Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

Analysis | Media: a model in ;failure, a democracy in danger

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In the ongoing debate about CBC/Radio-Canada, some say that we should make a distinction between the English service and the French service.

  • Gérald Fillion (View profile)Gérald Fillion

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The numbers speak for themselves. Revenues from advertising, subscriptions, content sales for general, discretionary and online services amounted to $223 million for CBC in 2022-23, compared to $225 million for Radio-Canada. The market covered by the English service is however three to four times larger than that of the French service.

The previous year, revenues were much higher, following the end of the pandemic, but the gap remained slightly favorable to the French service: revenues of $376 million for Radio-Canada, and $368 million for CBC.

We therefore see that CBC's revenues, which include those from digital-related sales, remain lower than those of Radio-Canada, even though CBC reaches a larger audience on the web, i.e. 17 to 18 million Canadians all months, according to the CEO of the Crown Corporation, Catherine Tait.

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CBC's financial challenges are partly explained by particularly fierce competition from the Americans. Content from the United States easily penetrates the English-speaking Canadian market and, with the addition of streaming platforms over the last decade, this access is even greater. The challenge in the English-speaking market is clearly not the same as in the French-speaking market.

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The result is unequivocal: CBC's audience share is only 4, 4% while that of its French-speaking counterpart, ICI Télé, is 23.2%. This data is taken from the CBC/Radio-Canada annual report for 2022-2023.

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CBC's revenues, which include those from digital sales, remain lower than those of Radio-Canada.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Additionally, the federal subsidy of $1.272 billion in the last fiscal year represents the largest share of the broadcaster's revenue. Of public funds, 47% goes to Radio-Canada while 53% is invested in CBC activities, according to data provided by the state corporation.

Advertising revenues are falling at CBC, to the point where the French service now generates more advertising money than the English service. In 2022-2023, these revenues fell by 44% at CBC to $139.5 million, while those at Radio-Canada amounted to $149.1 million, also down, but less so. marked, or 12.6%.

In the first two quarters of 2023, Radio-Canada's advertising revenues remain higher than those of CBC: they reached $66.2 million in the first half of the year, compared to $62.2 million for CBC.

Catherine Tait says CBC/Radio-Canada is just one company. In the ongoing public and political debate, some assert that a distinction should be made between the English service and the French service, given the importance of Radio-Canada for culture in Quebec as for all francophones in the country.

Nevertheless, the yield gap between the two markets is clearly widening. In addition, the financial results show that the contribution of the French service, in terms of revenues and market shares, continues to increase.

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CBC/Radio-Canada CEO Catherine Tait.

It is in this context that the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pascale St-Onge, discusses the need to review the mission and mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada. It is also becoming urgent, in Ottawa, to launch an in-depth reflection on the media ecosystem in the country. The actions taken to obtain additional sums from the web giants are strewn with pitfalls and prove insufficient.

The agreement with Google proves it: Canada managed, with difficulty, to obtain $100 million from Google as part of an agreement on what could be considered royalties from the search giant online. But is that enough?

Without a broad international agreement, with all the G20 and OECD countries, Google and Meta will never want submit to more generous royalties to compensate for the loss of revenue from major media, whose business model is currently collapsing.

And we have to say it: it's not just a business model that is failing. The issue is also – and above all – democratic.

How will Canadians be better informed if the major media, whether CBC/Radio-Canada, TVA, CTV, the Toronto Star and so on, can't do their job anymore? The situation is serious: 3,500 jobs have been lost this year in Canadian media.

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