Seven media experts selected to help modernize CBC/Radio-Canada before next election

By Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Seven multimedia experts have been selected to advise Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge as she renews the role of Canada’s public broadcaster.

The group will provide policy advice mainly on CBC/Radio-Canada’s governance and funding, Canadian Heritage said.

The department notes that consultations on the CBC’s mandate have already been done with the general public.

The newly appointed advisory panel will now help St-Onge chart a path forward, with members contributing knowledge from a variety of fields.

St-Onge said committee members have diverse perspectives and experiences that will help her modernize CBC and its French-language arm, Radio-Canada.

“Canadians need a strong, innovative and independent public broadcaster that is ready to meet the challenges of this period of transformation and upheaval in news and content creation,” St-Onge said in a statement Monday.

The panel will help her promote Canadian culture, stories, languages, artists and creators, “while adapting to our rapidly changing broadcast and digital landscape,” she added.

The panel includes:

— Marie-Philippe Bouchard, CEO, TV5 Québec Canada;

— Jesse Wente, chair of the Canada Council for the Arts, founding executive director of the Indigenous Screen Office;

— Jennifer McGuire, managing director, Pink Triangle Press;

— David Skok, CEO and editor-in-chief, The Logic (independent media startup);

— Mike Ananny, associate professor of communication and journalism, University of Southern California Annenberg;

— Loc Dao, executive director of DigiBC;

— and Catalina Briceno, professor, Université du Québec à Montréal.

CBC president Catherine Tait has been calling for a long-term financial structure for the public broadcaster, such as a multi-year funding agreement through a charter, similar to the BBC in Britain.

The minister’s office has previously said it is “open to all ideas” as part of the process.

During a recent appearance at a House of Commons committee, Tait said she’s looking forward to conversing with the panel.

“Sustainable long-term funding is one of the solutions” to combatting the “crisis” media face, Tait said. She pointed to challenges such as competition from foreign tech giants who aren’t subjected to the same regulations as Canadian broadcasters, and a decline in revenue from traditional advertising.

CBC/Radio-Canada is projecting a $20-million shortfall for the 2024-25 fiscal year, despite having recently laid off 141 employees and eliminating 205 vacant positions since December, Tait said.

“I’ve been in this business 40 years and never before have I seen so great pressure on our domestic industry, and it is very worrisome,” Tait told the committee. “We see people disappearing, companies disappearing, production houses shutting down.”

The public broadcaster relies on an annual parliamentary appropriation of approximately $1.2 billion and supplementary income generated from advertising, subscriptions and other commercial activities.

“In the past CBC/Radio-Canada had an employee body of about 10,000. Today we’re at 7,500,” Tait said.

“Ninety per cent of our budget is dedicated to our workforce, so if something hits us, an economic hardship or financial hardship, the only lever we have is through workforce adjustment.”

Ottawa has said it wants to redefine the role of CBC before the next federal election, as the Liberals hedge against a possible change in government.

The Opposition Tories have promised to defund CBC and turn its Toronto-based headquarters into “affordable housing,” though the party’s leader, Pierre Poilievre, has also suggested maintaining support for services tailored to francophone minorities.

A spokeswoman for CBC welcomed the news of the advisory panel, saying the corporation will help in any way it can.

“We welcome any discussion on the future of public broadcasting,” said Emma Iannetta, “and we appreciate the minister’s strong support for the important role CBC/Radio-Canada plays in the lives of all Canadians.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2024.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

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