The Harper government is considering help for Canada's troubled private TV broadcasters, including looser regulations and tax changes.Closure of local stations, that's on the table for CBC as well. While CanWest is in dire straits and its loss would ripple through Canadian media, surely the federal government is not going to be getting into the business of picking who survives at the local level and who doesn't? Are they? In assisting the private and not assisting the public, they will.
In an interview Wednesday with The Canadian Press, Heritage Minister James Moore says the government is looking at how to assist CanWest Global, which is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
He suggests the help could come in the form of loosened regulations and changes to the tax system, which would also help other private networks.
CanWest, CTVglobemedia and Quebecor have all been lobbying Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet for assistance....Industry and government sources say discussions are going on at the highest levels on how to help avoid the closure of more local stations due to the tough economic times. (emphasis added)
Also noted today, an open letter to James Moore from the Canadian Media Guild that represents 5500 CBC workers:
Dear Mr. Moore:
We were heartened to hear your words of March 17 in support of a national public broadcaster that provides local, regional and national news, drama, arts and public service programming in both official languages across the country.
We point out respectfully that the public broadcaster must respond to a situation not of its own making when it attempts to boost commercial revenue in order to pay for other important programming that can no longer be afforded on the parliamentary appropriation.
That appropriation of around $1.1 billion this year is the same in constant dollars as in 1995. In today’s dollars, the 1995 appropriation would have been more than $1.5 billion. CBC’s per capita public funding is far below what public broadcasters in Europe and Australia receive and means that it can be less distinctive relative to private broadcasters.
The all-party Heritage Committee recommended a year ago that a seven-year memorandum of understanding with CBC/Radio Canada be negotiated. It would outline public expectations and provide for adequate and stable funding, indexed to inflation, throughout the term of the agreement. We also urge you to move forward and make sure to cost out the mandate carefully to ensure that it is adequately funded and able reduce its reliance on commercial revenue.
This new funding structure would permit CBC/Radio-Canada to do the job Canadians expect while providing day-to-day and year-to-year independence from government - a crucial element of public broadcasting. Public pronouncements on the CBC every year at budget time leave the unfortunate impression of potential government interference in what is supposed to be an arm’s-length relationship.
Canadian Media Guild
Update (8:20 p.m.):