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

By Mickey Djuric
THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA – The Opposition Conservatives are asking Twitter to apply a “government-funded” label on accounts associated with the CBC, even as other broadcasters decry the tag for not making clear their editorial independence.

On Tuesday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre tweeted a copy of a letter addressed to the company making the request.

In the letter, Poilievre asked that the label be applied to CBC’s English “news-related” accounts. But he did not mention Radio-Canada, the broadcaster’s French-language arm.

The “government-funded” label appears above every tweet from accounts that are tagged with the description.

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

However, Twitter changed BBC’s “government-funded” label to “publicly funded” on Wednesday, the third change in a week, which Musk promised during an interview with BBC on Twitter Spaces on Tuesday.

Musk said that if Twitter used “the same words that the BBC uses to describe itself, that presumably would be OK” and that he respects the broadcaster, which is funded by the British public through a licensing fee.

The social-media giant currently defines “government-funded” media as outlets that “may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content.”

Poilievre said he believes that applies to CBC.

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

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

On Wednesday, NPR said it is quitting Twitter “because the platform is taking actions that undermine our credibility by falsely implying that we are not editorially independent.”

It’s the first major news outlet to make such a decision following Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter last year.

“We are not putting our journalism on platforms that have demonstrated an interest in undermining our credibility and the public’s understanding of our editorial independence,” a spokesperson for NPR said Wednesday in a statement.

“We are turning away from Twitter but not from our audiences and communities. There are plenty of ways to stay connected and keep up with NPR’s news, music, and cultural content.”

CBC said it hasn’t made a decision yet on whether it will continue to use Twitter if the company decides to label it as “government-funded,” saying it cannot comment on hypotheticals.

In 2021-22, the CBC received over $1.2 billion in government funding, a decrease from about $1.4 billion in 2020-21.