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CMG Letter to Heritage Minister regarding CBC Tandem

CMG continues to raise the specific issue of branded content at CBC/Radio-Canada with CBC management as well as with the federal decision makers responsible for the public broadcaster. Below is the letter we sent to Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault. Our union has always advocated for our co-workers in Sales and supports advertising on all CBC platforms. We believe Tandem is different, and goes too far.     

Kim Trynacity, CBC Branch President


October 29, 2020

The Hon. Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Canadian Heritage

Subject: CBC/Radio-Canada Tandem blurs the lines between news and advertising

Dear Minister Guilbeault,

Thank you for taking the time to hear our concerns about the state of public broadcasting in Canada, and the current media crisis.

Recent months have been difficult ones at CBC/Radio Canada, for the journalists and media workers the public broadcaster employs who are also members of Canada’s media union, Canadian Media Guild / CWA Canada.  

We have endured more than one hundred job cuts, threats of losing local newscasts (a decision that was rescinded due to public pressure), and are now witnessing the aggressive foray of our national public broadcaster into the arena of “branded content”, or more precisely, paid advertisements masquerading as real news.

Without wide consideration or consultation, the Corporation has  launched  “CBC Tandem” – an advertising service which sells podcasts and news-like programming that look and sound remarkably like the journalism our members deliver to Canadians every day under the CBC brand.

At a time when it’s critical for the public to rely on trusted news sources, sponsored content blurs the lines between real, independent journalism and “fake news”.

While Canadians have long understood the need for CBC/Radio Canada to generate revenue from advertising, our members, including many respected journalists and other thoughtful advocates in various fields feel sponsored content goes too far.  There is major concern that such content can be designed to fool the listener or reader.

In announcing this new direction for the Corporation, Chief Revenue Officer Donald Lizotte described CBC Tandem in the following way:

“Clients wanted an integrated turnkey solution to create quality content and leverage the credibility of our network. I’m so pleased that we now offer this.”

We believe this contradicts  the critical role our national public broadcaster must play:

-Many Canadians are opposed to seeing CBC/Radio Canada’s  news content compromised in this way.

-In these challenging times of widespread misinformation and disinformation, there is even more need for CBC  to be a leader in safeguarding trust in our news services, on all platforms – not undermine it.

-The public relies on CBC/Radio-Canada for the quality journalism our members deliver. Generations of CBC workers have built the reputation of the public broadcaster – and their own – as trusted sources of independent news and information. This public asset must be protected for future generations of Canadians

-The separation between news and commercial interests must be clear at all times for CBC/Radio-Canada audiences.

We therefore appeal to you as the Minister responsible for the national public broadcaster to publicly encourage CBC/Radio-Canada to address the CBC Tandem issue.  

If the Corporation insists on maintaining such a controversial commercial service, it rightly belongs on an independent  ‘platform,’ that does not carry the CBC logo, and that will not interfere with or mimic the work of CBC/Radio-Canada journalists. 

Thank you for your help with this matter, and for your continued help and assistance with securing long term and adequate funding for the country’s national broadcaster.

Carmel Smyth, National President, Canadian Media Guild (CMG)
Kim Trynacity, CMG President at CBC/Radio-Canada

Canadian Media Guild | La Guilde canadienne des médias
CWA Canada, Local 30213 (Communications Workers of America)
SCA Canada, Section locale 30213 (Syndicat des communications d’Amérique)
www.cmg.ca | www.laguilde.ca

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