In 1929, the Aird Commission on public broadcasting recommended the creation of a national radio broadcast network. A major concern was the growing influence of American radio broadcasting as U.S.-based networks began to expand into Canada. Meanwhile, Canadian National Railways was making a radio network to keep its passengers entertained and give it an advantage over its rival, CP. This, the CNR Radio, is the forerunner of the CBC. Graham Spry and Alan Plaunt lobbied intensely for the project on behalf of the Canadian Radio League. In 1932 the government of R.B. Bennett established the CBC's predecessor, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC).
The CRBC took over a network of radio stations formerly set up by a federal Crown corporation, the Canadian National Railway. The network was used to broadcast programming to riders aboard its passenger trains, with coverage primarily in central and eastern Canada. On November 2, 1936, the CRBC was reorganised under its present name. While the CRBC was a state-owned company, the CBC was a Crown corporation on the model of the BBC. Leonard Brockington was the CBC's first chairman.
For the next few decades, the CBC was responsible for all broadcasting innovation in Canada. This was in part because, until 1958, it was not only a broadcaster, but the chief regulator of Canadian broadcasting. It used this dual role to snap up most of the clear-channel licences in Canada. It began a separate French-language radio network in 1937. It introduced FM radio to Canada in 1946, though a distinct FM service wasn't launched until 1960.
Television broadcasts from the CBC began on September 6, 1952, with the opening of a station in Montreal, Quebec (CBFT), and a station in Toronto, Ontario (CBLT) opening two days later. The CBC's first privately owned affiliate television station, CKSO in Sudbury, Ontario, launched in October 1953. (At the time, all private stations were expected to affiliate with the CBC, a condition that relaxed in 1960–61 with the launch of CTV.)
From 1944 to 1962, the CBC split its English-language radio network into two services known as the Trans-Canada Network and the Dominion Network. The latter, carrying lighter programs including American radio shows, was dissolved in 1962, while the former became known as CBC Radio. (In the late 1990s, CBC Radio was rebranded as CBC Radio One and CBC Stereo as CBC Radio Two. The latter was re-branded slightly in 2007 as CBC Radio 2.)
On July 1, 1958, CBC's television signal was extended from coast to coast. The first Canadian television show shot in colour was the CBC's own The Forest Rangers in 1963. Colour television broadcasts began on July 1, 1966, and full-colour service began in 1974. In 1978, CBC became the first broadcaster in the world to use an orbiting satellite for television service, linking Canada "from east to west to north".
Starting in 1967 and continuing until the mid-1970s, the CBC provided limited television service to remote and northern communities. Transmitters were built in a few locations and carried a four-hour selection of black-and-white videotaped programs each day. The tapes were flown into communities to be shown, then transported to other communities, often by the "bicycle" method used in television syndication. Transportation delays ranged from one week for larger centres to almost a month for small communities.
The first FCP station was started in Yellowknife in 1967, the second in Whitehorse in 1968. Additional stations were added from 1969 to 1972. Most stations were fitted for the Anik satellite signal during 1973, carrying 12 hours of colour programming. Broadcasts were geared to either the Atlantic time zone (UTC−4 or −3) or the Pacific time zone (UTC−8 or −7) even though the audience resided in communities in time zones varying from UTC−5 to UTC−8.
Some of these stations used non-CBC callsigns such as CFWH-TV in Whitehorse, while some others used the standard CB_T callsign.
Television programs originating in the north without the help of the south began with one half-hour per week in the 1980s with Focus North and graduating to a daily half-hour newscast, Northbeat, in the late 1990s.1966: "Television is CBC"
c. 1970: "When you watch, watch the best"
1977: "Bringing Canadians Together"
1980: "We Are the CBC"
1984: "Look to us for good things" (general) / "Good to Know" (news and public affairs)
1986–1989: "The Best on the Box"
1989–1992: "CBC and You"
1992–1994: "Go Public" / "CBC: Public Broadcasting" (to emphasize that CBC is a public broadcaster)
1995–2001: "Television to Call Our Own" and "Radio to Call Our Own"
2001–2007: "Canada’s Own"
2007–2014: "Canada Lives Here"
2009–present: "Mon monde est à Radio-Canada, SRC" (English translation: My world is on Radio-Canada)
2011: "Yours to Celebrate" (French: "Un monde à célébrer") (for the CBC's 75th anniversary)
2014–present: "Love CBC" / "Fall for CBC"
2016: "Yours to Celebrate" (French: "Un monde à célébrer") (for the CBC's 80th anniversary)
The original logo of the CBC, designed by École des Beaux Arts student Hortense Binette and used between 1940 and 1958, featured a map of Canada (and from 1940 to 1949, the Newfoundland) and a thunderbolt design used to symbolise broadcasting.
