Conservatives ask Twitter to label CBC accounts as ‘government-funded’ media

The opposition Conservative Party demanded that Twitter put a “government-funded” label on CBC-linked accounts, even as other broadcasters denounced the label for not clearly signaling their editorial independence.

On Tuesday, Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre tweeted a copy of a letter to the requesting companies.

In the letter, Poilievre requested that the label be applied to CBC’s English-language “news-related” accounts. But he made no mention of Radio Canada, the broadcaster’s French-language arm.

The social media giant currently defines “government-sponsored” media as one in which “government may have varying degrees of involvement in editing content”.

Poilievre said he thinks that applies to CBC.

But that was “clearly not the case,” the CBC said in a statement Wednesday, adding that it could not comment on the motivation behind Poilievre’s letter.

“As every Canadian knows, CBC/Radio-Canada is publicly funded. Its editorial independence is protected by the Broadcasting Act law,” a spokesperson for the broadcaster said.

Twitter added the descriptor to the BBC and National Public Radio accounts last week after initially labeling them as “state-affiliated” — a term typically reserved for state-run propaganda outlets in countries like Russia and China .

On Wednesday, Twitter changed the BBC’s “government-funded” label to “public-funded”, the third change in a week.

Elon Musk, who owns the platform, promised a change of approach in an interview with the BBC on Twitter Spaces on Tuesday.

Musk said that if Twitter used “the same words that the BBC uses to describe itself, it would probably be fine,” and that he respected the broadcaster, which is funded by the British public through license fees.

FRIENDS, a public broadcasting advocacy group, said it was a “ludicrous” idea that Poilievre would turn to Musk’s Twitter to “protect Canadians from disinformation.”

“It’s not funny that someone running for the leadership of one of the world’s most democracies doesn’t hesitate to compare CBC/Canada to Russia’s Sputnik TV, etc.,” said Mara Borr, the group’s executive director. Terman said. , in a statement.

“These tactics are irresponsible, dangerous, and undermine the very democracy that public institutions like the CBC/CAR work so desperately to preserve.”

NPR announced Wednesday that it will stop using Twitter after its account was misflagged. The US public broadcaster said the platform was undermining its credibility by “falsely suggesting that we are not editorially independent”.

NPR does receive funding from the U.S. government through grants from federal agencies and departments, as well as public broadcasters. But that represents less than 1% of NPR’s annual operating budget, the company said.

“We will not place our journalism on platforms that will knowingly undermine our credibility and the public’s understanding of our editorial independence,” an NPR spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday.

“We’re moving away from Twitter, but not from our audience and community. There are many ways to stay connected and keep up with NPR’s news, music and cultural content.”

It was the first major news outlet to make such a decision after Musk took over Twitter last year, as the social media company faces new scrutiny over how it filters the spread of disinformation.

The platform also recently removed the verification checkmark from The New York Times, which said it would not pay a monthly fee to maintain it.

The CBC said it had not yet made a decision on whether the company would continue to use Twitter if it decided to label it “government-funded,” and said it could not comment on hypotheticals.

In 2021-22, the CBC received more than $1.2 billion in government funding, down from about $1.4 billion in 2020-21.

—Mickey Djuric, Canadian Press

Conservative Party of CanadaFederal PoliticsMedia IndustrySocial Media

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