How much did CBC pay to broadcast the Olympics? Don’t ask

CBC (Photo courtesy of Reuters)

If you've recently watched CBC, you've probably noticed that they're going all-out for their Olympic coverage.

They've already set-up in Sochi with beautiful sets, impressive technology and a large cast of journalists including the likes of Peter Mansbridge and Jian Gomeshi.

But if you're hoping to know how much our national broadcaster is paying for the privilege to show the games, you're out of luck.

The intrepid reporters at Global News put in a Freedom of Information request asking for the total cost of buying the rights to the games.

What they got back were 162 heavily redacted pages including a brief explanation of why they wouldn't share the information.

"The response cited several reasons for the redactions under the Information Act: trade secrets; something that could compromise a government institution’s competitive position or contract negotiations; something a third party deems confidential; ongoing consultations; and anything relating to the CBC’s 'journalistic, creative or programming activities, other than information that relates to its general administration.'"

Now, we kind of have an idea of how much CBC paid: In 2012, sources had told the Toronto Star that the estimated cost for the rights for both the 2014 and 2016 Games was between $75 and $85 million.

But according to Global, they asked the question "mostly out of curiosity, partly out of principle."

[ Related: Canada's secret role in the 2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony ]

Gregory Thomas of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says he understands the CBC's secrecy.

"The CBC is a business that competes commercially with other TV networks, so it would be suicide for them to release their confidential programming agreements," he told Yahoo.

"They may as well turn over the passwords to their accounting system."

Yahoo Canada News also spoke to three Members of Parliament who, in the past, have pushed for legislation to make the national broadcaster more transparent.

Not surprisingly, they're all a little annoyed at the lack of disclosure.

"As a steward of taxpayer dollars," Conservative MP Harold Albrecht said, "it’s hard for me to support calls for increased funding for the CBC when they make it impossible to understand how the billion dollars a year in taxpayer support they already receive each year is spent."

Independent MP Dean Del Mastro said that Canadians should have access to more information about CBC's finances.

"Their actions are ironic if not hypocritical when it comes to open public disclosure of the use of public funds," Del Mastro told Yahoo.

"CBC demands transparency for the use of public funds in every area of government spending but often refuses to provide it to the public when asked to provide similar transparency."

[ More Politics: Convicted politicians shouldn't get their pensions, taxpayer advocate argues ]

Finally, independent MP Brent Rathgeber called the results of Global News' FOI request "woefully inadequate"

"Canada’s access to information laws are inadequate and that is especially true regarding CBC, who raise exclusions on competitive or programming documents, seemingly whenever it suits or pleases them," he said.

For the fiscal year 2013, CBC received $1.15 billion in government funding.

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