CBC, Quebecor dispute goes public

A long-running dispute boils over as the CBC issues a retort to Quebecor's criticisms of the pubcaster's alleged lack of financial transparency.

A long-running dispute between the CBC and Quebec media powerhouse Quebecor got even more heated Wednesday as the public broadcaster issued a sharp public retort to Quebecor’s accusations that it is not properly disclosing its use of taxpayers’ money.

The CBC accused Quebecor of receiving $500 million in public funds over the past three years without having to be accountable to Canadian taxpayers.

The pubcaster, by contrast, contends it has to report on its finances to Parliament, the CRTC, and the federal Auditor General.

“Quebecor uses this public subsidy and its dominant position in protected industries to make record profits yet complains that its TVA television network ‘competes’ against Radio-Canada,” CBC/Radio-Canada said in the statement, referring to Quebecor’s past claims that Radio-Canada unfairly competes for viewers with public funds.

On the heels of the CBC’s comments, Quebecor issued its own statement, calling the CBC missive “misleading and unfounded.”

The long-running food fight between Quebecor and the CBC has sparked both a court case between the CBC and the federal Information Commissioner over what exactly the CBC must disclose, and a probe by the House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee, which is currently looking into the taxpayer cost of an accompanying court battle.

The CBC counter-attack comes as Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau on Thursday is to appear before a Parliamentary committee reviewing the Quebec media giant’s long-running criticism of the CBC and its apparent failure to fully disclose how it spends public funds allotted to its journalistic, creative and programming activities.

Quebecor already discloses that key corporate data.

The CBC counters that, under the Access to Information Act, it does not have to disclose that same financial data.

This week, the pubcaster took its case against the Information Commissioner to the Federal Court of Appeal, arguing that the federal body has no right to examine key records it considers exempt from scrutiny.

Quebecor-owned Sun News has pursued hundreds of Access to Information requests for key CBC financial information through a cross-platform campaign series “CBC Money Drain.”

Sun News eventually took the CBC to court over its failure to respond to 389 of its over 400 requests.

Ahead of Peladeau’s appearance at the House of Commons committee, the CBC released its criticisms of Quebecor with a document titled “What Quebecor won’t tell you about its attacks on the public broadcaster” that accuses its private sector rival of using its media outlets to pursue a campaign to diminish the CBC, a broadcast competitor.

The CBC stated that Quebecor has itself received $500 million in direct and indirect subsidies for its operation, including $61 million from the Canada Media Fund, $14 million from the Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF), $117 million in federal and provincial tax credits, and $13 million from the Canadian periodical fund for its magazines.

The CBC also contended that Quebecor saved $333 million by under-paying in auction for set-aside wireless spectrum in 2008.

The memo also accused Peladeau of complaining to the government in over a dozen letters that Radio-Canada does not spend enough of its advertising dollars with Quebecor media outlets.

In his own statement, Peladeau questioned the CBC’s motives in going on the attack just as he was to appear before a parliamentary commission studying CBC Radio-Canada’s access to information policies.

“The unprecedented gravity of today’s actions reveals the shameless arrogance that characterizes the practices of the state broadcaster’s upper management and demonstrates the need to end the growing prejudice that these practices have been causing for far too long to the Canadian broadcasting system and its players,” Peladeau stated.

From Playback Daily


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