A study released Wednesday by international consultants Deloitte and Touche reports that CBC/Radio-Canada contributed $3.7 billion to the Canadian economy in 2010. This contrasts to its annual parliamentary allocation of $1.1 billion and overall expenditure of $1.7 billion. The study concluded the public broadcaster’s contribution to the Canadian economy is well above its spending power because of its support for jobs and businesses across the country.
The study took into account the economic effect if the government used the $1.1 billion for other purposes. It found that a broadcaster forced to rely on advertising and other commercial revenues would do much less for the economy because it would be forced to buy more foreign programming, crowd out private broadcasters and contribute less to creative communities across the country. A privately funded CBC would be forced to spend less on both news and Canadian programming. The study can be found at http://www.cbc.radio-canada.ca/about/value.shtm.
It would seem the CBC offers a handsome economic return on investment, but its return is much more than economic. It creates diversity and depth in Canadian culture while uniting a very broad and diverse country.
Furthermore, it is our only truly independent mass medium, at least nationally. Owned equally by all of us, it is our only national “public” forum. Other media—commercial TV and radio, and the daily press—are corporate-owned and answer to a corporate agenda. We must pay for them, of course, as they are funded principally by our advertising dollars. Indeed we pay a great deal more for corporate media via advertising than we pay for the CBC via taxes. If we want to buy food, clothing, shelter, etc., we must pay for advertising and thus pay to indoctrinate ourselves in the corporate message.
Without the CBC we would be much less a democracy. As important as its contribution to Canadian culture is, its contribution to the democratic process is perhaps even more important. That it is also a significant contributor to our economy is icing on the cake.