Against the Grain by Adam Klevinas

Apr 25, 2007

FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting challenges conventional academic interest group theory

Adam Klevinas is a third year undergraduate political science and journalism student at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. FRIENDS collaborated by granting interviews for this class assignment. 

Introduction and Hypothesis

Interest groups enhance participatory democracy in Canada by engaging people in activities that are directed toward influencing government decisions. Their purpose in the political system is integral: they influence government outputs in the form of implemented programs and policies, and sometimes even educate the public and government. However, the ability of interest groups to influence public policy is highly dependent on their characterization. Interest groups can be broken into two broad categories: institutional and issue-oriented. Other terms for these groups include economic or self-interest, and non-economic or promotional, respectively. To maintain continuity and clarity, institutional and issue-oriented will be the terms used throughout this paper. The difference between the two characterizations affects their ability to influence public policy as a result of their organizational structure, financial resources, tactics, goals, and the experience and quality of their personnel. Institutionalized groups are typified as being more effective because of their organizational continuity and cohesion, their exclusive knowledge of the appropriate areas of government and their clients, their stable membership, their clear and concrete operational objectives, and the organizational necessities upon which the credibility of the organization is based. On the other hand, issue-oriented groups are known to have weak organizational continuity and cohesion, poor knowledge of government and fluid membership. They also have difficulty formulating and sticking to long-term objectives and have little regard for their particular organizational mechanisms. All of these issues will be dealt with in more detail below by looking at the theory of both institutional and issue-oriented interest groups and a specific case study of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. Taking these brief characterizations into consideration, the following hypothesis will be contemplated: issue-oriented interest groups still have great difficulty communicating their message due to a lack of financial resources, formal headquarters, organizational structure or knowledgeable, professional staff.


The Role of Interest Groups

Interest groups are organized associations that engage in activity relating to government decisions and try to advance the group's common interest by influencing public policy. Although interest groups can be broken down into further categories, Paul Pross has identified four main characteristics. First, they have a formal organizational structure that allows them stability. Organization is a key feature as it permits them to establish their objectives and strategies for action. Second, interest groups are capable of articulating and aggregating interests. In this sense, they provide a source of mediation between the government and the individual by expressing collective opinions. This protects the individual from unjustifiable control by the government and as a result, interest groups act as a supplement to the electoral process. They also assist the political system by gathering support for issues and converting it into advice on public policy. This is a more responsive method than the electoral process as it allows the political process to better address social and economic differences in society. Third, they try to act within the political system to influence public policy. Finally, they aim to influence decision makers instead of trying to run for public office themselves. As a result of these characteristics, it is often the case that interest groups try to win the support of all parties. Another important function, however, is that they provide the government with useful information, whether it is fact or opinion, which helps formulated policy and have proposals tested. This communication process is a crucial link between citizens and the formulation of public policy as it helps the government keep in touch with opinion shifts and the reality of society. A further function of the relationship between government and interest groups is that bureaucrats often assign administrative responsibilities to some groups. Professional organizations sometimes regulate their own professional activity, as is the case with the Canadian Medical Association. A particular benefit to this function for the civil service is that professional groups distribute information to their group in journals that explains government policy. Interest groups have many functions, but their ability to influence public policy is considerably reflected in their organizational structure.

