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Canada CBC must diversify revenue to protect it from political whims, president Catherine Tait says

Catherine Tait, president and CEO of CBC/Radio-Canada during a press conference in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 3, 2018.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The CBC must continually look for new commercial revenue streams — particularly internationally — as a way to protect itself from the whims of politicians, the public broadcaster’s president, Catherine Tait, said Friday.

Tait told reporters following a speech to a business luncheon in Montreal that the CBC is vulnerable to changes in government. The funding instability is particularly difficult for the company’s journalists, she said.

The CBC regularly faces a barrage of criticism from competitors who claim it unfairly competes for advertising dollars with private companies that don’t receive anywhere near the same government support.

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But Tait says the public broadcaster doesn’t really have a choice. It needs both public and private money to ensure some level of revenue stability.

“We want to keep our diversified funding revenue model because we don’t want to be vulnerable to shifts in the marketplace and government — that makes us stronger,” she said. “One way to do it is international revenues.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who has been consistently ahead in recent polls, reportedly suggested as a leadership candidate that he would gut funding to the CBC’s news division if he becomes prime minister.

The Liberals’ first budget after they won the 2015 election included hundreds of millions of dollars in new CBC funding, following years of cuts by the Conservatives under Stephen Harper.

Following her speech to the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, Tait refused to say if the prospect of Scheer becoming prime minister in the fall worries her.

“Listen, I’m not here to comment on politics,” she said. “I am an appointee with an amazing mandate to protect and to defend public broadcasting. We will do what we have always done — regardless of government: we work to serve Canadians.”

When asked what the CBC can to do wrestle itself away from the criticism it is beholden to the Liberal party for funding stability, she said, “We stay focused on our mandate. That’s it.”

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