CBC’s successful Olympics bids show a disrespect for taxpayers’ money

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

It appears our national public broadcaster believes it's part of their mandate to gamble with taxpayers' money.

On Wednesday, it was announced that CBC/Radio Canada had won back the rights to televise the 2014 and 2016 Olympics.  The CBC has refused to tell Canadians how much of our money they actually used to secure the rights, but it's estimated to be between $95-million and $110 million.

They paid the inflated asking price despite the fact that Bell and Rogers bled money broadcasting the last two Games and backed out of the bidding for the 2014 and 2016 Games when the price got too steep.

According to reports, the two media conglomerates paid $153 million dollars to broadcast the Vancouver 2010 Games and the London 2012 Games and have already lost between $20 million to $80 million on the venture.

Even NBC, in the United States, lost $223 million on its broadcast of the 2010 winter Olympics and is projecting a loss of $250 million on its broadcast of London's Olympics.

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But somehow, some way, the CBC thinks they can do better.

"When you're a Bell or a Rogers you have … a lot of cost considerations that we don't necessarily have when we go alone," Kirstine Stewart, head of CBC English services told the Toronto Star.

"We're just in a different position. Our bid is structured completely differently than the private broadcasters' would be."

Stewart added that the CBC is inherently different than a group of private corporations, namely in their profit motive. She is not expecting the CBC to make money off the Olympics, but she's confident they will break even, as they did in their previous 10-year deal with the IOC prior to the 2010 Games.

No "profit motive?"

In other words, no motivation in safeguarding taxpayers' hard-earned money.

The decision to award the Canadian rights to the CBC invariably raises questions about how level the playing field is between the taxpayer-funded broadcaster and private broadcasters.

Some CBC-friendly newspapers are reporting that if the national broadcaster didn't come forward with their bid, that we wouldn't have a broadcaster for the 2014 or 2016 Games.

It's hard to believe, however, that the IOC, faced with the prospects of having no Canadian broadcaster, would walk away from a lower bid of, say, $70 million.

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Greg Thomas, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, thinks CBC has an unfair advantage.

"It's not a level playing field because the CBC gets more than a billion of taxpayer dollars while everyone else has to make it on their own," he told QMI Agency.

"We're seeing the CBC rushing to where others fear to tread. The Olympics have been a super disappointment as far as the ad revenue broadcasters are able to charge. Other broadcasters have had to back down because it's such a money loser."

Unfortunately, the risk that the CBC will not break-even on the Olympics is borne by us, the taxpayers.

It's always easier to take a risk with other people's money.