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  • Writer's pictureMatt Cundill

Will this Sign Influence Two Elections This Fall?

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

The federal election campaign is well underway and the first group to hit the campaign trail June 3 is not even running. The Friends of the CBC launched a lawn sign campaign showing support for the CBC. Since it was launched, thousands of signs have sprung up on lawns across the country.

Cundill CBC Signs

While the signs are predominately apolitical, the website clearly is not. This is an ABH (Anyone but Harper) campaign to the max. In today's media world where everyone is outraged by present moment, the truth is that every fiscally responsible government is going to be painted as inhospitable towards the CBC.

While Stephen Harper gets to wear the devil's horns today, the fact is that no one made more cuts to the CBC than Jean Chretien's Liberals in the 1990's. Looking back to the 2000 election campaign, the Friends of the CBC issued a press release reminding voters, "CBC funding had been cut by more than $400 million – or about 33%. The Liberals' post-election cuts to CBC even exceeded the Reform Party’s 1993 campaign promise to cut $365 million from CBC."

The cuts of the 1990's were deep and left visible scars. It was not just jobs, it was entire communities and transmitters that had their regional voices silenced.

Going forward, tough decisions will need to be made about a broadcaster that lost its hockey cash cow to Rogers and missed their Radio Two/Espace Musique ad budget by $13-million dollars.

Before you think this is an anti-CBC rant, I want to say that we need the CBC. Their budget should be dedicated to creating innovative programming in an era when TV and radio are confronted with time shifting and less time consuming. CBC Radio One has made progressive changes over the years, including moving to FM in many major markets, resulting in great ratings. They are doing a better job at creating content that can be consumed anytime. They are also better at social media than their competitors. Private broadcasters should be ripping pages from their playbook and investing some of their profits into the areas the CBC are succeeding at.

And whilst you thought the CBC signs were about the upcoming federal election, there is a second election underway in many radio markets across Canada. Outside of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, radio ratings are determined by Numeris. Radio listeners fill out a diary listing their radio listening. Under the terms of this ratings system, there are marketing rules that prohibit broadcasters from saying things like "Mark it down" and making references to voting or the ratings system itself. Does the Friends of the CBC lawn sign campaign affect the integrity of the Numeris diary procedure? No one has complained publicly yet but you can bet that if a private broadcaster had a marketing campaign featuring the word "vote", it would be viewed unfavorably and probably result in the station having its rating reduced.


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