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Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

Don't hate the player, hate the news game: CBC outsmarts private media again

Business is bad, and the heads of the newspaper business have told Parliament’s heritage committee that the CBC is to blame.

The CBC Headquarters in downtown Toronto on Wednesday, June 10, 2015.

Staff / Torstar News Service Order this photo

The CBC Headquarters in downtown Toronto on Wednesday, June 10, 2015.

It’s rather odd for the barons of the printed press to blame the CBC for their difficulties. Despite several years of devastating cuts and losses, five senior executives at Postmedia received a total of $2.3 million in retention bonuses.

For what they are being retained remains unclear. Yet they — and their equivalents at other major outlets — have the audacity to wander onto Parliament Hill begging for mercy.

Over the last few years, declining subscriptions, the Internet and lower advertising revenue have hit the nation’s newspapers hard. They might soon only afford a small staff of interns to yell the news in your local town square.

The heads of the newspaper business have told Parliament’s heritage committee that the CBC is to blame. 

The CBC has made a number of changes, from running digital ads to launching an opinion section that has diversified the range of white people paid to have opinions.

Our public broadcaster behaved like a ruthless media company, which other media companies apparently did not realize was an option.These changes, they say, have hampered the ability of newspapers to sell advertising. It hasn’t come up that the websites of many major newspapers look like a scanned pdf. And the existence of adblockers seems to have escaped their attention.

Up against this finger-pointing, the CBC has responded that they’re only too happy to get out of the advertising game. For $418 million, they’ll go ad-free like their BBC counterparts. Not only is it a clever bit of ransoming, it’s an excellent response to every criticism levelled at them.

Think the CBC should get out of the opinion game? Cut a cheque for $20 million and no one there will ever use an “I feel” statement ever again.

Think the CBC’s coverage of hockey and the Olympics is terrible? Drop $88 million at their Toronto headquarters. In no time, it’ll be “Ron McLean? Who? Haven’t heard that name in years.”

Think the broadcaster shouldn’t even be on the Internet? Put out the collection plate for $133 million, and soon we will have the world’s most impressive publicly funded fax machine.

The numbers here are my guess, but I’m sure the CBC could offer up a more accurate price list. Hell, for a gold Starbucks card and two tickets to the musical Hamilton, they might get out of the news business altogether.

For an unwieldy bureaucracy, the CBC has managed to outfox the private companies. If their ad-free gamble works, they’ll exit the diminishing returns of the advertising world with a solid financial base. And at a much lower $400K salary, CBC president Hubert Lacroix got his multimillionaire nemeses to make his argument for him.