FRIENDS Executive Director Daniel Bernhard available to comment on CBC license renewal
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TORONTO, 11 JANUARY, 2021 — FRIENDS’ Executive Director Daniel Bernhard is available to comment before and throughout the hearing and will be appearing as an intervenor on January 18th. For the first time in almost a decade, Canada’s national public broadcaster, the CBC, goes before the broadcast regulator to defend its performance and plans for the future.
The Issues Taken together, CBC management is proposing to make CBC more commercial, less distinctive, not as focused on news, and less accountable during its next licence term. Here are the main issues we expect will be up for discussion throughout the hearings:
Advertising and Tandem The CBC’s discredited branded ad content initiative called Tandem has been widely panned within the Corp. and by thousands of Canadians, so much so that the CRTC has made it a late-breaking addition to the hearing agenda. Created by CBC management to “leverage” the credibility of CBC’s journalism, the program would have taken steps toward disguising ads as news. But it’s not just Tandem. Digital paywalls and pre-roll ads, not to mention wall-to-wall ads on its English TV service underscore CBC’s effort to hyper-commercialize. In spite of this, CBC ad revenue is falling and has been for some time. Of course, COVID is making this bad situation worse. FRIENDS estimates that CBC will earn a net zero profit from ad sales (after taking the cost of sales into account) as soon as this year. For this reason, FRIENDS is calling on the CRTC to phase out ads on CBC.
News After starving CBC news with smaller budgets since 2014, management is now proposing to reduce total CBC/SRC news spending on its conventional platforms by 42%, or by $87 million, by 2022-23. With private publishers and broadcasters closing their doors in alarming numbers, FRIENDS will argue that CBC has a duty to step in and will call on the CRTC to order minimum news spending levels and to fill the void left in small and medium-sized communities when private media fail.
Accountability CBC management has asked the Commission to lighten its obligations to present Canadian drama, children’s programs and local news so that it can do more of this kind of programming online. There’s a catch: the CBC is refusing to fully disclose the details of its digital plans, claiming these are unregulated activities. FRIENDS, which favours expansion of CBC’s digital services, is urging the CRTC to dismiss this argument because public funds are used to finance CBC’s digital services and they should be subject to full disclosure and cross-platform conditions of licence.