In 1958, the CBC adopted a new logo for use at the end of network programs. Designed by scale model artist Jean-Paul Boileau, it consisted of the legends "CBC" and "Radio-Canada" overlaid on a map of Canada. For French programming, the "Radio-Canada" was placed on top.
The "Butterfly" logo was designed for the CBC by Hubert Tison in 1966 to mark the network's progressing transition from black-and-white to colour television, much in the manner of the NBC peacock logo. It was used at the beginning of programs broadcast in colour, and was used until all CBC television programs had switched to colour. A sketch on the CBC Television program Wayne & Shuster once referred to this as the logo of the "Cosmic Butterfly Corporation."
The fourth logo, known internally as "the gem", was designed for the CBC by graphic artist Burton Kramer in December 1974, and it is the most widely recognised symbol of the corporation. The main on-air identification featured the logo kaleidoscopically morphing into its form while radiating outward from the centre of the screen on a blue background. This animated version, which went to air in December 1974, is also known colloquially as "The Exploding Pizza". The appearance of this logo marked the arrival of full-colour network television service. The large shape in the middle is the letter C, which stands for Canada, and the radiating parts of the C symbolise broadcasting. The original theme music for the 1974 CBC ident was a three-note woodwind orchestral fanfare accompanied by the voiceover "This is CBC" or "Ici Radio-Canada". This was later replaced by the more familiar 11-note synthesised jingle, which was used until December 31, 1985. The logo is also referred to as the "CBC Pizza".
The updated one-colour version of the gem/pizza logo, created by Hubert Tison and Robert Innes, was introduced on January 1, 1986, and with it was introduced a new series of computer graphic-generated television idents for CBC and Radio-Canada. These idents consisted of different background colours corresponding to the time of day behind a translucent CBC gem logo, accompanied by different arrangements of the CBC's new, orchestrated five-note jingle. The logo was changed to one colour, generally dark blue on white, or white on dark blue, in 1986. Print ads and most television promos, however, have always used a single-colour version of this logo since 1974.
In 1992, CBC updated its logo design to make it simpler and more red (or white on a red background). The new logo design, created by Swiss-Canadian design firm Gottschalk + Ash, reduces the number of geometric sections in the logo to 13 instead of the previous logo's 25, and the "C" in the centre of the logo became a simple red circle. According to graphic designer Todd Falkowsky, the logo's red colour also represents Canada in a symbolic way. With the launch of the current design, new television idents were introduced in November that year, also using CGI. Since the early 2000s, it has also appeared in white (sometimes red) on a textured or coloured background. It is now CBC/Radio-Canada's longest-used logo, surpassing the original incarnation of the Gem logo and the CBC's 1940 logo.
As the oldest operating Canadian broadcaster, and the largest in terms of national availability of its various networks, the nickname "Mother Corp" and variants thereof are sometimes used in reference to the CBC.
A popular satirical nickname for the CBC, commonly used in the pages of Frank, is "the Corpse."
There is an urban legend that a CBC announcer once referred to the network on the air as the "Canadian Broadcorping Castration", which also sometimes remains in use as a satirical nickname. Quotations of the supposed spoonerism are wildly variable in detail on what was said, when it was said or even who the announcer was, but there is no evidence to confirm the truth of the story. The only known recording of this phrase being spoken was created by American radio producer Kermit Schaefer for one of his best-selling Pardon My Blooper record albums in the 1950s, and is not in fact a real recording of a CBC broadcast.
The Conservative Party referred to it as the "Communist Broadcasting Corporation" for the supposed left-wing bias in its news coverage. Some have referred to the CBC as the "Corporate Broadcasting Corporation" for an alleged free market bias, though the CBC is largely publicly funded.
The CBC has also been mistakenly referred to as the Canadian Broadcasting Company; the CBC has been a crown corporation since its foundation.
The 1991 Broadcasting Act states that...
...the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as the national public broadcaster, should provide radio and television services incorporating a wide range of programming that informs, enlightens and entertains;
...the programming provided by the Corporation should:be predominantly and distinctively Canadian,
reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions,
actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,
be in English and in French, reflecting the different needs and circumstances of each official language community, including the particular needs and circumstances of English and French linguistic minorities,
strive to be of equivalent quality in English and French,
contribute to shared national consciousness and identity,
be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means and as resources become available for the purpose, and
reflect the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canada.
As a crown corporation, the CBC operates at arm's length (autonomously) from the government in its day-to-day business. The corporation is governed by the Broadcasting Act of 1991, under a board of directors and is directly responsible to Parliament through the Department of Canadian Heritage. General management of the organization is in the hands of a president, who is appointed by the Governor General of Canada in Council, on the advice of the prime minister.
According to The Hill Times, a clause in Bill C-60, an omnibus budget implementation bill introduced by the government of Stephen Harper in 2013, "appears to contradict a longstanding arm’s-length relationship between the independent CBC and any government in power." The clause allows the "prime minister’s cabinet to approve salaries, working conditions and collective bargaining positions for the CBC."
