Friday, 25 November 2011

Should Canada's National Broadcaster Be Accountable?

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been fighting against disclosure of documents requested by Canada's Information Commissioner, stating that some secrets are necessary for its independence and competitiveness.  The problem with that argument is that the CBC receives $1.1 Billion in taxpayer funding annually and it already has an unfair advantage over the other Canadian networks. 

While there is no argument that the CBC should be able to protect journalistic sources, the proponents for disclosure argue that as a federally funded corporation the CBC should be under the same rules as Crown Corporations, i.e what are the salaries paid to executives, travel expenditures not related to journalism, etc etc.

Suzanne Legault on Wednesday won a Federal Court of Appeal case giving her the authority to review documents CBC doesn’t want to release because they deal with programming, creative or journalistic issues.
Lacroix noted the law allows CBC to stop short of releasing information that would prejudice its competitive position.
"If you or another broadcaster that competes against us for audiences, producers, talent, and programs, want to know how much Peter Mansbridge gets paid …or CBC’s promotion strategy including how much it spends on advertising Stromboulopoulos on billboards or through a special launch of his season at [the Toronto International Film Festival], that information will not be disclosed publicly," he said.  CBC

While calling for the government and associated Crown Corporations to be more open and accountable, the CBC has resisted to be judged by the same measure, when in fact it would be incumbent upon the corporation to lead by example.  The resistance by the CBC begs the question, "What is the Corporation trying to hide?" 

Sun News Network, called "FOX News North" by some detractors, has been in the forefront in the pursuit of CBC disclosure.  Needless to say, this has caused some parties to allege that SUN News has an agenda.  Perhaps they do.  That, of course, is irrelevant in view of the fact that taxpayers should get an account of how its $1.1 Billion is spend by the CBC. 

The easy route out of this for the CBC is to give up its annual funding and conduct its business like the other media outlets.  What are the chances of that happening?  Failing that the CBC should comply with the disclosure requests, while protecting journalistic sources.  The Privacy Commissioner, in co-operation with the CBC, should be able to sort this out. 


  1. I couldn't agree with you anymore! The CBC is spinning it,in a way that somehow we're asking for the journalistic sources,no-one is asking for them!

  2. In the end, I am sure, it will be sorted between the courts and the Privacy Commissioner. Even the opposition parties have now asked the CBC not to appeal the court's decision. The statement by the CEO is telling.