Coming to a Screen Near You: Ad-Free CBC (or not?)

December 6, 2016 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai, Content Editor

“The programming provided by the Corporation should:

i.                be predominantly and distinctively Canadian, reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions..”

This is the beginning of the mandate of the CBC, taken from the 1991 Broadcasting Act.

Being Canada’s national public broadcaster, the CBC receives tax money from Canadian citizens at about $34 per person currently.

Taxes are a touchy issue. Especially when people don’t perceive what their tax money goes towards as a service that they need in their lives, things can get messy and lead to heated dinner-table discussions.

The CBC is no stranger to this. Very generally (and broadly) speaking, on one hand of the argument are people who just don’t want to pay for it while on the other are those who stress the benefits of having an institution that unifies all of Canada.

This past week, it made a bold push for an extra $400 million in funding to introduce an ad-free CBC.

With the growth of streaming giants like Netflix and soon to come to Canada, Amazon Video, there’s a new discussion to be had here about if this will help the CBC win over viewers and ultimately the Battle for Time.

This is what captured our minutes this week.

Here’s why:

1. It would really, really suck to not have the CBC.

Okay, we’ll admit it: this is fairly one-sided of us to say. But hear us out…

There’s something to be said about a broadcaster that has the power to tell stories that reignite our pride in our heritage and solidify our unity as Canadian people while still respecting regional differences.

List one other media company/brand/what-have-you that does that. We’ll wait.

The CBC isn’t perfect and it’s not immune to time.

However, television is an important storytelling medium (as John Doyle noted in The Globe and Mail – we agree). Furthermore, the CBC is the public’s national broadcaster. It’s by the people for the people.

In a world where Canada often gets patted on the head as the friendly and smiley neighbour next door, we need a platform that has the ability to strength our national brand.

You may now commence your flag waving (and proudly so, too).

2. An ad-free CBC deserves props when it has to compete with other streaming giants.

First off, millennials hate ads. Secondly, millennials are a highly desired group of viewers.

Are you picking up what we’re putting down?

Becoming ad-free could potentially help tap into that group. It also gives CBC, a completely-rooted-in-Canadiana-content platform, the ability to start competing with some of the big names in the streaming realm (read: Netflix, Crave TV, Amazon Video, etc.).

What happens after this? Theoretically speaking, it gives a boost to Canadian content. With less time spent on trying to schedule ads and more time spent on the quality and effort that goes into creating Canadian productions, there just might be the opportunity to draw some eyes (and minutes from peoples’ days) away from US stuff and back to local goods.

Also, this is pretty ballsy.

Other streaming giants are just that: streaming services. The CBC can do (and does) so much more than just act as a hub of TV shows and movies.

It’s a public broadcaster that is looking to offer purely Canadian content by Canadian creators with none of the distractions. This is a defining factor.

3. Despite being a bold move, it’s not fool-proof which only adds to this contentious situation.

People like what they like. They know where to go for it and they don’t really bother with the rest.

We’re not saying better content couldn’t come out of this. Quite the opposite. It’s just incredibly difficult to guarantee that an additional surge in revenue would help entirely convert people over the CBC and make them leave their past binge-worthy content behind.

It doesn’t matter who’s making the content really; there’s just no math that could completely prove causation here. More people might tune in, but it doesn’t mean this is an exclusive relationship.

There's just too much great stuff out there that's already ad-free. 

And amidst the swinging going on here, not all the money is going directly to content creation. There’s lost advertising revenue and adaption to the digital age that need to be considered.

Also, this hasn’t been approved yet. With the Liberal government facing strong opposition by the Conservative Opposition (who are saying that taxpayers can’t afford this and shouldn’t have to), this isn’t a for sure thing.

Talk about a complicated relationship status.

Overall, this issue is by no means settled nor will it be easy to decide upon. But that’s why we’ve given you three perspectives on the topic here.

Let’s keep the discussion on content creation going, shall we? Tweet us your thoughts @TheTiteReport.

At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.

What will win this week?

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The Battle for Time - Week of November 27.