the CBC. Force it to compete in the open market like ever other enterprise except the Post Office and Liquor Board.

It might even persuade them to honour their original mandate.

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