Advertising on CBC Vital to Canadian Broadcast System: CMDC, ACA by Chris Powell

Apr 16, 2014

Source: Marketing Magazing

The continued presence of advertising on CBC services is vital to not only the public broadcaster’s future, but to the health of the Canadian broadcast system, say two of Canada’s leading advertising organizations.

In a joint appearance before the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications last week, the Canadian Media Directors’ Council (CMDC) and Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA) dismissed suggestions that the CBC should become a commercial-free service in the wake of funding reductions and the impending loss of as much as $100 million a year in NHL revenues.

They were among several groups and individuals appearing before the senate committee as part of a study examining challenges faced by the CBC in the changing broadcast environment. Previous presenters included former head of English services Richard Stursberg, Canadian Media Research Inc. president Barry Kiefl and the Canadian Media Production Association.

Janet Callaghan, the CMDC’s executive director and a principal in Toronto media consultancy Callaghan Osborne, argued that eliminating CBC’s commercial inventory would significantly reduce “necessary and healthy competition” in the Canadian broadcast environment, and should not be contemplated.

She said that subtracting CBC inventory from the marketplace would have a ripple effect on the entire broadcasting system, leading private broadcasters to raise their advertising rates and ultimately causing advertisers to divert more of their money to alternate advertising channels.

She warned that the impact of making the CBC commercial-free would be acutely felt in Quebec, where Radio-Canada boasts a significant audience share. “[Radio-Canada’s] commercial inventory plays a significant role in making Quebec audiences accessible to advertisers and ensuring competitive pricing in that market,” said Callaghan.

Bob Reaume, the ACA’s vice-president of policy and research, advocated for CBC Radio to be further opened up to advertisers, saying it could help alleviate financial pressures and underwrite content costs. Last year, the CRTC granted the public broadcaster permission to carry advertising on a limited basis.

“Many unique, desirable and commercially viable audiences are generated by CBC Radio,” he told the committee. “[These are] audiences that could be easily monetized to help contribute to the achievement of the public broadcaster’s goals.”

Advertising could be incorporated in a less intrusive manner than on private stations, he said. “It doesn’t have to be a full load of intrusive 30- and 60-second commercials on radio; it can be done in a more genteel, corporate sponsorship way,” he said. “CBC Radio has some fantastic programs that advertisers would love to step up to.”

While some previous speakers have suggested that eliminating advertising would enable the CBC to go back to create high-minded programming and quality journalism free of ratings pressure, MediaVest Canada president and CMDC board member Anne Myers dismissed the idea.

“We would unequivocally state that we do not believe that an advertising environment and high journalistic standards are mutually exclusive concepts,” she said.

Myers acknowledged that the loss of NHL hockey revenue presents a significant challenge for the public broadcaster, but said it also represents an opportunity for the service to re-imagine its strategic vision and programming strategy.

Advertising, she said, should remain part of any future strategy. “Considering any approach that exacerbates that loss of advertising funding will only compound the change process,” she said.

All three presenters noted that the CBC also offers a chance for advertiser integration that can’t be matched by its private competitors, which rely on U.S. programming for the bulk of their schedule.

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