I have to admit, I have been curious to figure out why Quebecor wants to go after CBC so badly. I mean did one of their star personalities – like Krista Erickson,Ezra Levant, David Akin, Michael Coren, Charles Adler and Brian Lilley – get roughed up by CBC’s “elite”? Why would men, like Luc Lavoie or Pierre Karl Péladeau, go to so much trouble to dig through CBC’s financials?
Then I came across the BBM numbers for November 7 to November 13, 2011. BBM is a non- profit organization that measures what Canadians watch. We used to call these measurements the Neilsen Numbers. On their website, on a weekly basis, BBM publishes the top 30 TV shows in Canada. It turns out that from November 7 to November 13, 2011, if you exclude hockey and news broadcasts, CBC aired two of the three shows on the list. At this point it became clear, Quebecor is jealous because CBC is a better broadcaster than they are.
This campaign by Quebecor against the CBC is not about the free market. We know this because CBC costs less. Just look at the math. In 2006, CBC received “$946 million in its annual funding from the federal government, as well as $60 million in “one-time” supplementary funding for programming.” These numbers are still relevant because CBC has not received a budget increase with this Conservative Government. Coupled with over $520 million in revenue, CBC has been able to air 7 out of the top 10 Canadian shows. Furthermore, CBC has “the biggest audience reach in Canada, serving content in 12 languages and on multiple platforms, CBC has opportunities for advertisers like no other media company in Canada.”
This in contrast to Quebecor. On their website, Quebecor describes itself as “one of Canada’s largest media companies. It delivers services such as analog and digital broadcasting; cable and wireless telephone; internet access; newspaper, magazine, and book publishing; and the distribution and retailing of a wide array of cultural products”. Quebecor has $4 billion dollars in revenue and $230 in net profit. Furthermore, as reported by Daniel Leblanc of the Globe and mail.com in his article “CBC lashes out at Quebecor’s $500-million in public subsidies”, CBC accused Quebecor of receiving “$500-million in public subsidies in over the last three years.
So the question is do your trust the company that makes $4 billion dollars a year to tell you the truth about their strong “not-for-profit” competitor or do you trust a “not-for-profit” competitor that depends upon government generosity or largesse to continue? I have already indicated that I would put my “trust” in the public broadcaster and I know why. I depended on CBC.
The funny thing is I am not alone. On its website CBC Revenue Group noted that last year, CBC topped the charts during the holiday season for share and reach. During Christmas time, CBC was the Destination for Family Viewers and Holiday Programming.
Or one can look at Alexa.com. They have up to date information on people accessing websites. It turns out that CBC has the 28th most popular website in the Country. CNN comes in at 33rd. The Globe and Mail is 40th; while BBC follows closely at 42nd. The Toronto Star has the 52nd most popular site. Quebecor’s main site, Canoe.ca comes in at 59th. If I was an investor, I would wonder how CBC could have as big as broadcast platform for comparatively less money.
If we were to put together a cost benefit analysis, one could easily argue that CBC provides more bang for the buck. It manages to work with a smaller budget: one billion dollar as compared to four billion dollars. Yet CBC manages to put out print, radio and video content for multiple platforms. CBC is inventive enough to create competitive Canadian content, where other private broadcasters just buy it from other markets including Australia, France and the United States. CBC also continues to be competitive in a number of Radio Markets like Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
This argument is not about market competitiveness, accountability or efficiency. CBC has proven that it meets all of those measures in spades. There is no doubt what Quebecor wants. It wants to be able to be competitive with the public broadcaster. It wants CBC’s game plan. That is what this fight is about.