Ministerial Question Period: CBC/Radio-Canada

By: The Hon. Andrew Cardozo

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Hon. Andrew Cardozo: Minister, welcome to the Senate.

First of all, congratulations on the agreement with Google, which you announced on the heels of Bill C-18. This is a very important development.

My question is about CBC/Radio-Canada’s long-term future. What is your vision of the CBC over the next five to 10 years in terms of programming and technology?

The Hon. Pascale St-Onge, P.C., M.P., Minister of Canadian Heritage: That’s a good question. Yes, I have my views on what a public broadcaster should look like in the 21st century, but this question needs to be debated among Canadians.

Despite the diversity of platforms, despite access to content and the amount of content Canadians can access today through technology, I think it’s even more important that Canadians are able to rely on their public broadcaster, in such a context. As we know, despite the diversity and the quantity of content, fewer and fewer media outlets, for example, can produce the news content that is essential to democracy. There are fewer and fewer private broadcasters or private producers that have the means to showcase less commercial aspects of our culture, up-and-coming talent and more specialized cultural spaces, while at the same time adding to the diversity of this country.

In that context, I think we need to strengthen our public broadcaster and ensure its long-term viability and sustainability, so that it can continue to play this very special role as our public broadcaster.

Senator Cardozo: Minister, in today’s world, where there are many broad changes happening, both here and in the media, will CBC/Radio-Canada play a key role in the coming years?

Ms. St-Onge: I think so.

One of the things that I find most disappointing is all that we’ve lost in terms of international journalism, for example. Fewer and fewer media outlets have the capacity to send journalists to different parts of the world to tell us what is happening there and to bring us the Canadian perspective on the various events that are occurring around the world.

That’s one example of something that CBC/Radio-Canada should be doing. We know that a lot of budget cuts had to be made at Radio Canada International over the past decade. That’s a big loss, because, now more than ever, we need that Canadian perspective to explain to Canadians what is going on.

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