CBC set to unplug a million-plus Canadians

    VANCOUVER, March 14 /CNW Telbec/ - Plans by CBC to rely more heavily on
cable and satellite transmission will disenfranchise Canadians who receive TV
over-the-air, according to the media watchdog group Friends of Canadian
    New research submitted to the Commons Heritage Committee which is
investigating CBC's future mandate shows that three million Canadians do not
subscribe to cable or satellite and receive their TV signal over the air.
Recently, CBC has questioned the viability of continuing to serve this
audience outside major urban centres.
    "All Canadians pay for the CBC and all are entitled to receive its
programs, wherever they live," said Friends spokesperson Ian Morrison.
    Communities which rely heavily on over-the-air reception to view CBC will
be hard hit, including many in British Columbia.
    For example, twenty-six percent of CBC viewing in Terrace-Kitimat is
over-the-air. In the Skeena area it's 25%. In the North Okanagan, it's 20%. In
the Kootenays it's 17%. This translates into hundreds of thousands of BC
viewers who would be cut off if CBC quits transmitting over the air.
    In a wide-ranging submission to the Heritage Committee, Friends tabled
public opinion research that finds 61% of Canadians are "very interested" in
receiving local news programs, an appetite that far exceeds demand for all
other types of programs. CBC local news gets poor marks with British
Columbians holding especially critical views of CBC's efforts at local news.
    "We find it an ironic but positive development that CBC has come to its
senses following the 2001 truncation of CBC's regional supper hour programs
and has announced plans to restore 60 minute supper hour regional news,"
Morrison said.
    Friends research presented to the Heritage Committee found that funding
cuts and poor management decisions are driving CBC to present more
professional sports and foreign drama programs during prime.
    Over the 2005/06 TV season, half of CBC's prime time audience viewed
sports while less than 5% watched Canadian drama series or movies of the week.
Foreign drama, on the other hand, accounted for three times the audience of
indigenous drama on CBC TV during prime time.
    "The Committee should insist that CBC Television present Canadian
programs in prime time, as it did just seven years ago, when 96% of its prime
time schedule was Canadian, compared with 79% today. This represents a
quintupling of foreign programs in prime time," Morrison said.
    Friends presented the Heritage Committee with a four point plan to reform
    1. End patronage appointments to CBC's Board of Directors and give the
       Board the power to hire and fire its CEO.
    2. Instruct CBC's Board to attach a high priority to the Broadcasting
       Act's mandate to "reflect Canada and its regions to national and
       regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions".
    3. Invite CBC's Board to develop a business plan to address its regional
       responsibilities, wean itself from dependence on television
       advertising and strengthen the presentation of Canadian stories in
       prime time.
    4. Increase CBC's budget progressively by annual increments of at least
       $100 million over the next five years as an investment in up-dating
       Canada's social infrastructure.

    FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting is an independent, Canada-wide,
non-partisan voluntary organization whose mission is to defend and enhance the
quality and quantity of Canadian programming in the Canadian audio-visual
system. FRIENDS is not affiliated with any broadcaster or political party.

For further information:

For further information: Jim Thompson, (613) 567-9592, (613) 447-9592
cell, jim@strategyproject.ca; To view Friends' complete submission, visit

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