Institutional and Issue-Oriented Groups

Interest groups can be classified into two broad categories: institutional and issue-oriented. Although this paper focuses on an issue-oriented group, it is valuable to contrast institutional groups to evaluate their efficacy in the process of influencing public policy. Institutional groups are fairly well structured and endure through time. These groups, according to Pross, have five main characteristics, some of which have been briefly mentioned above. First, they possess organizational continuity and cohesion. They have a 'fairly clear delineation of responsibility and well-defined channels of communication to permit the orderly flow of information within the organization and to ensure that individuals perform the tasks assigned to them.'[1] This typically requires a sophisticated organizational structure that allows the group's many specific functions to take place in a smooth manner. These functions include preparing briefs, organization representations to officials, sitting on advisory boards, rallying membership support and creating a positive public image.[2] Continuity is important to ensure that favourable policies are implemented in the long-term and to remain aware of new policy evolutions. Second, Pross says institutional groups have extensive knowledge of those sectors of government that affect their members and that they benefit from trouble-free communication with them. The organization's officials can easily access the appropriate government official and know the necessary procedures that will allow them to be successful in bringing the group's views to their attention. Third, there is stable membership. Aside from the policy sphere, members benefit from affiliation to the group. For example, people of similar backgrounds who are like-minded provide mutual support for one another during hard times. For professional associations, institutional groups are sometimes so powerful that it is illegal to practice the profession without being a member or have a certification from the formal professional association. Other, less powerful groups have members that join the association because membership brings special benefits such as the rewards of collective bargaining or more simple things like group life insurance or travel discounts. These 'selective benefits' play an important role in maintaining stability in the group's membership. Since members are attracted to these 'selective benefits,' they are typically acquiescent 'to policy directions taken by career and elected leaders and is willing- within limits- to assign them the resources needed to carry out the group's political objectives.'[3] Since the group looks after its members' interests, it can count on their stability for a consistent period of time. Fourth, Pross points out that institutional groups have concrete and immediate operational objectives. He writes: 'General philosophies are usually broad enough to permit each group to bargain with government over the application of specific legislation or the achievement of particular concessions.'[4] Therefore, the method of negotiation is carried out in a pragmatic manner. Finally, institutional groups' 'organizational imperatives on which the credibility of the organization is based are generally more important than any particular objective or specific policy.'[5] Institutional groups adhere to informal rules because leaders work hard to make their environment safe for themselves and their members. Without these rules, leaders and government would have difficulty achieving their organizational goals. But, these rules come with their own caveats. For example, groups cannot publicly condemn civil servants because it would certainly result in sanctions against them. Consequently, institutional groups are reluctant to engage in pressure techniques such as trying to manipulate public opinion, fearing its adverse consequences. In reality, few institutional groups are this highly complex and comprehensive. Although many institutional groups possess substantial resources, they are not always able to satisfy all of the demands made by their members and government. As a result, institutional groups can be broken down into two further divisions: mature and fledgling. Mature groups share many characteristics of institutionalized groups but are less developed. They have a narrower organizational base and their behaviour may not suggest an absolute understanding of the relationship between institutionalized groups and governments. This could be a result of being less broadly based, having fewer resources or 'less depth and regularity of contact with government elites.[6] Fledgling groups are the result of their relatively recent emergence from being an issue-oriented group.

Pross' characterization of issue-oriented groups is the complete opposite of institutional groups. He follows the same five characterizations to define them. First, they have limited organizational continuity and cohesion. In fact, most are quite badly organized. This is a direct result of the fact that their concern with only one or two issues dominates their internal affairs, relations with government, and the public and with other groups. Issue-oriented groups pop up as a result of a particular issue. The group lets that particular issue dominate their concerns while excluding all others. As mentioned above, it strongly affects their organizational arrangements, which in turn prevents it from 'developing selective inducements, apart from the largely psychological rewards it can offer the leadership and a small group of supporters from whom the organization is a centre of social life.'[7] Second, their knowledge of government is minimal and often naïve. Issue-oriented groups are likely to be run by individuals who have little experience in the policy process. Third, Pross explains that their membership is very unpredictable and members disappear after they have achieved their goal. Further, a lack of resources makes it difficult to hold supporters together. Fourth, they have difficulty formulating and sticking to short-range objectives. Many groups fall victim to discouragement if they are not built around strong ideologies. Finally, issue oriented groups 'usually have a low regard for the organizational mechanisms they have developed for carrying out their goals.'[8] However, this isn't necessarily to their disadvantage. Issue-oriented groups are often more flexible than institutional groups which allows them to achieve their objectives through otherwise 'crude and self-defeating techniques.' According to Pross, this is because "they have no commitment to their own long-term survival; they are not bound by the considerations that often render institutional groups powerless."[9] This means that issue-oriented groups can engage the public by staging demonstrations and media events. Engaging the public is potentially the only way an issue-oriented group can challenge government decisions or policies. Sometimes, they embarrass the government into taking action. But their campaigns must involve daily media attention to keep the public's interest. As mentioned above, this particular technique is not available to institutional groups. However, for issue-oriented groups, it is ideal since they have little access and standing in the policy community. Further, if they do gain access to the policy community, their limited knowledge of its methods, language and philosophy will hinder their effectiveness. Although issue-oriented groups have significant difficulty influencing public policy, they are beneficial to the overall political system. They demand responses to emerging issues that would otherwise have difficulty getting the government's attention through more awkward means of political communication.


