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The CEO of the CBC is defending its coverage of American politics after Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer suggested the public broadcaster places too much emphasis on the United States and should focus more on Canadian stories.
Catherine Tait appeared Thursday before a committee of MPs in Ottawa and was asked by Liberal MP Wayne Long to respond to Scheer's comments, which he said he found concerning.
Tait said the CBC's primary focus is local, but it's important to also cover news from around the world.
"If the news is happening around the world, our journalists will continue to report on it, because it's important that Canadians have the Canadian lens on what's going on around the planet that could affect our lives as Canadians," she said.
Earlier this week, Scheer told The Canadian Press that if he is elected prime minister, he would like to scrutinize the national public broadcaster to ensure the CBC tells enough Canadian stories.
"When we look and see how much coverage is devoted on CBC to U.S. politics, the inner workings of U.S. politics, making sure that it's focused on the things that are going on here in Canada — I think that's something that many Canadians have said we should ensure that it's focused on the core mandate of being concentrated on Canada," Scheer said in an interview.
Tait stressed the importance of the CBC remaining independent of any government involvement in its work, noting this is the fundamental difference between a public broadcaster and state-run media.
Among its recommendations submitted to a panel that has been tasked with reviewing the Broadcasting Act, the CBC has asked for more independence for its board of directors and CEO, who are currently appointed by the Prime Minister.
"To the point about political interference or government interference — we're obviously respectful of the democratic process that we live within, but independence is core to providing Canadians with fair and balanced news and points of view," Tait told the committee.
"There is no denying that the United States holds a very, very important role in the Canadian reality. And not to report on what is going on in the United States would also be an oversight."
As for the CBC being in competition with other private media companies — something Scheer said has created a "distorting effect" on the media market," Tait argued streaming websites and social media giants like Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and Google are the real competition.
"They are not devoted to supporting or nurturing the development of Canadian artists or creators, Canadian amateur athletes or Canadian perspectives. That's our job."
Tait also said the Crown corporation's revenues have been declining by $20 million a year, despite a major cash infusion from the Trudeau government — as a result of government funding not being tied to inflation coupled with a decline in advertising and subscription revenues.
In 2016, the Liberals pledged an additional $150 million to the CBC every year through to 2021 on top of its $1.2 billion in annual funding.