Spectre of ads on CBC Radio raised as board meets to discuss funding woes

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TORONTO - CBC executives met Monday to discuss strategies for the economic downturn as a watchdog group warned against putting ads on CBC Radio - a possibility that the public broadcaster raised last month.

TORONTO - CBC executives met Monday to discuss strategies for the economic downturn as a watchdog group warned against putting ads on CBC Radio - a possibility that the public broadcaster raised last month.
CBC spokesman Marco Dube would not speculate on the nature of the closed-door meeting, expected to continue Tuesday, saying only that a difficult economic climate will force it ''to make difficult choices that will affect our people and our programs.''
Ian Morrison, spokesman for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, predicted deep cuts to staff and programming, but also said that the broadcaster has been eyeing the ad revenue potential of CBC Radio.
He pointed to a speech CBC president Hubert Lacroix gave to the Empire Club of Canada in February in which Lacroix said the CBC may have to look at ''increasing the advertising we accept on the air.''
Morrison says that can only mean one thing.
''They're already selling all they can (on television) and they're saying we're not getting as much money for it so where could they ''increase advertising we accept on the air?' '' asked Morrison, whose group launched an online campaign late last week to protest ads on CBC Radio.
''They only have one other vehicle - radio.''
Dube would only say that the two-day meeting was part of an ongoing budget-planning process.
''We are facing difficult choices and we will have to make difficult choices that will affect our people and our programs but until we hear more on that we cannot speculate on anything in particular,'' he said from Ottawa.
''We will be able to communicate something clearer, probably around the beginning of the next fiscal year (April 1).''
In addition to increased advertising, the CBC has said other budgetary options could including selling off assets, increasing American programming and reducing news coverage.
Morrison said research data indicated radio ads could yield $95 million per year, but it was not clear if that figure accounted for the current recession.
Still, he noted that several obstacles would make it difficult for the CBC to go this route. For one thing, the CRTC mandates that CBC Radio be ad free and Morrison said it was unlikely to change its position. In addition, small-town private radio would likely lobby against increased ad competition and find a sympathetic ear from the Tory government, he said.
Such a move would also undoubtedly raise a firestorm among core listeners.

Organizations: CBC Radio, Canadian Broadcasting, Empire Club of Canada CRTC

Geographic location: TORONTO, Ottawa

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