hubert lacroix
hubert lacroix

Is CBC's Audience Declining As Harper Claims?

Is CBC’s audience declining as Conservative Leader Stephen Harper claimed in a radio interview earlier this week?

“The reason for the difficulties aren’t the cuts,” he said. “There aren’t cuts. The reason is the loss of (CBC’s) audience. It’s a problem for the CBC to fix,” he told Quebec City radio station CHOI Radio X in an interview that aired Monday.

The head of CBC/Radio-Canada shot back on Tuesday.

“It’s not about a lack of audience,” president and CEO Hubert Lacroix said following the corporation’s annual general meeting in Winnipeg.

“It’s about a broken finance model that doesn’t work, that used to be built on advertising revenues supporting a drop in parliamentary appropriations. In this environment, it doesn’t work anymore.”

So who’s right? They both are. Sort of.

That there were funding cuts is not in dispute.

“Harper’s assertion that his government made no cuts to the CBC’s budget is patently false,” says Ian Morrison, of the watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, adding Heritage Minister James Moore campaigned in 2011 on a promise to “maintain or increase” the CBC’s funding.

The 2012 federal budget cut $115 million from CBC’s operating costs over three years.

But audience measurement is trickier: it depends on which parameters you look at.

For instance, Numeris (formerly the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement, or BBM, which broadcasters rely on for data) calculates audience “share” (average percentage of people tuning in to a particular program at a particular time) and audience “reach” (total number of viewers/listeners). There are also calculations for hours tuned (radio) and average minute audience (TV). And then it’s all broken down into age groups, as well.

The 2012 federal budget cut $115 million from CBC’s operating costs over three years.

But audience measurement is trickier: it depends on which parameters you look at.

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