In order to influence public policy, it is ideal for interest groups to be organized in a way that best permits them to access the government structure. This has led many interest groups in Canada to adopt a federated structure. A structure of this type is logical for fields such as business, industry, agriculture and labour since they are economic interests regulated by the federal and provincial government. These groups require access at both levels of government to best articulate their demands. As a result, it is often the case that the organizational structure has a bureaucratic headquarters in Ottawa and in the provincial capitals. Some observers believe 'federalism weakens the cohesion of interest associations and in doing so ultimately weakens their effectiveness'[10] because of the dichotomy between the federal and provincial associations. This often results from the federated organization structure that establishes sub-centres of power. Struggles between maintaining a consensus position on an issue and not alienating provincial constituents have been known to occur. On the other hand, a federated organization structure can be beneficial because it gives the group multiple access points where pressure can be put on decision makers. Some groups locate their headquarters in areas that best suit the group's clientele. However, it must be noted that a federated structure is only unnecessary if the group is only subject to national regulation. It is clear that Canada's federal structure has influenced the location both institutional and issue-oriented interest groups choose for their formal headquarters. This choice has a direct effect on their ability to influence public policy because 'the process of accommodation in turn affects the structure and functioning of the group.'[11] Thus, location may not be a choice, but rather a necessity for the group's overall effectiveness.

Interest Group Funding

Institutional and issue-oriented groups differ considerably in terms of their available financial resources. Institutional groups have the benefit of a stable membership base to fundraise for their activities. For example, a professional based interest group such as the Canadian Medical Association has a mandatory accreditation program requiring doctors to belong to their group. This automatically ensures that all practicing health care practitioners in Canada will pay membership fees if they want to remain in practice and is a significant source of revenue for the group. Their ability to influence public policy is thus increased and, as Jackson and Jackson write, 'large budgets naturally assist in achieving and maintaining access to policy makers.'[12] For the Canadian Medical Association, members benefit because 'the CMA advocates on behalf of the profession to advance the views of physicians as they relate to the health of Canadians, the stability of Canada's health care system and the growth of the medical profession.'[13] But not all interest groups are fortunate to have naturally large budgets. As a result, many interest groups receive financial support from the government. A good example is the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) that, at its height, received eighty per cent of its funding from the federal government.[14] Most non-profit organizations that champion causes such as the environment, human rights or any other advocacy program are eligible for government funding from the Canadian Heritage department. Of course, many interest groups rely funding from the private sector. For example, Imperial Tobacco Canada finances the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council, an interest group that, among other things, protects the rights of smokers in Canada.[15] Finally, many interest groups rely on fundraising in the community as a whole to raise financial resources. The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, a promotional interest group that is the case study of this paper, relies on raising money from individual donors. As such, 'Friends of Canadian Broadcasting relies entirely upon donations from individual Canadians who 'care about Canadian content to finance its watchdog role, public policy initiatives, public opinion leadership and research activities.'[16] These four different mechanisms vary depending on which category the interest group falls under. Institutional groups rely more on membership fees and perhaps funding from the private sector, while issue-oriented groups are more likely to rely on fundraising from the community and government grants. Issue-oriented groups can also depend on private sector funding or membership fees, but this runs on a case-by-case basis. Regardless, financial resources play a big role in the group's ability to communicate their message.

