Editorial – Following the money

Jeff Burgar

This newspaper would love to get just part of the money Canadian taxpayers pay to keep the CBC-TV and radio networks running. Please!

First, as full disclosure, many Canadian publications, including newspapers, do get subsidies from our federal government. The Publisher Assistance Program helps pay for mailing paid subscriptions. Unfortunately, money paid by the program pays ever increasing prices charged by Canada Post. If Heritage Canada, which runs the program, increases their aid, Canada Post grabs the increase.

Sarcastically, the program is working so well, most newspapers have stopped selling the heavily discounted bulk sales to local governments for their ratepayers. Including this one!

Anyway, that’s the disclosure. Moving on, taxpayers give CBC roughly $31.60 for each and every Canadian. In local terms, multiply that by your town, municipal district or county population. Are there 15,000 people in your local trade area? Crikey, that’s $474,000 per year. Enough for local newspapers and radio stations to keep operating.

Half of that in fact, would keep their doors open. The other half would still go to CBC so they could keep their “news coverage” of the region. Which itself is quite amusing. That would amount to almost $20,000 per month for CBC to cover local stories. So we assume local stories cost, ummm, maybe $40,000 or $60,000 each story, or more, when CBC does one. Wow!

CBC staff have drawn a new line in the sand. They hate the idea CBC is now selling advertising which pretends to be news. You may have seen this trend on many major news outlets on their websites lately. News stories have headlines. One news story. Second news story. Third news story. Then comes an ad disguised as a news story.

In the trade, these are called “advertorials.” Newspapers have argued internally about this technique for years. Even before websites, it was, and still is, a practice. Most newspapers accept the advertising, but make it clear it is paid advertising.

CBC and other websites have not been doing this. In fact, if you look closely at Google search engine listings, you might notice paid ads often appear right at the top in your searches.

In fairness to private enterprise, and to you the consumer, you can walk with your wallet. Not so with the CBC, Canada’s “public broadcaster.” You don’t get a huge choice how your tax dollars are spent with them.

With this latest move by CBC, they are after even more money. Only now, it is at the expense of private businesses like radio, newspapers and other broadcasters. With that really big taxpayer subsidy, CBC can undercut all those businesses.

Our federal government is really cute with their clawbacks in pensions and unemployment insurance. In general terms, if you go out and raise some money on your own, and draw those benefits, the government claws some, or all, of the hard-earned amount back.

CBC should get out of the ad sale business. Or have some of that billion dollars plus subsidy clawed back if they want to sell on top of it.

What a shocker that would be!

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