Sunday, February 26, 2017

An ad-free CBC would cost us an extra $12 a year. Sign me up!

Whenever I watch the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), our national public broadcaster - which admittedly is not that often, given how little I watch television of any kind - I always bristle at the constant interruptions (particularly towards the end of a program) by inane advertising. Maybe that is unreasonable, given that every other TV station in Canada also advertises. But, hell, this is supposed to be our national public broadcaster, and to me this always raises memories of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) I remember so fondly from my youth, and which remains to this day one of the best and most respected public resources for objective news, incisive documentaries and varied entertainment in the world.
The BBC does not carry advertising, and is largely funded by an annual television licensing fee, levied essentially on anyone and everyone in possession of television equipment, plus revenues from selling high quality BBC programming worldwide (which provides about a quarter of its total revenue). Just for reference, the licensing fee is currently £145.50 (about C$240) per year per household.
So, why does Canada not operate on a similar publicly-funded advertising-free basis. Well, mainly as far as I can tell because we are more American and capitalistic than we are British and socialistic (although even the American Public Broadcasting System (PBS) does not carry advertising as such, but relies on private membership donations and grants and those incredibly annoying pledge drives for about 60% of its income, as well as corporate sponsorship of programs, or "underwriting spots").
Anyway, I got to wondering about the CBC's finances and what would be involved in it going advertisement-free. It turns out that the CBC itself has been asking itself the same question, and it submitted a position paper to the government just this last November proposing that the CBC move to an ad-free model similar to the BBC's. In rough figures, removing advertising would result in about $253 million in lost advertising revenue each year, and necessitate an additional $105 million for producing or purchasing additional content to fill the advertising space. The total cost would therefore be of the order of $360 million. In addition, the CBC suggests it would need about $100 million more each year for "additional funding of new investments to face consumer and technology disruptions", whatever that might mean, but would also save about $40 million year in costs associated with selling advertising. So, if we take the overall cost to the tax-payer to be about $400 million a year, then the CBC estimates that this would increase the cost every Canadian pays for the service to about $46 a year as compared to the current $34 a year (after the current Liberal government has reinstated $150 million a year in public funding axed by the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper).
So, getting rid of ads on CBC would require an increase of the princely sum of $12 per person per year. $12? Sign me up now. I'll pay in advance if you like.

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