Source: ParlVu

CBC CEO Catherine Tait faced tough questions from the House of Commons Heritage Committee as she defended her leadership and in particular, the state broadcaster’s supposed role in combating disinformation. 

Conservative members of the committee scrutinized Tait’s record, highlighting concerns over declining viewership, loss of trust, and recent layoffs accompanied by executive bonuses.

During the hearing, Tait mainly asserted the importance of the CBC in the fight against “disinformation.”

“The public broadcaster remains the single most effective tool that we have as Canadians to combat this disinformation. We are the only national media company in the country,” said Tait.

Conservative MP Rachael Thomas was the first to press Tait on the CBC’s declinee, questioning whether she deserves a bonus.

Thomas pointed out that under Tait’s leadership, CBC’s trust in the media has declined, viewership has halved, ad revenue dropped by 31%, and more than 100 correction notices have been issued in the last two years.

Tait defended her performance, stating that she has performance pay based on objectives, and she believes she has met those metrics despite industry trends.

“I do not control the number of Canadians that have left television to go online. And by the way, equal to the number declining on CBC television that you continue to report is an increase in millions that are watching CBC Gem,” Tait responded.

Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer also questioned Tait’s record and the justification for issuing performance awards. Tait explained that the drop in revenue was between an Olympics year and a non-Olympics year, suggesting that the years with two Olympic Games had higher revenue levels.

“The 30% drop in revenue was between an Olympics year and a non-Olympics year. And in fact, in the years you’re describing we had two Olympic Games and so have a much higher level of revenue those years,” said Tait. 

“So were ad revenues in 2023 higher than in 2022?” asked Scheer. 

“I would say there were flat and that is by the way what very much a part of what is going on in the industry,” said Tait. 

In December, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s motion to ban all bonuses for CBC executives was thwarted by the Liberals in the House of Commons. The motion was introduced after Tait confirmed layoffs affecting 10% of the workforce. Despite the CBC benefiting from a $100 million deal with Google under the Online News Act, financial challenges were cited as the reason for the layoffs.

A recent report by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation revealed that taxpayers were responsible for $16 million in bonuses for up to 1,142 full-time employees at the public broadcaster.