Time for Change:
The CBC/Radio-Canada in the Twenty-first Century

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About the Study

What is the mandate of the CBC/Radio-Canada?

According to the Broadcasting Act, the national public broadcaster “should provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains.”

The Act then gives the objectives for programming provided by the CBC/Radio-Canada:

  • be predominantly and distinctively Canadian,
  • reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions,
  • actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,
  • be in English and in French, reflecting the different needs and circumstances of each official language community, including the particular needs and circumstances of English and French linguistic minorities,
  • strive to be of equivalent quality in English and in French,
  • contribute to shared national consciousness and identity,
  • be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means and as resources become available for the purpose, and
  • reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada.

The Broadcasting Act was last revised in 1991, well before the Internet was seen as a force in broadcasting, and the broad mandate of informing, enlightening and entertaining can be traced back to the discussions of a possible national public broadcaster that took place in the late-1920s.

What is needed for CBC/Radio-Canada to face the challenges of the changing broadcasting and communications environment in Canada?

The CBC/Radio-Canada is losing its audience to the hundreds of alternative channels and video-streaming services provided by private-sector companies that have converged broadcasting and telecommunications operations to take advantage of the multi-platform, Internet-based world of communications.

For the CBC/Radio-Canada to continue to have a place in this new environment, it must change current practices in four areas:

  • Mandate,
  • Governance,
  • Funding, and
  • Programming.

Why is the governance of the CBC/Radio-Canada important?

Canadians are entitled to answers to two questions dealing with the operations of their national public broadcaster.

  1. How well is the CBC/Radio-Canada meeting its mandate?

  2. How efficiently is the CBC/Radio-Canada doing this, especially with respect to how it manages the funding it receives?

A key element to successful operations of the CBC/Radio-Canada, which would provide positive answers to the two questions, is governance. The Corporation needs more independent direction and control.

Half the recommendations in the report, therefore, address the issue of governance.

Sources of Revenue for CBC/Radio-Canada, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014
($ millions)

The following table shows the breaking of CBC/Radio-Canada’s revenue by source.

For 2013-2014, the year of its latest annual report, the CBC/Radio-Canada had expenses of $1.87 billion and revenues of $1.86 billion. Unfortunately for the Corporation, there are upward pressures on expenses and downward pressures on revenues. As numerous witnesses before the committee pointed out, funding is critical, if the CBC/Radio-Canada is to continue operating as it currently does.

  2013-2014 2012-2013
Government Funding 1,090.0 1,154.9
Advertising Revenue 491.2 364.6
Subscriber Fees 133.3 136.1
Other Income 143.4 145.3
Total 1,858.8 1,800.9

Source: CBC/Radio-Canada, Going the Distance, Annual Report, 2013-2014.




Senators who participated in this study

Dennis Dawson
Lib. - (Lauzon - Quebec)

Deputy Chair
Donald Neil Plett
C - (Landmark - Manitoba)

Jacques Demers
C - (Rigaud - Quebec)

Art Eggleton, P.C.
Lib. - (Ontario)

Stephen Greene
C - (Halifax - The Citadel - Nova Scotia)

Leo Housakos
C - (Wellington - Quebec)

Michael L. MacDonald
C - (Cape Breton - Nova Scotia)

Terry M. Mercer
Lib. - (Northend Halifax - Nova Scotia)

Betty E. Unger
C - (Alberta)

Richard Neufeld
C - (British Columbia)

Ex-officio members of the committee:
The Honourable Senators Claude Carignan, P.C. (or Yonah Martin) and James S. Cowan (or Joan Fraser)

Other Senators who have participated from time to time in the study:
The Honourable Senators Batters, Charette-Poulin, Cordy, Dagenais, Fortin-Duplessis, Hervieux-Payette, Joyal, Maltais, Massicotte, McInnis, Munson, Oh, Smith (Saurel), Tardif, Verner, P.C. and White.

Contact information

General Information:
613-990-0088 or 1-800-267-7362

Email: trcm@sen.parl.gc.ca

Mailing Address:
Senate Committee on Transport and Communications
The Senate of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0A4

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