CBC/Radio Canada has submitted a position paper to the federal government proposing the public broadcaster move to an ad-free model, similar to the one used to pay for the BBC in the United Kingdom, at a cost of about $400 million in additional funding.
“We are at a critical juncture in our evolution, continuing to operate under a business model and cultural policy framework that is profoundly broken,” says the CBC’s document, released on Monday afternoon.“At the same time, other nations are moving their cultural agendas forward successfully — and reaping the benefits of strong, stable, well-funded public broadcasters.”
The additional money CBC is asking for would largely be “replacement funding” if the media organization eliminates advertising. The proposal requests $318 million to replace advertising revenue: $253 million in lost ad sales plus $105 million to “produce and procure additional Canadian content” to fill the programming gaps in their absence. CBC is also asking for $100 million in “additional funding of new investments to face consumer and technology disruption.”
However, the proposal notes that removing ads will also result in savings of $40 million in the cost of selling advertising.
Total government funding for CBC would equal an investment of $46 per Canadian every year — up from the current $34 per Canadian it currently receives, the document says.
Ad revenue criticism
The proposal, titled A Creative Canada: Strengthening Canadian Culture in a Digital World, comes in the midst of calls from some private media outlets for the public broadcaster to stop selling digital ads on the CBC.ca website.
Critics have said that the CBC is taking ad revenue away from private media that are struggling financially.
But CBC/Radio Canada president Hubert Lacroix rejected that argument in a Nov. 21 letter to the parliamentary standing committee on Canadian heritage, saying that its digital advertising revenue only amounts to $25 million, “just 10 per cent” of its total ad sales of $253 million.