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Pascale St-Onge wants the mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada to be redefined

Ryan Remiorz The Canadian Press Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge says the Liberal government believes a strong public broadcaster consolidates democracy and will continue to support it, while a Conservative government would, according to her, destroy CBC/Radio-Canada .

The role of CBC/Radio-Canada should be redefined before the next federal election in order to protect the public broadcaster against a possible change of government in Ottawa, believes Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge.

In an end-of-year interview with The Canadian Press, Ms. St-Onge argued that the time had come for her government to begin working with Canadians and experts to define what CBC/Radio-Canada should be over the next year and decade. “And I really want to get this done before the next election, to make sure our public broadcaster is best positioned for the future,” she said.

The minister believes that the information and cultural sectors in Canada would be seriously threatened if the Conservatives led by Pierre Poilievre formed a government. She adds that this prospect makes her think about the next elections and what she thinks will be at stake in these elections.

The Conservatives “have demonstrated that they believe that the arts and culture sector should be left to the free market,” said the minister. “And we know that with foreign companies and entities taking up so much space online, in Hollywood and in San Francisco, that means we would be, essentially, abandoning our cultural sector. »

The Conservative opposition has already promised to defund the CBC and turn its Toronto headquarters into housing. The Conservatives also promise to maintain French programming on Radio-Canada.

“Canadians need an independent and free media, not a biased broadcaster who receives a billion dollars from taxpayers every year to serve as a mouthpiece for the Liberal government,” said Friday the Conservative heritage spokesperson Rachael Thomas in a written statement.

The independence of CBC/Radio-Canada from the government is enshrined in the Broadcasting Act, and its public funding is voted on by all MPs.

Minister St-Onge believes that preserving Radio-Canada's French-language services while eliminating CBC is “absolutely unfeasible”, because the two entities are closely linked and depend on the same human and physical resources.

“The public broadcaster is available from coast to coast, and I don't see how Canadians would accept that we fund CBC/Radio-Canada only in Quebec or in French-speaking communities,” said she argued.

Also help the private sector

The federal Liberals have promised for years to update CBC/Radio-Canada's mandate to meet the modern needs of Canadians, while the news sector faces job cuts and a drop in advertising revenues caused by the “web giants”.

The public broadcaster announced in early December the upcoming cuts of 600 jobs and elimination of 200 vacant positions, or nearly 10% of its workforce, as it faces a $125 million budget deficit.

“I was at Radio-Canada not so long ago recording a show, and you can feel the extent to which it has an impact on employee morale,” said Ms. St-Onge. There is a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability. People were not informed of precisely how these budget cuts would occur or how they would be achieved. So it’s a difficult time. »

Last May, his predecessor at Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, announced that he had begun reviewing the mandate of CBC/Radio-Canada, including ways in which the government could increase its funding of the public broadcaster so that it is less dependent on advertising revenue.

Under the new Online News Act, CBC/Radio-Canada will receive up to $7 million in the deal the Liberal government struck with Google a few months later the arrival of Ms. St-Onge in her new position. “But there is still uncertainty until the next federal budget,” she admitted.

CBC/Radio-Canada's annual report for the 2022-2023 fiscal year shows the public broadcaster received nearly $1.3 billion in government funding, and took in $515 million from other sources of revenue , such as advertising.

Information and culture

On journalism, St-Onge said she would like to see the public broadcaster's new mandate address regional news gaps, include a strong online presence, invest in international coverage and support struggling linguistic communities. minority.

The minister also hopes that in terms of culture, the public broadcaster will continue to highlight local artists and finance broadcasts “which would not see the light of day if it only focused on to the private sector.”

“I think it is time to do it now because the Liberal Party believes that we need a strong public broadcaster, and we will continue to support it,” said the Minister of Heritage .

CBC/Radio-Canada will contribute to the review of its mandate in any way possible, said Leon Mar, spokesperson for the public broadcaster.

Starting next year, the Department of Canadian Heritage will set up a committee to find Catherine Tait's replacement as director of CBC/Radio-Canada. This person must be able to lead the public broadcaster in its transformation, declared the minister responsible.

Ms. St-Onge told journalists on December 12 that Ms. Tait's mandate would end “at the beginning of 2025”.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116