Poll suggests Canadians have no idea of CBC cost but believe whatever it is, it’s too much

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

The day Lisa LaFlamme debuted as Lloyd Robertson's successor anchoring the CTV National News, CBC bought full-page newspaper advertisements promoting its flagship newscast and anchor Peter Mansbridge.

Judging from a new poll, the public broadcaster might better have used the ad space to show Canadians how its money was being spent.

The Abacus Data poll commissioned by QMI Agency and published in the Toronto Sun, suggests taxpayers underestimate how much the CBC gets from the federal government while at the same time most think it's getting too much.

According to the poll, more than 80 per cent of the 1,003 people sampled in the online poll conducted in English Aug. 12-15 did not know the CBC will get $1.1 billion from Ottawa this year. About 25 per cent believe it gets only one-tenth of its actual grant and 21 per cent thought it was only $10 million.

Some 60 per cent, including a majority of both Conservative and NDP supporters, also responded the CBC gets too much tax money.

"This suggests there is clearly a lack of information amongst Canadians about just how much money the CBC receives," David Coletto, in charge of Abacus Data's team of strategists and consultants, told the Sun.

Coletto said the poll suggests Liberal supporters believe the broadcaster gets not enough money or it's just about right.

QMI, the in-house news service for Sun chain-owner Quebecor, has been tussling with the CBC over the release of fiscal documents requested under access-to-information legislation.

The research firm also asked respondents about the CBC's legal battle with Canada's independent ombudsman who investigates transparency complaints. The CBC is appealing a lower-court ruling that ordered it to hand over spending documents for review.

Some 64 per cent of those polled believed the broadcaster should not spend tax dollars on the case.

The CBC's critics were quick to jump on the poll results.

"It seems like the CBC has built an empire unto itself within the expenditures of the federal government," said Stephen Taylor, a spokesman for the National Citizens Coalition, the conservative advocacy group once headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "Who are they accountable to? They're ultimately accountable to us, but they're not showing it."

The poll results reported in the Sun did not mention its margin of error, nor whether respondents were asked if they knew what CBC does with the money. The broadcaster operates English- and French-language TV and radio networks and overseas broadcast services, among other things.

"So what this proves is that people really have no sense at all as to how much it costs to run the CBC or even how much it should cost," Nancy Leblanc said in her blog, Impolitical. "And why would they?

"This just looks like plain old seeding of the ground for CBC budget cuts."

(CP Photo)