Conservative leadership candidate, Maxime Bernier, announced his policy to streamline Canada’s public broadcaster and withdraw funding if elected.

Bernier has called for a number of changes that could drastically change the way the CBC/Radio Canada is funded, structured and competes with other broadcasters. The calls came as Bernier claimed the broadcaster was “frozen in time” at a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Stopping short of wanting to privatise the public broadcaster, Bernier suggested that the broadcaster should “stop doing three-quarters of what it still does, which any private broadcaster can do, and concentrate on what only it can do”.

In what has become a typical rebuttal against PSB models globally, the MP also stated that CBC should focus its resources on local stations and public affairs programming rather than entertainment, “niche” and digital content areas that distract from creating quality programming. His statement came despite the growing need for PSBs to cater for a more diverse public with more plural media consumption habits.

He also called for CBC to withdraw entirely from “unfairly” competing with commercial broadcasters for advertising revenue, as it already receives “more than a billion” Canadian dollars in funding from taxpayers. He instead suggested that it adopt a fundraising model like PBS or NPR to make up for lost income, who gain income via corporate and public sponsorships.

In rhetoric that is starkly different from the current Liberal government, the MP said he would also reverse increases to the broadcaster’s budget, which will receive an additional CAN$75 million this year and $150 million in each of the next four years according to CBC News.

Earlier this week CBC President and CEO Hubert Lacroix defended the organisation’s position in an open letter to the parliamentary heritage committee, which has been conducting a study into the “state and survival” of Canada’s local media.

The letter argued against the calls of private outlets who “argue for a weaker public broadcaster” and argued that CBC/Radio-Canada must remain strong to ensure that the Canadian public can still access accurate information across a variety of platforms. This, he argued, was especially the case when there was an increasing concentration of ownership within the industry.

“At a time when all media in Canada are struggling to adapt to tremendous change; at a time when global digital companies are crowding the Canadian market, we all need to be focused on how to ensure Canadians get accurate information about their community and their world,” wrote Lacroix.

“Our mandate is to serve Canadians. What should be clear by now is that the digital world is where Canadians are, and where they expect their broadcaster to be.”

The debate surrounding CBC/Radio Canada, its public role, direction and finances continues to polarise opinion in Canada and remains a stalwart campaign device for potential leadership contestants. For now, government funding levels have been set, at least, for the next four years.

Header image: CBC newsroom in Montreal, the largest French newsroom outside of France. Credits: JasonParis/Creative Commons