Comparison of Private and Public Broadcasting

Source: Bruce Steele, unpublished

This chart compares the key characteristics of private sector mass media operations in Canada with the principles that should govern the functioning of our national, public service, mass media initiative.

Privately owned, answering to shareholders
Publicly owned, answering to stakeholders – the people of Canada
Prime function is acquisition and distribution of content (primarily entertainment–based) to the mass audience for the profit of investors and shareholders. Prime function is the provision of cultural and informational programming to an informed and engaged citizenry, thereby enhancing the ability of Canadians to participate in and contribute to the governance and shared experience of life in a vast, multilingual, multicultural nation.
Distribution of programming acquired mostly from off-shore sources; domestically-produced entertainment programming largely oriented to international sales. Distribution of programming produced, co-produced and/or licensed from Canadian sources, as well as multi-genre international programming consistent with the mandate and values of the National Public system.
Competitively engaged in and an integral part of the commercial marketplace. Detached from the exigencies of the commercial marketplace and from political interference.
Focused on reaching the largest possible market consistent with profitability. Focused on serving the national community as well as regional and local audiences in a variety of languages. (French, English, First Nations)
Focused on investment in technological and human resource efficiencies to maximize profitability Focused on investment in human skills and talents to make available the highest quality of unique public service programming
Oriented to web-based distribution of commercial messaging, data and entertainment across all platforms (television, radio, phone, internet, print) to as wide an audience as possible Oriented to making news, public service, cultural and information-based programming available through the use of both web and over-air distribution (essential as a national emergency back-up if and when web services go down)
Creating the largest number of popular and cost-efficient services and systems for maximum and reach, trade and profitability. Maintenance of an appropriate number of services to enable efficient delivery of the highest quality content.

2 responses to “Comparison of Private and Public Broadcasting

  1. Jan Krouzil

    The chart captures well the relative traits of the two media realms, but obviates addressing the crux of the matter, that is, how to settle the controversial issue of public funding for the latter. Will the Trudeau government’s political calculus tilt in favor of investing more generously towards enhancing the level of Canada’s indigenous public media generated ‘cultural capital’?

  2. mike holliday

    Very nice and correct – and near to useless. If you use this model for your public broadcasting I surmise that your audience reach will be in single figures.
    You will be sending out your `cultural and informational programs’ to `an informed citizenry’ while the rest of the country (read most of it) will be watching and listening to whatever it is the commercial, profit motivated companies will be presenting.
    After a decade or so of near zero audiences some bright spark politician – aided and abetted by a centenarian Rupert Murdoch – will question the relevance of funding an elitist broadcasting system.
    The mass-media influenced majority will agree and public broadcasting will be consigned to the garbage bin.
    It is a one-way ticket to public broadcasting obliteration.
    You might think this is a good thing. It might even a good thing. But in making that judgement you should be aware of the consequences of setting in stone the above characteristics.
    And before someone says that changes to the way in which information is disseminated mean mass broadcasting is doomed anyway, you should bear in mind that one of the other objectives mentioned above is `enhancing the ability of Canadians to participate in and contribute to the governance and shared experience of life in a vast, multilingual, multicultural nation.’
    I don’t see that happening in the brave, new fragmented information world the computer whizzes want.
    Nor do I see Canadian (read any other country you like with the possible exception of the US) retaining and maintaining anything like a national identity in their programming.
    After a decade or so of almost total exposure to another culture, some bright spark politician might even suggest that national identity should go the same way as public broadcasting.
    Before you dismiss this as fear-mongering fantasy listen to the accents of your children. Listen to their songs and their slang language. Then look at their `heroes’ in sport, entertainment and culture.
    The cultural colonisation is already well advanced.