Getting the Message Out

Interest groups, whether institutional or issue-oriented, need to communicate with the public and their members in order to get their message out. Institutional groups have the advantage of communicating to their own members via professional journals. They also have more direct access to decision makers as a result of their organizational structure than is the case with issue-oriented groups. They have no reason to resort to media coverage to influence policy. However, advancing technology has significantly improved the ability of both institutional and issue-oriented groups to communicate their message. The most notable and revolutionary mode of communication that has emerged is the Internet. The Internet has become the tool interest groups use to mobilize its members, educate policymakers or even influence the terms of the policy debate. As Christopher Bosso writes,

"In this regard, the "information superhighway" provides a heretofore unavailable mechanism by which groups of all sizes and types can transmit vast amounts of information to people more quickly, at a lower cost, and with greater convenience to both the sender and recipient."[17]

As a cost saving mechanism, the Internet has critically impacted interest groups in their ability to lower per-unit distribution costs. It also makes the transmission of information virtually instantaneous and allows groups to make the most of breaking issues. The benefits of the Internet as an outreach tool far outweigh the older, traditional methods of newspaper advertising, direct mail or 'curbside proselytizing.' For most interest groups, the Internet's most advantageous use is to publicize the group and its activities. A well designed website 'can grab attention, publicize, educate- even mobilize- all at the same time,'[18] according to Bosso. The Internet offers speed and convenience for potential and actual members while search engines and online directories make it easy to find an organization either by name or by issue. Groups also utilize e-mail to get their word out in a direct way. E-mail allows messages to maintain clarity through written communication, be quick and reliable, and also preserve a written record. In contrast to radio and television, which broadcasts to a wide-ranging audience, 'e-mail and the Internet offers a way to target media and information to discrete audiences, with individualized adjustments made according to the stored electronic profile of the recipient.'[19] This allows interest groups to customize messages to different divisions of its supporters depending on the specific issues and areas of concern. Aside from e-mail, interest groups can take advantage of audio, video, graphical and text formats of multimedia communication all at a relatively low cost. With respect to the internal organization of the group, the Internet also allows the leaders and members to communicate easily with one another through chat rooms, mimicking face-to-face conversation without the need for geographical proximity. This method also allows more than two people to communicate together at the same time. Given the communication benefits of the Internet, it logically follows that issue-oriented interest groups who rely on grassroots, outside activities such as protests or gaining media attention, greatly benefit from using interactive tools such as action alerts, online petitions and chat rooms for their members. As Bosso writes, 'organizations that depend on volunteers and local activists would find these tools especially useful for nurturing the grassroots.'[20] The Internet makes it possible for new groups to grow in size and impact more quickly than was previously the case. Fundraising has also been a crucial area that has been affected by the Internet. It gives interest groups, both issue-oriented and institutional, the opportunity to raise funds in an easier and less expensive manner. A website is less costly than direct mail and allows groups to target, send and process the responses. Web-based fundraising is appealing given how profitable it has proven in contrast to traditional fundraising methods. The following analysis indicates its profitability:

"…traditional direct mail typically generates a 1-1.5 percent response at a cost of 75 cents to $2 per piece. By contrast, "permission based" e-mail, messages to individuals who have directly signed up for e-mail on the organization's website, costs about 25 cents per unit and results in a 11.5 percent rate of participation."[21]

Clearly, a small, issue-oriented group would greatly benefit from this aspect of web-based fundraising. Their ability to cut costs and fundraise at the same time is a far more ideal situation than was the case in the past. The Internet, then, is a valuable tool for interest groups to convey information, recruit members, raise money and facilitate communication.

Case Study: Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
Friends of Canadian Broadcasting and the B.C. Government

In March 2004, the British Columbia government came under flak after proposing to sell the Knowledge Network, a public broadcaster dedicated to public education in the province. The Knowledge Network was owned and operated by the Open Learning Agency, a government body that Premier Gordon Campbell wanted to eliminate after receiving several offers from private organizations to buy the public broadcaster. Leading the fight against the privatization was an interest group called Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, an organization whose goal is to 'defend and enhance the quality and quantity of Canadian programming in the Canadian audio-visual system.'[22] The following analysis of Friends will examine the group's organizational structure, financial resource availability, strategies, ability to influence public policy, and how these characteristics apply to the Knowledge Network case.


