Towards ‘difficult decisions’ at CBC/Radio-Canada

“Tough decisions” are coming at CBC/Radio-Canada, which must find $100 million to complete its budget for next year. The president and CEO of the national broadcaster, Catherine Tait, considers the emergency fund of 50 million dollars proposed by the Bloc Québécois to solve the “systemic” crisis of the Canadian media to be “insufficient”.

He made a plea for the sustainability of the public broadcaster Tuesday afternoon, during a speech before the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM).

The head of Radio-Canada recalled that public media are in turmoil around the world, often under pressure from populist governments that threaten to cut their funding. Catherine Tait never named Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre, who is threatening to cut funding for the public broadcaster’s English service without affecting Radio-Canada. But the shadow of the would-be prime minister, who is ahead of Justin Trudeau in the polls, hung over the room.

“We are at the beginning of a process to examine all our scenarios. We are trying to reduce expenses such as travel and discretionary expenses, but after this analysis, there will be difficult decisions to make,” warned the CEO of CBC /Radio-Canada in front of 300 people from the business sector.

The national broadcaster’s English and French services will have to “contribute fairly and equitably” to the budget effort, Catherine Tait said. It pledges to “protect our information services, which are essential,” but refuses to comment on potential redundancies.

“Broken” business models.

The CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada believes the federal government will have to do more to help Canadian media, which is suffering from competition from digital giants. He mentioned a solution proposed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD, which consists of imposing a tax on the income of giants such as Meta and Google, which monopolize 80% of advertising in the country.

The $50 million emergency fund proposed by the Bloc Québécois on Tuesday would certainly help Canadian media, “but I don’t think it’s the solution we’re looking for,” Catherine Tait told reporters after her speech. “We are talking about a systemic and structural problem. It is the business models (of the traditional media) that are being broken”, recalled the great head of the public broadcaster.

The current crisis is hitting major broadcasters hard, with thousands of job cuts announced in recent weeks.

Last week, TVA Group eliminated 547 positions, nearly a third of its workforce. In June, Bell announced the elimination of 1,300 jobs and the closure of six radio stations. For their part, the six regional newspapers affiliated to the Information Cooperatives have recently announced the voluntary departure of 125 employees, who will not be replaced.

The media crisis promotes disinformation, which risks destabilizing democratic countries, warned Mme Tait, but also the president of the CCMM, Michel Leblanc. “We live in a time when we most need independent media, which produce information based on facts. Business wants a strong and enlightened democracy, which offers the stability and predictability we need,” said Mr. Leblanc.

To see on video