Thursday, 29 November 2012

How to Fund the CBC: A Modest Proposal

Canadians spend an exceptional amount of their discretionary income on communications and media. Canadian households spent just over $3,000 in 2010 on communications and media, which includes phone service, cell phones, internet, cable/satellite TV, purchase of new TV sets, DVDs, iPods, tablet and personal computers, etc. This is summarized in the table below:

Also shown in the table is that Canadian households spent (through their taxes) $88 on CBC/Radio Canada TV and radio, which represented just under 3% of total communication and media expenditures.

The federal government recently cut the budget of CBC by about 10% and CRTC cancelled a local programming fund that cable and satellite subscribers pay.  These cuts will come into full effect over the next two years.  To offset these cuts and to provide a source of future funding for CBC/Radio Canada, the government through an Order in Council should implement a voluntary levy on all communication and media services.  All cable, satellite, phone, cell phone and internet companies, as well as retailers of audio and video equipment, would be required to ask customers in each billing period if they would like to make a voluntary contribution to maintain and improve national and local programs on CBC TV and radio. Smaller purchases at Best Buy, etc. would not be included.

CMRI's Media Trends Survey reveals that a percentage of Canadians willingly donate to PBS and other public broadcasters, as shown in the chart below:   

CBC TV and radio attract substantial audiences and our surveys over the past decade have shown that Canadians of all political stripes are very supportive of CBC. A voluntary communications levy would function much like requests for charitable donations at liquor stores or other retailers, which appear to be very successful.  Because this program would be ongoing and apply to all major purchases, retailers and service providers would be paid a commission for collecting the levy.

CBC’s loyal listeners and viewers would likely be willing to make voluntary contributions to maintain CBC services and it is possible that the recent cuts in CBC funding would be made up with a communications levy.  Who knows, maybe such a levy could raise all the funding that CBC requires in future years and the government would no longer have to fund it through general tax revenues?

The 2011 survey results are from CMRI's Media Trends Survey conducted November-December 2011 among a representative national sample of approximately 900 Anglophone respondents aged 18-plus.  Margin of error +/-3.3%.  The Media Trends Survey has been conducted for ten consecutive years and has surveyed over 15,000 Canadians in total. In our analysis we usually only report Anglophone results.   Both Anglophones and Francophones have been surveyed in this period, using questionnaires in each respective language.  Francophones have been surveyed in 5 of the 10 years.  To compensate for poorer response rates among younger adults results are statistically weighted in keeping with industry standards.  It is the only survey to have measured media use and attitudes continuously over this decade. The Media Trends Survey is not sponsored by any one industry or affiliated with a media company.

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