The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting fall into the issue-oriented interest group category. They do not have an identifiable membership, as would be the case with a institutional group such as the Canadian Medical Association. Consequently, the members of Friends come from all walks of life. The common link among its nearly 100,000 members is that they all care about the quality and quantity of Canadian programming through audio-visual systems (i.e. television and radio.) In this respect, the group fits the characteristic of an issue-oriented group that speaks on behalf of an issue that doesn't necessarily benefit individuals, but rather an entire group. The group's role as a watchdog is also complimented by its work in public policy initiatives, public opinion leadership and research activities. Friends mobilizes these members to communicate their concerns over particular issues with the government by fax, e-mail, phone, post or in person. In the Knowledge Network case, Friends engaged its nearly 13, 500 supporters in British Columbia by setting up a web-based action centre where they were able to easily send Premier Campbell a message. Nearly seventy-five percent of the members inundated the Premier's office with messages. As this case coincided with the nomination process for a provincial election campaign, Friends also provided a link on their website to Campbell's riding office for the nearly 200 members it had in his riding. According to the group's general manager and spokesperson Ian Morrison, every member was successful in delivering a personal message conveying the importance of the Knowledge Network to the Premier.

Friends is funded by individual donations to fund its activities. They do no accept contributions from organizations that hold a license from Ottawa's broadcast regulatory agency, the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) or from any organization affiliated with CRTC licensees. Further, Friends does not accept any government or corporate money. The group feels that any government money would come with a 'subtle muzzle.'[23] Consequently, any funding must come from individuals or groups who rest at an arm's length from CRTC licensees. To operate, Friends works with a $2-million per annum budget that they receive from roughly 40,000 donors.[24] The average donation is $50 and ranges between $2 and $1200 per donation.[25] Donations are not tax refundable as they are after-tax contributions and contribute toward the group's purpose of influencing public policy.[26] Morrison explained that the group's budget is sufficient for what they are trying to accomplish. He said that more money would help, but not as much as complete independence from vested interests that often come from private or corporate donors. Any corporate connections, regardless of how far away they are from Friends itself, have the ability to put pressure on the group's actions, according to Morrison. In the Knowledge Network case, Morrison said Friends' budget allowed it to accomplish its goals and influence public policy effectively. Their chosen methods to challenge Premier Campbell, as mentioned above, were cost efficient. This allowed them to concentrate their financial resources on an influential Ipsos-Reid poll of B.C. residents that was forwarded to Premier Campbell and which is dealt with in more detail below.

Friends is an entirely voluntary organization and in contrast to the norm for issue-oriented groups, they don't have problems recruiting members. Over eighty per cent of Canadians surveyed support their issues.[27] Friends doesn't have a staff but instead has what is called a 'Steering Committee.' It consists of a general manager, a chairperson, the committee itself and an advisory council that contributes to Friends' work. The group's primary reason for not having a traditional infrastructure- having a staff or a formal headquarters, which will be dealt with below-, is to keep operating costs at a minimum. As a result, their organizational structure does not fit with that of institutional groups, but it isn't in disarray either as is suggested for issue-oriented groups. They have a series of focused contractual relationships with companies and individuals. Four firms help with fundraising, three assist with research, two with website management and web action centres and one with communications. The organization itself is purely virtual; they have no official headquarters, just a post office box. Their presence is strictly located on the Internet, through which the individuals and groups mentioned above work. In the pre-Internet era, their post office box served as their 'headquarters' and communication between members was done either by telephone or direct mail.

When it comes to expertise in the working of government, Morrison says the volunteers involved in the 'Steering Committee' and the advisory council are highly knowledgeable. This helps the group's overall effect to influence public policy and stands in stark contrast to Pross' characterization of issue-oriented interest groups. Pross wrote that issue-oriented interest groups 'generally have little standing in the policy community, and quite apart from lacking access to it, they may only have limited knowledge of its methods, its language, and its philosophy- the essentials for participating in its discussions.'[28] In fact, Morrison says that Friends is often invited to share their knowledge and opinion with the government. Recently, a Vancouver-based member of Friends appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to discuss their concerns with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's responsibilities for regional programming. Further, Morrison explained that Friends' goes about its business with relative ease when it comes to accessing decision makers in order to influence public policy. He said communication between the group and government is never a problem. However, Friends doesn't target one specific area of government to influence public policy. They act on a case-by-case basis, which means the point of access is always different. Access points vary between the Prime Minister, the Premier of the province, Cabinet, committees, individual MPs or the CRTC.

