Local MP muses about moving CBC off public dime

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Debate worth having, given financial issues, Rathgeber says

Local MP Brent Rathgeber mused this week that it might be time to move the CBC off of public dollars.

On his blog, Rathgeber published a lengthy post on the broadcaster and suggested that it might make sense to move the broadcaster onto a user-supported model, similar to public broadcasting in the United States.

Rathgeber pointed to the public broadcaster’s $1.16 billion subsidy from the taxpayers and said in a time when the government is making difficult decisions to try to balance the books, everything has to be considered.

“I think that is a model worth exploring in an era where government needs to cut back on its expenditures.”

The American public broadcaster is supported through charitable donations, both from its viewers, and from large charitable trusts.

Rathgeber said with the support the broadcaster has he believes there would be ample support for it from viewers.

“I have no doubt that there are people who would voluntarily cut the cheque.”

He said the issue was top of his mind this week, because the broadcaster has been in the news surrounding its 75th anniversary, as well as issues over its disclosure under access to information.

Rathgeber said he is a fan of the broadcaster’s line-up and watches The National, The Rick Mercer Report and Hockey Night in Canada.

Rathgeber said while those programs are great, there is high quality programming on private networks as well, which makes him question if the need still exists for a taxpayer-supported broadcaster.

“I think the private broadcasters are capable of doing – both in terms of news and in terms of culture – virtually everything the CBC does at no taxpayer subsidy.”

He said one of the original justifications for the network was to reach all of Canada with important news and cultural programming. With the advent of satellites and other technology, however, Rathgeber said the CBC is no longer necessary to have television signals reach the whole country.

“Seventy five or even 50 years ago, it was not commercially viable to go into markets like Northern Alberta, or Northern Saskatchewan or the Arctic,” he said. “There would be people in this country who would have had no exposure to Canadian culture or Canadian content if it had not been for the CBC, but I think the private broadcasters have successfully taken over a large chunk of the role.”

Rathgeber said he would see gradually moving the network off public funding and onto a charitable model, possibly over a decade.

He said given the financial circumstances he really believes the discussion is worth having.

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