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FRPC intervenes in CBC renewal proceeding

The Forum’s intervention in the CRTC’s proceeding to consider CBC’s applications to renew its conventional radio and television, and discretionary television, programming services was filed on February 20, 2020. The Forum focussed on three main areas of the CBC’s applications: CBC’s past performance with respect to and future plans for programming, CBC’s approach to its online services, and the importance of measurement as an essential adjunct to transparency.

The Forum did not support CBC’s request for five-year licences as the CBC’s applications provided too little evidence to support that request. Its ‘strategic plan’ offered neither strategies nor plans to deal with CBC’s challenges in the 21st century. These include not only public funding and commercial revenue that are decreasing in real terms (after controlling for inflation), but the perception held by many that CBC’s reliance on Government for funding decisions and supplements affects its programming decisions, including its news coverage. ‘Growing CBC’s lifelong relationships with as many Canadians’ as possible, and ‘finding new, innovative ways to increase’ the revenue it earns are aspirations – not strategic plans.

CBC also failed to show how it met half the different terms (conditions of licence as well as CRTC expectations) of its current licences. FRPC pointed out that CBC’s programming performance had not raised Canadian content levels on its flagship conventional television stations in Toronto and Montreal since its licences were last renewed, and that if approved, CBC’s programming plans would reduce Canadian content still further for audiences of its regulated television services.

The Forum opposed CBC’s desire to continue to make some programming available only to audiences of its online services online, while not making the same programming available to the (significantly larger) audiences of its conventional television services: CBC is currently projecting growing losses on its online services totaling $101 million from 2019 to 2023.

In light of the many problems the Forum found when it analyzed the history of CBC’s public funding, FRPC emphasized the importance of collecting and – to the greatest extent possible – publishing reliable data that measure CBC’s performance, especially in terms of providing details about the types of programs that CBC actually broadcasts on its conventional programming services and that it makes available online.

The Forum concluded by recommending that the CRTC renew CBC’s licences until 2023 and that it hold a renewal hearing in 2022. It also suggesting that the CRTC hold a public hearing to invite Canadians’ proposals for a new model to fund national public broadcasting in Canada. The Forum asked to appear at the CRTC public hearing now scheduled to begin 25 May 2020.