Do not boo, because we lost. Seriously, we cannot rub it in any more than what it is. That is the passion we share.
As a child, I loved watching baseball. If I could bring the Montreal Expos back, I would bring them back tomorrow. God love them. The issue is not just about baseball or the Carnaval or the hockey that we share. The issue here, if I may steal something from a Canadian intellectual, the late Marshall McLuhan, is that the medium is the message.
Today, that is exactly why we are debating this. It is the medium that brought us the message of Canada. That medium is not just about radio, not just about television, not just about the Net or any social media out there, but it is about the existence of public broadcasting.
What worries me is there is a change in ideology. I know that once I sit down, I will be questioned about cuts that happened in the 1990s. I am well aware of that. There were budgetary constraints. The Liberals were under pressure to wrestle a massive deficit and tough decisions were made. It was not just the CBC that was affected. Other tough decisions had to be made as well. However, we never lost sight of the fact that public broadcasting was vital to our country. Funding was stabilized once the budget was back into balance.
What worries me, however, and I hope it is highlighted in this debate, is an ideology is creeping in that dictates, “Why should I pay for public broadcasting when private broadcasting can fill that space?” Through you, Mr. Speaker, to all my colleagues in the House, that is the most dangerous attitude we can have against any semblance of public broadcasting.
I believe that our private broadcasters are doing a wonderful service to our country. They donate to the Canada Media Fund, which is a wonderful program providing movies, documentaries, and funding for all these things that tell our story, not only to each other but to the world. However, our public broadcasting is incredibly sacrosanct.
I would like to talk about some of the issues of recent time. I noticed the motion itself calls for multi-year funding to the public broadcasters so it can fulfill its mandate. Indeed, in the last couple of elections we talked about that. It is really the only way we can go about doing this. The BBC does it, and it does it well. If members noticed, some of the best programming in drama is now coming from the BBC, a public broadcaster. One of the greatest worldwide news services, the most respected, is the BBC. We must look to other models around the world, and the BBC is one example, especially when it comes to multi-year funding.
I want to talk briefly about CBC/Radio-Canada and its history through the years.
It has been said that through 1920s, there was a proliferation of private radio stations in our country, but we also had a lot of private radio stations streaming across the border. The origins of public broadcasting are not dissimilar from the origins of public broadcasting around the world, which is to say that we need to protect our message here. This is becoming more difficult because of the regulations in place to help protect our Canadian culture, like Canadian content rules allowing certain channels on the satellite spectrum. There are certain regulations, but a lot of people are now able to get around that because of technology.
By way of example, there is Netfllix, or what is called an over-the-top broadcaster, essentially, through the Internet, because the CRTC does not regulate the Internet. Therefore, content is now streamed through our computers. We can get copies from iTunes and these sorts of things. There is a fundamental shift in content and how we deal with content now. We will have to subsidize content in the future, but in the meantime, the CBC started with the very basics of protecting our own culture.
In 1928, it established a royal commission to advise on the future of broadcasting in Canada.
Going ahead to the 1940s, the national public broadcaster took off.
In 1941, CBC news service was formally opened. Radio-Canada's news division was also created. As the next decade approached, getting into the 1950s, television was on the horizon and CBC/Radio-Canada was preparing.
In 1947, the corporation presented a 15-year plan for the development of television in Canada.
Throughout the 1950s, CBLT Toronto and CBFT Montreal began broadcasting.
In 1955, television services were available to 66% of the Canadian population. That is a pretty big goal and accomplishment for a country with a few million people, the second-largest country in the world, and most of this stuff was over-the-air transmissions.
In the 1960s, the regulatory framework was refined. The CRTC formally took over as the regulator. Before that, the CBC handled it.
In 1968, the new Broadcasting Act confirmed CBC/Radio-Canada's role in providing the national service. Therefore, 1968 was the year when we said that we had a national broadcaster, a public broadcaster, and, therefore, it should be enshrined and protected.
Recently, however, due to cuts, the CBC had to make some fundamental decisions on its service. It had to manage $390 million in financial pressures since 2009. Overall, these reductions have affected the equivalent of 2,107 full-time positions.
We talked about some of the numbers earlier in this debate. For people are just tuning in now, I would like to repeat some of those numbers because it is very vital that we do so. A lot of people think we may spend too much on public broadcasting, but let us put it into perspective. Each Canadian pays $29 per year for the combined services, CBC/Radio-Canada, but the worldwide average in other nations is $82. Of the 18 countries that invest heavily in public broadcasting, we are at number 16. Therefore, there is room to grow.
Again, I go back to what was in the original motion. We also have to provide a model for multi-year funding.
The services offered now to Canadians include 88 radio stations, 27 television stations, three all-digital services, two specialty television news services, RDI, CBC News Network , three other specialty television services, and 11 other services, including music channels and services in two official languages across six time zones. Therefore, we get the vastness of what our public broadcaster has to accomplish.
The 1980s saw a tremendous growth in the number of private and specialty channels. We went from a four- or five-channel universe to about a 60-channel universe in the 1980s, with American channels being the most prolific at the time, the CNNs of the world. We followed suit with Newsworld, which it was called at the time, the CBC component of an all-news channel. CTV did much the same. We had TSN as well as the Weather Network, MétéoMedia en français.
The corporation continues to push ahead this multi-channel universe. Throughout the 1990s, it was much of the same. All of a sudden we find ourselves now in the proliferation of not just channels but platforms. Therefore, we move into the digital world, providing content. The way we consume our entertainment through digital devices has changed dramatically. Tonight's Hockey Night in Canada starts at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. Newfoundland time.
Basically, we are moving out of making appointments to see entertainment. What we are doing now is downloading content in our digital world. Whether it is to save it to view it another time or to stream it from a cloud or from the central service that is provided. CBC, our public broadcaster, has to fit its way into that.
However, what is interesting about that is it also provides a great deal of opportunities. Through one of these providers, lately I have downloaded—and paid for it, I might add—several programs that originated with the BBC. One has to wonder, with the BBC providing this content, if we could do much the same.
However, we have to get serious about content, and that is a conversation and a debate we should have in the future about not only the CBC but the National Film Board and the Canada Media Fund. We can look at Canadian content.
I thank the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher for bringing forward the motion. I hope the debate will be a fruitful one, despite the vote. We pretty much know how the vote will go, but in the course of this conversation, we can talk about fundamental reasons why we like our public broadcaster and how we can improve it, given technology today.