It was mentioned above that interest groups often structure their organization in a way that best permits them to access decision makers in the government. As a result, many groups adopt a federated structure while others concentrated themselves close to their clientele. Since Friends doesn't have a physical headquarters, this idea does not apply to them based on the theory presented above. Morrison explained that Friends deals with the federal government nearly ninety-eight per cent of the time. However, he didn't feel that the group's advisory council and steering committee members who are located in Ottawa were any more effective influencing public policy than those members spread across the country. Friends' advisory council and steering committee members deal with issues as they arise in their region. The above example of a Vancouver based member presenting in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage reinforces this idea. Further, the federal government doesn't always work out of Ottawa and as was the case on this occasion, worked out of Vancouver. However, in certain respects, Friends does adopt a federated structure, but not for the theoretical reasons mentioned. For Friends, their broad array of members is able to influence politicians from most Canadian electoral ridings. The group feels that their power comes from the diverse and secure base of the 66,000 households that support it and are able to influence politicians over a broad array of electoral ridings. Friends' members live from Vancouver and Canmore in the West, to Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax in the East. Further, the group's Internet based organization allows it to communicate with its members, to raise policy concerns and inform the general public anywhere in Canada.

Communication has always been an issue with issue-oriented interest groups. Whether it was a question of communicating with fellow members, the general public, or to the decision makers of public policy, a lack of financial resources and poor organization structure has complicated this task. But in the case of Friends, this doesn't apply. Morrison explained that Friends communicates regularly with its members through meetings and telephone calls. He said regular communication helps maintain the group's stability and continuity, partially refuting Pross' characterization that issue-oriented interest groups have 'fluid membership.' Pross also indicated that issue-oriented groups often disappear after they achieve their goal. However, Morrison explained that since Friends started in 1985 with 1, 200 members, it has never once declined in membership, but rather has grown to its current size of 100,000.[29] This steadiness has given Friends a predictable membership base, once again contesting Pross. Morrison further indicated that such continuity has also given their credibility a chance to gradually rise over the years. In turn, this has given them an opportunity to influence policies over the long run and be well known to the government. In addition, Morrison added that the current Harper government is well aware of their presence. Friends also has a variety of mechanisms to communicate its message to the general public. Morrison said their programs and campaigns get noticed via the Internet, advertisements, media posts, telephone and through direct, in-person contact. Friends also sponsors public opinion polls and uses the information in inform its approach to influencing public policy. In the Knowledge Network case, Friends teamed up with the Ipsos-Reid polling firm and The West Coast Media Society to deliver a final product which indicated that sixty-nine percent of respondents were against the B.C. government selling the network to a private broadcaster. The survey was shared with the 13, 379 B.C. households that were members of Friends as well as with Premier Campbell. Given the effectiveness and availability of these methods, an issue-oriented group like Friends does not need to resort to 'crude and self-defeating techniques'[30] as Pross indicates, to get an issue noticed. Institutional interest groups used to exclude grabbing the attention of policy makers by attracting media coverage through demonstrations and 'inflammatory rhetoric,' to avoid any actions that could have resulted in sanctions against the group. However, now that issue-oriented groups such as Friends have the attention of policy makers, they no longer need to resort to these techniques to mobilize supporters either. Morrison explained that Friends is capable of influencing public opinion through its high quality research, its availability to the media and again, the accumulated credibility of their positions on issues. Furthermore, their non-partisan position allows them to consistently communicate with decision makers, regardless of which party holds the reigns of power.

