Ads on CBC Radio a serious blow to public broadcasting in Canada

TORONTO, May 28, 2013 /CNW/ - CBC's new licences, announced this morning by Canada's broadcast regulator, are the culmination of years of neglect by successive governments and the product of the Harper Conservatives' hostility toward public broadcasting in Canada.

The CRTC renewed the licences for all of the CBC's broadcast services, giving the green light for a three-year period to the CBC's request to introduce ads on Radio Two and its French language counterpart Espace Musique.  Should the CBC wish to extend radio advertising beyond three years, it would have to seek permission from the CRTC.

"The Conservative Party activists and donors appointed by the Prime Minister to the CBC's Board of Directors and the President's office will be happy with today's decision, but millions of Canadians who care about public broadcasting will be angry," said Friends spokesperson Ian Morrison.

More than half of the CBC's Board of Directors, including its President and CEO, have made financial contributions to the Conservative Party and some continue as Conservative Party activists.

The CBC's proposal to place ads on some of its radio networks was opposed by the vast majority (893 out of 965) of those who intervened during the licence review hearing on this topic.  Mandated to act independently from government, the Commission's decision is conspiring in the misguided belief that the CBC should go ever more commercial to end nearly 40 years of commercial-free radio.

"In choosing to ignore the advice of 93% of the citizens who took the trouble to comment on the CBC's proposal to place ads on its radio services, the decision sets CBC Radio on a slippery slope.   This is the beginning of the end of the last commercial-free service offered by the CBC, according to the watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

"Next CBC management will ask for permission to place ads on its main radio networks Radio One and la Première Chaîne. CBC management says it needs the cash to backstop budget cuts by the Harper Conservatives, despite their 2011 election promise to maintain or increase support for CBC's programs.

And, because CBC's senior management and the Board have little to no grounding in public broadcasting values, they will blunder on, making decisions with little understanding of the consequences, remaking CBC in the image of a private broadcasting," Morrison said.

Morrison noted that today's decision was not unanimous.  In his dissenting opinion, CRTC Vice-Chair - Broadcasting Tom Pentefountas opposes the proposal for ads on CBC Radio.  He wrote "…it's a very slippery slope once the door is opened to the commercialization of public radio, and second, it seems crystal clear to me that the commercialization of Espace Musique and Radio 2 will trigger the disappearance of the distinct and complementary character of those services."

Vice Chair Pentefountas also questions the CBC's intention to finance Radio Two entirely from ad revenues, a standard that no other CBC service must meet.

"It's clear that CBC's senior management does not value its Radio Two service," Morrison said.

Today's CRTC decision grants CBC a five-year licence that requires minimum amounts of Canadian programming overall and during prime time when most viewers are watching. The decision is silent on the precarious position the CBC is in concerning its future access to professional hockey ad revenue.

"Next year when its agreement with the NHL expires, the chances are very good that a competitor will win the right to Hockey Night in Canada. In this scenario, the CBC will face a cut to its bottom line of $200 million -- much greater than the most recent cuts delivered by the Harper government.

"Will the CBC go even more commercial in the event of this potentially devastating blow? We just don't know.

"The Commission has endorsed a plan to become more commercial and seems to be treating the CBC like any other broadcaster, rather than the national public broadcaster," Morrison said.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is an independent watchdog for Canadian programming & is not affiliated with any broadcaster or political party.

SOURCE: Friends of Canadian Broadcasting

For further information:

Jim Thompson 613-447-9592; jim@friends.ca

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