As backers of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) struggled on Tuesday to convince a Senate committee that public backing of the broadcaster is crucial to the country, an internal memo from the broadcaster warned its future is in jeopardy.
The memo from CBC president Hubert Lacroix, obtained by Sun News, warns of “dark clouds on the horizon” as the broadcaster faces financial problems due to low ratings — a situation made worse by the CBC's loss last year of the NHL broadcast contract to Rogers.
"On Monday, I informed the board that we are projecting significant financial challenges," Lacroix told staffers, as quoted by Sun.
That memo came days before Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a lobby group that backs the CBC, urged a Senate committee to maintain funding for the public broadcaster, which takes around $1 billion in taxpayer subsidies every year.
Group spokesman Ian Morrison urged the Transport and Communications Committee not to abandon the network, and brushed aside concerns that the Internet is making the CBC irrelevant.
“Please don’t get preoccupied with technology,” Morrison told the committee, as quoted at iPolitics. “The key thing is culture. The CBC is important to holding the country together.”
Friends of Canadian Broadcasting estimated the CBC would lose $200 million annually as a result of Rogers landing a 12-year, $5.2-billion deal to broadcast hockey games.
The CBC will continue to air "Hockey Night in Canada," but will lose creative control over the show and will no longer collect ad revenue from it.
"We are working hard to confirm the bottom line," Lacroix said in the memo. "However, it's clear that tough and more fundamental decisions will have to be made to establish a longer-term, sustainable, financial model for our corporation."
Relations between the CBC and the Harper government have been strained. The Tories announced budget cuts to the CBC in the 2012 budget, and by the 2014-2015 fiscal year spending is expected to have been reduced by 10 per cent.
The CRTC recently permitted the broadcaster to run ads on its previously commercial-free Radio 2 service, but it's unlikely revenue from that can make up the shortfall.
In last year’s budget, the Tories sought to take more direct control over salary negotiations at the CBC, a move that Lacroix warned could lead to a legal showdown.
In the Senate Tuesday, some committee members questioned whether the CBC’s mandate to provide Canadian cultural content to all parts of the country even mattered to the public anymore.
Friends’ Morrison said yes, and argued it should not be a question of whether or not a majority supports it.
“There would be no Canadian content in a neo-conservative, let-the-market-decide world,” he said.
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