Oh the irony: Trudeau's pursuit of Facebook ad revenue devastates CBC website traffic

CBC News' website traffic plunges by 23% in wake of Liberal push for Facebook ad revenue, exacerbating state-sponsored broadcaster's dwindling viewership.

Trudeau's attempt at Facebook's ad dollars decimates CBC website traffic
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The Trudeau Liberals' attempt to squeeze big tech for millions of dollars in media subsidies has backfired, costing their state broadcaster millions of website clicks.

“Digital reach for CBC is trending below target due to Meta's news withdrawal in Canada,” CBC News wrote in a 2023 Third Quarter Financial Report. Traffic at the English language website fell to an average of 16 million unique monthly visitors — a 23% decline from 2022 (20.7 million visitors).

According to financial statements, the Crown corporation is the ‘most popular’ news site nationwide with over 1,000 staff, churning out content, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

Managers with the Crown corporation blamed its declining website traffic on Facebook, which censored Canadian news last August 1 to protest Bill C-18, the Online News Act. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned Facebook last summer for censoring Canadian publishers at its own cost. “It is time for us to expect more from corporations like Facebook,” he said last August 21, calling them “bad for democracy.”

“It is so inconceivable that a company like Facebook is choosing to put corporate profits ahead of ensuring local news organizations can get up-to-date information to Canadians and reach them where Canadians spend a lot of their time, online, on social media, on Facebook,” Trudeau told reporters at the time.

“The company is only responding to your government’s legislation,” said a reporter. “It is Facebook’s decision,” replied Trudeau.

Bill C-18 became law last June 22, compelling the social media platform to pay publishers millions in advertising revenues generated by links to news stories. They declined to work with the government on this matter.

Rachel Curran, the head of public policy for Meta Canada, told senators they gave the media over 1.9 million clicks in Canada in the past year, or "free marketing worth more than $230 million."

"As we've previously stated, regulations cannot address the fundamental challenges with the legislation, and we relayed this to the minister," she said.

Revenue sharing is worth $247.6 million a year to television networks and $81.6 million to government-approved publishers, according to an October 22 Budget Office report, Cost Estimate For Bill C-18.

In a February 29 budget document Main Estimates, the Trudeau Liberals proposed a record $1.383 billion budget for the broadcaster this year — up by $96.1 million. “We know it is difficult for them right now,” said Treasury Board President Anita Anand.

Yet, management says the network still faces financial pressures from “structural challenges affecting all of the media industry in Canada,” including rising production costs, declining ad revenues and fierce global competition.

The CBC in 1995 launched its website as a free service, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. The Senate Transport and Communications Committee in a 2015 report recommended it charge users a subscription free to offset declining TV ad revenues.

“Paid subscriptions might be used for access to CBC’s online properties,” said the report Time For Change. “This would be an example of the paywalls currently used by some online newspapers.”

Despite the turbulent financial landscape, the state broadcaster remained impervious to financial hardship courtesy of generous taxpayer funding.

The CBC cost taxpayers $1.2 billion in 2021, which included $21 million in "immediate operational support" to ensure its "stability during the pandemic." On top of the pandemic relief, Ottawa allocated an additional $42 million to help CBC/Radio-Canada recover from the pandemic.

According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), the number of CBC staffers taking home six-figure salaries has increased yearly since Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister.

In records detailing the public broadcaster's pay raises, the CTF learned that full-time workers earning six-figure salaries doubled between 2015 and 2022. During that period, the CBC went from 438 to 949 full-time workers, costing $119.5 million in salaries — a $60 million increase.

"Taxpayers don't need all these CBC employees making six figures," said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director. "What value are taxpayers getting from all these extra CBC staffers with big salaries?"

CBC employees earning an annual salary exceeding $100,000 rose 14% in 2020 and 13% the following year, which resulted in 220 more employees receiving a six-figure wage than before the pandemic.

Additionally, taxpayers gave them $51 million in bonuses and pay raises during the pandemic. Only one employee received a pay cut.

"The CBC shouldn't have doled out bonuses while taxpayers lost jobs and businesses during the pandemic," said Terrazzano. 

"If the CBC has enough money to hand out millions in bonuses and raises during a pandemic, taxpayers shouldn't be forced to fork over more money," he added.

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