Finally, for a group like Friends, who have limited financial resources, the Internet has played a big role in allowing them to communicate their message to the public, its members, and decision makers. It has allowed Friends to communicate within their financial capabilities to stay in touch with members and keep the group together. In addition, the 'Media Monitor' section of their website is Canada's largest and most complete database for media-related material. It contains public information concerning the broadcasting system, media ownership and cultural policies. It also includes a 'Media Monitor Digest,' a bi-weekly e-mail sent to subscribers and members to keep them updated on developments. Aside from Canadian content, the site contains 8,000 pages of information shared through a working relationship with the Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development and the European Association of Viewers and Listeners Associations. The Internet has helped Friends defy another significant problem faced by issue-oriented interest groups when it comes to communicating its message. It not only facilitates communication with its existing members, but it has permitted them to recruit more 'new action supporters'- individuals who belong to the group but have not yet committed to making donations. Morrison said 'new action supporters' are a target for the group to convert into financial supporters. However, he said converting financial supporters into action supporters is also vital. The Internet has also helped Friends cut fundraising costs. Morrison said saving money on stamps and phone calls has allowed them to commit more money to action, not to mention how much faster they can produce results. Along the same line, the Internet has allowed Friends' productivity to rise significantly. It saves costs on internal communication and also makes things happen faster. Internet technology has also motivated the group and its members to contact the various points of government with greater ease. Morrison says individuals are empowered by the technology as it allows them to send a message in very little time. Their efforts have become more time efficient, which allows them to be more effective as more people can send messages to different places. The Knowledge Network case greatly benefited from the available Internet technology that was available to Friends. Bombarding Premier Campbell's office with messages as well as diffusing information over the Internet was one of the essential factors that led to the case's overall success.


The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting has proven to be an effective interest group. They defy Pross' characterization of issue-oriented groups in almost every way. Their success at preventing the privatization of the Knowledge Network is just one example of their success in influencing public policy. If Pross' characterizations of issue-oriented interest groups are paralleled with the success of the Knowledge Network case, it can be concluded that issue-oriented groups do not have as much trouble communicating their message as was previously thought. First, Friends' organizational stability and cohesion is strong. They were able to mobilize their nearly 13,500 members from British Columbia to have some sort of positive impact on Premier Campbell's government. While the Internet was a big help, their ability to mobilize their already motivated members to act was key to the success of maintaining the Knowledge Network as a publicly run broadcaster. Second, their extensive knowledge of the policy area gave them the advantage of knowing who to target and how to do it. Their public opinion poll, which was forwarded to the Premier and also publicized on B.C.'s largest dinner hour television show, was an effective tool and strategy. Third, their stable membership of nearly 13,500 members in the province of British Columbia alone contributed to their overall success. The fact that the group keeps growing, despite moving on to different issues and working on a case-by-case basis also refutes Pross' idea that issue-oriented groups have fluid membership. This argument carries into the fourth point, that issue-oriented groups sometimes fall victim to discouragement and have trouble sticking to short-range objectives. Friends provide a strong example to the contrary. It has successfully dealt with many issues before and after the Knowledge Network. It is currently working with the House of Commons Heritage Committee in a fight to maintain CBC television service outside of major urban areas. Finally, concerning Pross' last characterization, Friends is a hybrid between staging media events and dealing directly with the government. They do both by engaging the public through advertisements, media and public opinion polls but also deal with the government, as was the case with the Knowledge Network. Further, they have multiple access points with the government and are well known in their respective policy sectors. This hybrid formula gives Friends an increased chance of success to influence public policy. Their structure is also ideal; members spread across the country mobilize to deal with issues as they come up. Friends' virtual presence is also advantageous in the sense that action can be coordinated from any part of the country and that it is a cost saving mechanism. Their structure empowers access across Canada, although the Internet has facilitated this ability to a higher degree. In fact, as mentioned above, the Internet has improved Friends in a wide range of areas that include organization, communication, fundraising, and productivity. It has also been a cost saving mechanism, which helps the group use its budget in the most efficient manner. Although Morrison is content with Friends' operating budget, any saved money goes directly toward the group's actions. Regardless, their budget has enabled them to perform their activities without any great hindrance. In conclusion, it is fair to say that an issue-oriented group like Friends does not fit Pross' mold. They have adopted some institutional group characteristics while maintaining a degree of flexibility that is afforded to issue-oriented groups. Most importantly, the right people hear their message in the right places. As proof, the Knowledge Network case shows that Friends is an effective issue-oriented interest group.

