A Conservative leadership candidate who has built his campaign on libertarian principles says he wants to “refocus” the mandate of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), but isn’t calling for its privatization.
Conservative leadership contender Maxime Bernier speaks at press conference on ParliamentHhill on Oct. 6. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)
Bernier said while the public broadcaster was created 80 years ago to unite Canadians, CBC-Radio Canada seems “frozen in time” in a media landscape that now includes hundreds of broadcasters and online outlets. The CBC should “stop doing three-quarters of what it still does,” he said.
Canadians, he continued, don’t need a public broadcaster that features game shows, sports, and “bad Canadian copies of American, popular shows.”
“I do believe there is still a role in our media landscape for a public radio and television network, but it has to be something other than what the private sector offers,” he said.
Bernier said he would change the Broadcasting Act and streamline CBC’s mandate to focus resources on its regional stations across the country and public affairs programming outside of Montreal and Toronto.
"I do believe there is still a role in our media landscape for a public radio and television network, but it has to be something other than what the private sector offers."
The former cabinet minister also wants the CBC to stop competing for advertising dollars with private outlets that have had to make cuts and lay off journalists. Bernier called the practice unfair, given CBC’s “head start with more than a billion dollars in taxpayers’ money” each year.
Instead, Bernier proposes shifting the CBC to a model similar to that of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States, where support comes from sponsors and donations from viewers.
But Bernier also said that, if elected, his government would withdraw the $150 million in annual funding the current Liberal government has promised to the CBC until 2020-2021. He would then review funding going forward, in light of a revamped mandate, and expects taxpayers would end up spending less than $1 billion on the institution each year.
Trost calls for privatization
Bernier’s plan won’t satisfy all Tories. Veteran Ontario MP Tony Clement, who dropped out of the leadership race in October, had earlier pledged that annual CBC funding would “go the way of the Dodo bird” if he became PM.
And Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost, who is also running for leader, took to Twitter just before Bernier’s press conference to call on all other candidates to support the privatization of the CBC.