OTTAWA — Five things to know about Catherine Tait, named Tuesday as the new incoming president of CBC/Radio-Canada:
1. Tait was one of several names an advisory panel forwarded to the government for review. The chairman of the panel says the list had what could be considered “safe” choices, and Tait was one of the more audacious of the names that were put forth.
2. The Liberals have pumped more money into the CBC — $675 million over five years — to reverse funding cuts made by the previous Conservative government. The issue is how the money is used. The Canadian Media Guild, the union representing workers at the CBC, says the broadcaster’s books show two-thirds of the new money went — and will continue to go — to outside productions for prime-time television shows. The union says the new leadership will have to decide whether to spend the money in-house, or on outside companies.
3. The Liberals and CBC have said they want to see the public broadcaster go more digital and do more local programming. Tait echoed that sentiment when asked about it Tuesday. Daniel Bernhard, executive director of the advocacy group Friends of Public Broadcasting, said Tait will have to figure out how to get the CBC into local news in a way that doesn’t suppress emerging new media enterprises: “How do you get in and invest in that area, but do so intelligently?”
4. CBC staff morale has also taken a hit as a result of budget cuts. The broadcaster’s new board and president will affect “the operation, the quality and faith in leadership,” said Jonathan Spence, the union’s CBC/Radio-Canada branch president. Tait called the CBC team among the best in the country, whose work keeps Canadians tuning in daily. “I look forward to working with all of you,” she said.
5. Meanwhile, the government is reviewing the Broadcast Act, the results of which could affect where CBC/Radio-Canada focuses its funding. The corporation has proposed going ad-free, but estimates it needs an extra $400 million to do so. Heritage Minister Melanie Joly didn’t say much about the legislative review Tuesday, only that she would have more to say later in the review. Bernhard said his group hopes that the CBC has fewer commercials under Tait’s leadership.
The Canadian Press