The main union at CBC/Radio-Canada is advising the federal government to proceed with caution as it considers recommendations for major regulatory reform of the broadcast and telecom sector issued by an independent panel on Wednesday.
Among the sweeping changes the panel proposes are an end to advertising on a publicly funded CBC and that it be a leader in local, regional and national news.
The Canadian Media Guild (CWA Canada Local 30213) said the report recognizes that the CBC is underfunded compared to public broadcasters in other countries and that its mandate is to provide programming in English, French and Indigenous languages across six time zones. The network receives $29 per capita in public funds while its counterparts in the U.K. and France get $105 and $73 respectively.
“Like many Canadians, the union representing workers at CBC/Radio-Canada has long called for better funding,” said CMG President Carmel Smyth. “CBC is the largest news organization in the country, and it provides a crucial public service that Canadians appreciate for quality news and local programming. This is especially critical today when the internet is full of unverified fake news that divides us and damages healthy debate and our democratic tradition.”
Kim Trynacity, president of the CMG’s CBC Branch, said any changes that are implemented must boost the broadcaster’s ability to deliver on its mandate, not deplete it.
“There are many recommendations and caution will be key,” she said. “Certainly, the call to drop advertising from the network over five years is premature given the continued and ongoing financial struggles to operate without stable, adequate, long-term funding. That’s why we are urging a careful review of the possible impacts before going ahead with the proposed measures.”
Smyth said the CMG welcomes the panel’s recommendations to allocate funding for news across all platforms, but emphasized that eligible media must include all news producers.
“News agencies such as The Canadian Press (whose staff are CMG members) are an indispensable part of the media ecosystem. CP produces quality and reliable content used by all media across the country, including local news outlets, and in both official languages. As such, CP must be explicitly included in any supports provided under this proposal,” said Smyth.
The CMG said the panel is to be commended for fully identifying the ongoing financial crisis faced by the media, and for emphasizing how vital trusted news is to maintaining a democracy and engaging citizens.
Proposals “such as expanding a federal tax credit beyond five years, and creating a long-term news media fund are steps in the right direction toward a strong, dynamic media system that provides news to all Canadians. We just emphasize they must be available to news providers on all platforms and that includes The Canadian Press.”