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A Controversial Request

For the past 40 years, CBC and Radio-Canada radio has been a haven free from the barrage of commercials typical of most other radio providers. As it stands, one can listen to music or the debating of important questions on CBC/Radio-Canada radio without interruption. But following recent cuts introduced in Jim Flaherty’s 2012 federal budget, the Corporation has asked the CRTC for permission to broadcast national commercials over Radio 2 and Espace Musique airwaves. According to the CBC, this will lead to $15-20 million in revenue after two years, reaching $35-million by year seven.

The majority of participants in the debate surrounding the CBC’s request have been against the commercialization of CBC Radio. According to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), a precedent will be set if the CRTC grants the CBC’s request. “Advertising on Radio 2 and Espace Musique would create a precedent and could result in the corporation asking for the right to have advertising on its other radio properties, Radio 1 and La Première Chaîne,” argues the CAB. This “would ultimately reconfigure the balance of public/private services and the diversity in content and format each brings to the Canadian broadcasting system.” In its memo concerning the request, Open Media/PIAC (Public Interest Advocacy Centre) expressed concern as to “whether the need for commercial advertising on these services will become a dominant concern for the CBC and change the nature of the programming in a way that undermines its ability to serve the public interest.”

Astral agrees that: “If today the CRTC were to approve the reallocation of the CBC’s parliamentary radio appropriations to television, as justification for authorizing the airing of commercials on Espace Musique and Radio Two, tomorrow it will be forced to allow the Corporation to allocate a larger portion of its appropriations to television, to artificially justify the need of its other stations, La Première Chaîne and Radio One, to resort in their turn to commercial advertising.”

The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting affirm that the allowance of commercials on Radio 2 and Espace Musique airwaves will have “a profoundly deleterious effect on the public service orientation of the network, and deeply alienate its remaining audience.”

While the Association québécoise de l’industrie du disque, du spectacle et de la vidéo (ADISQ) hesitates to accept the CBC’s request and has asked many questions, the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) concedes that commercial advertising is a necessary evil: “CIMA supports the proposal in Item 11 by Radio 2 that the Condition of License prohibiting commercial messages in most circumstances be changed by permitting the broadcast of national advertising. While not an ideal solution, it goes some way to resolving CBC’s current financial challenges. In today’s world, the need for private sector financing is a reality and it therefore merits support.”