OAB Disappointed By Re-Commercialization of CBC’s Radio Services

 In a lengthy decision released today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission dealt with numerous Canadian Broadcasting Corporation license renewals.

The Ontario Association of Broadcasters is particularly disappointed in the Commission’s approval in part to reintroduce commercial advertising on the CBC’s Radio 2 and Espace Musique networks.

During its November 2012 public hearing, the Commission received extensive input from the public through individual and group interventions, program producers, and Canada’s private broadcasters represented by the OAB, BCAB, CAB and by individual company submissions. Virtually all opposed the CBC’s initiative to re-commercialize its radio services for various valid reasons:

(i) Re-commercialization will destroy the unique non-commercial nature of CBC Radio

(ii) It will reduce diversity of programming, as inevitably the CBC will become even more oriented towards programs with mass appeal in order to increase ‘ratings’

(iii) It is blatantly unfair to pit tax-paying Canadian commercial broadcasters who employ thousands across the country against a government funded organization which directs upwards of $400 million of its funding to produce radio programming. Commercial broadcasters will be competing against a taxpayer funded organization with an identical mandate, ie. to maximize ratings in order to maximize commercial advertising dollars.

In its 1974 decision, the CRTC eliminated commercials on CBC Radio, feeling that a commercialized CBC would adversely affect the distinct and unique character of CBC radio. With its decision today, the CRTC has now reversed its historical position.

The OAB notes that the authorization is for a three year period. However, once in place we believe it will be virtually impossible to wean the CBC off commercialization. The national treasure that is CBC Radio will be lost forever in the process.

We applaud Vice-Chairman Pentefountas’ articulate, comprehensive and thoughtful dissenting opinion in today’s decision. In his statement, he said, “My deepest concern is that the proposed changes for Radio 2 and Espace Musique will fundamentally and irrevocably change the nature of the service and the unique radio listening experience for audiences. Especially since I do not believe that the regulatory panacea that the public broadcaster is requesting of the Commission is the only means at its disposal to ensure that it can continue offering the distinct, quality radio programming that is so important to Canadians, if we rely on the interveners’ testimonies.”

His understanding stands above the consensus of the Commission’s decision.

The OAB is exploring additional avenues to achieve the right thing for the Ontario private broadcasters it represents.