CBC chief: More money just a start

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OTTAWA -- The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Thursday welcomed the government's pledge to put CAN$120 million ($102.5 million) in new government funding into radio and TV programming over the next two years, while at the same time asked Ottawa to explicitly spell out the public broadcaster's programming mandate and how it is expected to pay for it.

The federal government earlier in the day said it will grant the CBC an extra CAN$60 million in each of the next two years.

But while thanking Ottawa for the extra funding, CBC president and CEO Robert Rabinovitch pointed to a widening gap between the public broadcaster's budget and what it was expected to deliver.

"While we deliver exceptional value for the investment Canadians make in us, that doesn't mean we're equipped to discharge our 1991 mandate or address the challenges we face next year, and the next," he told the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa as it holds hearings on the role of the public broadcaster in the 21st century.

"The simple fact is that the implicit contract with Canadians that governs us today is too generic, and it doesn't reflect today's reality," he added.

Rabinovitch told the all-parliamentary committee that the CAN$60 million in annual funding will go toward radio and TV programming.

But while the new money for 2007-08 and 2008-09 lent "a measure of stability" to the public broadcaster, Rabinovitch urged the federal government to sign a contract with the CBC spelling out what the government expects of the radio and TV network and how it would be paid for.

He pointed to Ireland, South Africa, Hong Kong and the U.K., where public broadcasters operate under a specific contract from their government paymasters. The BBC, for instance, is subject to a Royal Charter formally renewed and debated every 10 years.

As things stand, Rabinovitch told the committee that the CBC is drastically underfunded given its mandate and comparisons to other public broadcasters.
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