Public broadcasters a comparison

I have been thinking today about a political, cultural issue.  This is the funding of public broadcasters.  Having lived in the US, Canada and UK, I was curious to do a comparison of the funding, mostly because I thought that Canada’s CBC received a great deal of more funding then they should.

In the USA the Public Broadcast System is funded in part by federal/state funds, corporate donations and subscribers (members) from the general public.  Some of these stations even receive funding from Canada, my parents have been members of KSPS out of Spokane for a few years.

PBS receives 56% of its 2.3 billion dollars in funding from its subscribers,   27% of its funds come from federal and state funding (as of 2005 only 2.6% from federal sources), and the last 16% comes from corporate sources. 1

By contrast the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has, as many others in Europe, funding only from government sources.

In the UK they charge a license fee.  This license fee is in effect a tax on households who have TVs.  It costs 139 pounds a year.

So does this mean value for money?

Well in the UK there are seven national networks owned by the BBC (BBC 1,2,3,4 as well as CBeebies, BBC Kids and BBCHD).  As well their are four news services (BBC News, World, World Service and Parliament).  There is also BBC Sports arm and four regional networks.  In Radio there are 9 networks devoted to different radio tastes.2

Of course one could question the wisdom of this amount of media saturation by a government owned broadcaster but that is not really the point here.

In Canada the Canadian Broadcasting receives revenue strictly from the federal government and advertising.  The total funding received from all sources 1.5 billion (about 1.2 billion in US Dollars) (1 billion from the feds and 500 million from ads).

This allows the CBC to air 9 TV stations, three of which are French language.  As well they offer eleven radio stations, seven of which are French language stations.3

So in actuality the CBC does not get a particularly large source of funding by comparison.  However if they CBC went to the model of funding collection similar to the BBC it would mean they would collect 1.7 billion from license fees.  One would have to wonder if that would make enough difference to the CBC and its over all production values.

So it is interesting to see how little the CBC gets for what it does. It really does make one wonder if they would better served by going the PBS route to obtain funding, or maybe go the BBC route of putting out versions world wide. The problem they have is relatively speaking they have few original programs which to offer people. As well the Canadian government’s obsession for private broadcasters to have Canadian Content or restricting competition from US stations has led me to wonder if all the money spent enforcing all these various rules on the private broadcasters would be better focused on the CBC.

Anyways there is my rather boring Halloween topic for today. Scaaaaarrry stuff to come later.

1. Public Broadcasting Revenue by Major Sources 2005
2. BBC Annual Report 2007-08
3. CBC Annual Report 2006-07


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