I need to start this post by making it clear that I am a supporter of publicly funded broadcasting and the CBC. With the increased use of paywalls and dramatic shifts in the media landscape, there is value in a public broadcaster that fills the gaps in the privately owned media world by ensuring that all Canadians have open, freely available access to reliable news. That requires embracing all forms of distribution, maintaining steadfast independence, and limiting direct competitive overlap with the private side that is currently facing significant digital transition challenges. This should be an easy value proposition for the CBC and one that would provide a compelling case for public funding. Yet the CBC’s approach to Bill C-18 and other government digital policies seems determined to do the opposite and, in doing so, threatens its future support.
Post Tagged with: "CBC"
Fixing Bill C-18: My Appearance Before the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communication
I was pleased to appear yesterday before the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation and Communication on Bill C-18. The discussion focused on a wide range of issues, including the risks of mandating payments for links, the non-compliance with international copyright obligations, why the CBC should not be included in the payment for links system, and how a fund would be a better approach. My opening statement, which tried to identify some fixes to the bill, is posted below as text and as a Youtube video.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 165: Monica Auer on Whether the CBC Is As Independent As It Says It Is
The recent dust-up between Twitter and the CBC over a “government funded media” label sparked fiery rhetoric from both sides. Opponents of the CBC invoked the notion of propaganda from the public broadcaster, while supporters responded that such comments amounted to an attack on a Canadian institution. That heated debate obscures the reality that there is a discussion worth having about the CBC’s independence, its transparency, and public reporting. Monica Auer, the executive director of Canada’s Forum on Research and Policy in Communications, recently wrote about that issue and she joins the Law Bytes podcast to assess whether the CBC is as independent as it says it is.
Why the Twitter – CBC Labelling Battle is a Distraction From the Real Problems with Government Media Policy and the Public Broadcaster
Twitter and the CBC were in the spotlight yesterday with Twitter’s decision to add a “government funded media” label to the CBC Twitter account. The label is defined by Twitter as a media organization “where the government provides some or all of the outlet’s funding and may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content.” CBC responded by tweeting it would pause its Twitter activities because suggesting that its journalism was anything other than impartial and independent was untrue. The government funding for CBC is undeniable, but the inclusion of “government involvement over editorial content” is apt to mislead. The Broadcasting Act provides guidance on the kinds of content to be found on CBC, but there is an important difference between general policy objectives and specific involvement over editorial content. In fact, Twitter has another label for “publicly funded media” accounts that appear to be better suited to the CBC since it covers “media organizations that receive funding from license fees, individual contributions, public financing, and commercial financing” but makes no reference to editorial content.
The Twitter-CBC labelling battle offers more heat than light since it does little to address the underlying problems with media independence in Canada and the CBC (much less the tire fire that is Twitter). Instead, it simply provides fodder for CBC critics to point to the Twitter label and argue for “defunding the CBC” (at least the English language part of it) and CBC defenders to proclaim that they will stand up for the public broadcaster against unfair smears. That debate distracts from serious underlying problems with government media policy and the public broadcaster.
Broadcast Bonanza: PBO Says Bill C-18 Would Give a Quarter Billion to Broadcasters Such as Bell and the CBC, Less Than 25% of Payments to Canadian Newspapers
As the witness portion of the Canadian Heritage committee hearing into the Online News Act (Bill C-18) comes to a premature end later this week (a hearing is planned with Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and the CRTC, but remarkably Facebook, the CBC, and many experts will be blocked from appearing), new data from the Parliamentary Budget Office calls into question the claims of big benefits for Canadian newspapers. In fact, while the government has been anxious to cite the (questionable) PBO estimate that the bill will generate $329 million per year for Canadian news organizations, last week the PBO quietly released supplementary data that suggested it believes the vast majority of the money will actually go to the CBC, Bell, and other broadcasters. In fact, the supplementary data – posted with a link after the release of the PBO’s report – concludes that newspapers will receive less than 25% of the funding or about $81 million to split among hundreds of news outlets.