Straight Talk
BRIAN LILLEY - CBC secretive on hockey revenue

CBC President Hubert T Lacroix

Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY

BRIAN LILLEY | QMI AGENCY

The CBC must take us all for fools and given that we keep paying their bills, we just might be.

Last week the state broadcaster trumpeted that it was a finalist for an award given to government bodies that show openness and transparency.

"We take transparency and accountability very seriously," CBC president Hubert Lacroix said in a statement.

Then this week I opened my mail. I shouldn't have been surprised really, it was par for the course for CBC: It sent me more files with all the relevant information stripped out.

See, back in 2007 when CBC came under the Access to Information Act, my employer Quebecor submitted an access request asking how much revenue CBC generated from Hockey Night in Canada.

They didn't ask how much each ad cost or what special deal certain companies received. It was a request as to how much money CBC generated from hockey.

Given that CBC is owned by the government and paid for by all of us, this is the type of information it should readily turn over. After all, CBC regularly submits requests asking other government departments for information on files far more sensitive than hockey broadcasts and receives that information which it then turns into news stories.

That request became part of a court case as the state broadcaster fought to keep its secrets. CBC actually took the federal information commissioner to court to stop Quebecor and any member of the public from being able to get their hands on certain kinds of information.

CBC lost that case but that didn't mean it was ready to hand over the documents.

So this week, I opened my mail and received a one-page summary of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada revenues for the 2006-07 season. The only problem was that all the monetary figures were stripped out.

If I took the CBC's document at face value, I would have to believe it didn't make any money from broadcasting hockey games.

Of course that isn't the case. We all know the CBC makes millions of dollars from HNIC but it doesn't want to tell anyone how much. So it cited a part of the law that allows government departments to refuse to release information that is against the "economic interests of Canada."

Now ask yourself, is letting the public that pays for CBC know how much hockey revenue it makes really detrimental to the "economic interests of Canada?" What this comes down to is CBC once again telling Canadians to pay the bill and shut up.

CBC supporters will say that as a competitor to the state broadcaster there is no way that I, or Quebecor, should have this information. If the CBC was a private company I would accept that, but since I pay for CBC and Quebecor pays for CBC, then we have every right to this and much, much more.

If the CBC wants to keep its secrets behind closed doors, then they should get off the government dole and stop taking their annual $1.1 billion subsidy.

It should stand on its own two feet.

Then people like myself wouldn't care what it did with its budgets because it would be its own money, not ours.

In my new book CBC Exposed, I detail many other problems with this "cultural institution" and make the case that it should be sold off.

That doesn't mean killing off the CBC or scrapping it - it just means letting it pay its own bills, then it can keep its secrets secret.

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