Taxpayers are funding $1.1 billion for CBC local news and unfairly competing with local newspapers.

By Stephen Pate – Bob Cox the publisher of the Winnipeg Free Press says the CBC makes it difficult for local newspapers when CBC gives away the news free.

“I can get all this stuff for free from other sites,” say reader to newspapers who charge subscriptions or per story fees.

How can newspapers survive with “the large presence of the CBC, which is increasingly seeing its future in the provision of digital news in local markets?” asks Cox.

CBC’s loss of Hockey Night in Canada and other revenues has turned the government sponsored giant into a direct competitor of local newspapers. While local news gives the CBC no income it is vital to shore up its political support for more subsidies.

“The presence of a large, taxpayer-subsidized player in digital news and information has an impact on what else develops in that environment.”

Winnipeg Press readers don’t like paying for the news.

“Every day I receive criticism of the fact that the Winnipeg Free Press website is now closed down to casual readers. Subscribers get full access, and you can buy single articles for 27 cents each. But you cannot use the site regularly unless you are registered, logged in and paying.”

Mr. Cox pulls his punches against the CBC knowing they have some popular support.

“However, it is hard even for me, the publisher of a large Canadian newspaper, to make this argument against what the CBC produces and posts without charge. The CBC is not free, of course, but it is a cost hidden in our taxes so most people are unaware of what they are paying.”

“Think about how hard it would be for a digital startup to start a subscription service in the face of what the CBC does.”

“Of course, you could ask: “Why does it matter if the CBC does the job and provides local coverage?”

“The answer is that local journalism cannot survive and thrive with only a single provider. Multiple, healthy outlets are needed to provide a variety of versions of events, views and even alternate methods of coverage.”

Local and national newspapers are under more threats than the CBC. They are trying to maintain a century old model of advertising paying for printed papers.  The internet has created a new source for news and advertising that is seriously impacting newspapers. No longer a profitable enterprise, newspapers are losing money and failing with regularity.

Newspapers have failed to adapt to new disruptive technologies much the same as the music industry has tried to shore up CD sales and fight online streaming of music.

Excerpted from full article published in J-Source, Media Development and Newspapers Canada.