What to do when your biggest asset turns on you?
TORONTO – The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation-Radio Canada (CBC) is arguably one of Canada’s most important nation building assets. It is supposed to help shape and convey the Canadian reality to all Canadians. For that reason alone, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) – its titular boss – grants it a license giving it privileges and protections not available to other broadcasters and “creators”.
Both organizations are responsible to Parliament through the Minister of Heritage. The Federal Government (Cabinet), through the Minister of Heritage, appoints the members of the board of the CBC and the CRTC. The Minister also appoints the President of the CBC, currently Catherine Tait.
As noted on January 26, 2022, by journalist Jonathan Bradley with True North, an online digital magazine, Ms. Tait receives a base salary of $459,000 (plus benefits). Her proactive filings for travel, meals and accommodations reveal expenses of circa $8,000 monthly (all figures rounded). It is a prestigious and well-remunerated position. She received an extension to her five-year contract just last month.
Ms. Tait also continues to benefit from other sources of income related to her work as director on several other corporate boards. Some of them are in the business of digital transmissions and building programs most suitable for conveyance via social media. One of them is a New York based entity she founded. More power to her.
Mr. Bradley noted that 125 Directors at the CBC, as of January 26, 2022, were “earning up to” $186,000 annually. This is part of the parliamentary allocation of $1.3 Billion (first quarter, 2022) annually plus access to others programming funds, like the $100 Million Canada Fund, for “creators’’. It may be fair to say that the Canadian public is heavily vested in the leadership of the Broadcaster mandated to ensure the Canadian reality is narrated and available to all.
Ms. Tait’s “real boss”, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, is currently in the middle of some very tough negotiations with the Digital Tech giants on whether they should pay their “fair share” of the costs of “Canadian News” (informative programming) they post on their platforms.
The negotiations have turned “hardball”. Meta has thumbed its nose at Canadian legislation, C-18 designed to “apportion a percentage share of newsroom costs to the tech giants. Minister Rodriguez cancelled government advertising on Meta/Facebook. Google threatened to support Meta’s position.
The other day, an email attributed to Ms. Tait, surfaced wherein she allegedly suggested that within ten years the CBC will become exclusively digital. Goodbye TV and Radio. Employees panicked to and on social media with the “woe is me = woe is Canada” lament.
Neither the CBC nor its Board, much less its well-reimbursed President, speak for Canada. Unless I am mistaken none of them are part of the Heritage Canada negotiating team as they face-off against Big Tech.
Somehow, Ms. Tait must have thought that her comments were helpful to the Minister and the Government. I doubt she cared. Cabinet Ministers have been “dumped” for missteps that were less egregious.