[1] Pross, Paul, A. Group Politics and Public Policy. Oxford University Press. Toronto. 1986. Pg. 114

[2] Pross, Paul, A. Group Politics and Public Policy. Oxford University Press. Toronto. 1986. Pg. 115

[3] Pross, Paul, A. Group Politics and Public Policy. Oxford University Press. Toronto. 1986. Pg. 115

[4] Pross, Paul, A. Group Politics and Public Policy. Oxford University Press. Toronto. 1986. Pg. 115

[5] Jackson, Robert J. and Jackson, Doreen. Politics in Canada. Pearson Education Canada Inc. Toronto. 2006. Pg. 475

[6] Pross, Paul, A. Group Politics and Public Policy. Oxford University Press. Toronto. 1986. Pg. 116

[7] Pross, Paul, A. Group Politics and Public Policy. Oxford University Press. Toronto. 1986. Pg. 117

[8] Pross, Paul, A. Group Politics and Public Policy. Oxford University Press. Toronto. 1986. Pg. 117

[9] Pross, Paul, A. Group Politics and Public Policy. Oxford University Press. Toronto. 1986. Pg. 117

[10] Bakvis, Herman and Chandler, William M., Federalism and the Role of the State. University of Toronto Press. Toronto. 1987. Pg. 171

[11] Thorburn, Hugh G., Interest Groups in the Canadian Federal System. University of Toronto Press. Toronto. 1985. Pg. 53

[12] Jackson, Robert J. and Jackson, Doreen. Politics in Canada. Pearson Education Canada Inc. Toronto. 2006. Pg. 478

[13] Canadian Medical Association. Accessed March 24, 2007

[14] Jackson, Robert J. and Jackson, Doreen. Politics in Canada. Pearson Education Canada Inc. Toronto. 2006. Pg. 479

[15] Imperial Tobacco Canada. Accessed March 24, 2007

[16] Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. Accessed March 24, 2007

[17] Cigler, Allan J. and Loomis, Burdett A., Interest Group Politics. CQ Press. Washington, D.C. 2002. Pg. 97

[18] Cigler, Allan J. and Loomis, Burdett A., Interest Group Politics. CQ Press. Washington, D.C. 2002. Pg. 98

[19] Cigler, Allan J. and Loomis, Burdett A., Interest Group Politics. CQ Press. Washington, D.C. 2002. Pg 98-99

[20] Cigler, Allan J. and Loomis, Burdett A., Interest Group Politics. CQ Press. Washington, D.C. 2002. Pg. 100

[21] Cigler, Allan J. and Loomis, Burdett A., Interest Group Politics. CQ Press. Washington, D.C. 2002. Pg.102

[22] Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. Accessed March 19, 2007.

[23] Interview conducted with Ian Morrison, March 18, 2007

[24] Interview conducted with Ian Morrison, March 18, 2007

[25] Interview conducted with Ian Morrison, March 18, 2007

[26] Interview conducted with Ian Morrison, March 18, 2007

[27] Ipsos-Reid. Broadcasting Issues, Canada/US Relations and Canadian Public Opinion. May 2004. Pg. 3 (Accessed March 24, 2007)

[28] Pross, Paul, A. Group Politics and Public Policy. Oxford University Press. Toronto. 1986. Pg. 118

[29] Interview conducted with Ian Morrison, March 24, 2007

[30] Pross, Paul, A. Group Politics and Public Policy. Oxford University Press. Toronto. 1986. Pg. 117


  1. Pross, Paul, A. Group Politics and Public Policy. Oxford University Press. Toronto. 1986.
  2. Jackson, Robert J. and Jackson, Doreen. Politics in Canada. Pearson Education Canada Inc. Toronto. 2006.
  3. Bakvis, Herman and Chandler, William M., Federalism and the Role of the State. University of Toronto Press. Toronto. 1987.
  4. Thorburn, Hugh G., Interest Groups in the Canadian Federal System. University of Toronto Press. Toronto. 1985.
  5. Cigler, Allan J. and Loomis, Burdett A., Interest Group Politics. CQ Press. Washington, D.C. 2002
  6. Friends of Canadian Broadcasting. Accessed March 19, 2007 and 24, 2007
  7. Canadian Medical Association. Accessed March 24, 2007
  8. Imperial Tobacco Canada. Accessed March 24, 2007
  9. Ipsos-Reid. Accessed via March 24, 2007
  10. Primary Research. Interviews with Ian Morrison (March 18, 2007 and March 21, 2007)