In accordance with the Broadcasting Act, a board of directors is responsible for the management of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The board is made up of 12 members, including the Chair and the President and CEO. A current list of directors is available from the Canadian Governor in Council here.1936–1939: Leonard Brockington
1940–1944: René Morin
1944–1945: Howard B. Chase
1945–1958: A. Davidson Dunton
1958–1967: J. Alphonse Ouimet
1968–1972: George F. Davidson
1972–1975: Laurent A. Picard
1975–1982: A.W. Johnson
1982–1989: Pierre Juneau
1989: William T. Armstrong
1989–1994: Gérard Veilleux
1994–1995: Anthony S. Manera
1995–1999: Perrin Beatty
1999–2007: Robert Rabinovitch
2008–present: Hubert T. Lacroix
EnglishEsther Enkin (January 1, 2013 – present)
Kirk LaPointe (November 2010 – 2012)
Vince Carlin (January 2006–December 2010)
David Bazay (1995–January 2006)
FrenchPierre Tourangeau (November 14, 2011 – present)
Julie Miville-Dechêne (April 1, 2007 – July 2011)
Renaud Gilbert (2000–2007)
Marcel Pépin (1997–1999)
Mario Cardinal (1993–1997)
Bruno Gauron (1992)
For the fiscal year 2006, the CBC received a total of $1.53 billion from all revenue sources, including government funding via taxpayers, subscription fees, advertising revenue, and other revenue (e.g., real estate). Expenditures for the year included $616 million for English television, $402 million for French television, $126 million for specialty channels, a total of $348 million for radio services in both languages, $88 million for management and technical costs, and $124 million for "amortization of property and equipment." Some of this spending was derived from amortization of funding from previous years.
Among its revenue sources for the year ending March 31, 2006, the CBC received $946 million in its annual funding from the federal government, as well as $60 million in "one-time" supplementary funding for programming. However, this supplementary funding has been repeated annually for a number of years. This combined total is just over a billion dollars annually and is a source of heated debate. To supplement this funding, the CBC's television networks and websites sell advertising, while cable/satellite-only services such as CBC News Network additionally collect subscriber fees, in line with their privately owned counterparts. CBC's radio services do not sell advertising except when required by law (for example, to political parties during federal elections).
CBC's funding differs from that of the public broadcasters of many European nations, which collect a licence fee, or those in the United States, such as PBS and NPR, which receive some public funding but rely to a large extent on voluntary contributions from individual viewers and listeners. A Nanos Research poll from August 2014 conducted for Asper Media (National Post, Financial Post) showed 41% of Canadians wanted funding increased, 46% wanted it maintained at current levels, and only 10% wanted to see it cut.
The network's defenders note that the CBC's mandate differs from private media's, particularly in its focus on Canadian content; that much of the public funding actually goes to the radio networks; and that the CBC is responsible for the full cost of most of its prime-time programming, while private networks can fill up most of their prime-time schedules with American series acquired for a fraction of their production cost. CBC supporters also point out that additional, long-term funding is required to provide better Canadian dramas and improved local programming to attract and sustain a strong viewership.
According to the Canadian Media Guild, the $115-million deficit reduction action plan cuts to CBC which started with the 2012 budget and were fully realized in 2014, amounted to "one of the biggest layoffs of content creators and journalists in Canadian history."The 2014 cuts combined with earlier ones totaled "3,600 jobs lost at CBC since 2008. The CMG asked the federal government to reverse the cuts and to repeal Clause 17 of omnibus budget bill C-60 "to remove government’s interference in CBC’s day-to-day operations."
In September 2015, the Canadian Media Guild announced that the CBC planned to sell all of its properties across Canada to gain a temporary increase in available funds. Media relations manager Alexandra Fortier denied this and stated that the corporation planned to only sell half of its assets.
In September 2015 Hubert Lacroix, president of CBC/Radio-Canada, spoke at the international public broadcasters’ conference in Munich, Germany. He claimed for the first time that public broadcasters were "at risk of extinction." The Canadian Media Guild responded that Lacroix had "made a career of shredding" the CBC by cutting one quarter of its staff—approximately 2,000 jobs since 2010 under Lacroix's tenure. More than 600 jobs were cut in 2014 in order "to plug a $130-million budget shortfall." Isabelle Montpetit, president of Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada (SCRC), observed that Lacroix was hand-picked by Stephen Harper for the job as president of the CBC. For the fiscal year 2015, the CBC received $1.036 billion from government funding and took 5% funding cuts from the previous year.
In 2015, the Liberal Party was returned to power. As part of its election platform, it promised to restore the $115 million of funding to the CBC that was cut by the Harper Government, over three years, and add $35 million, for a total extra funding of $150 million.
On November 28, 2016, the CBC issued a request for $400 million in additional funding, which it planned to use towards removing advertising from its television services, production and acquisition of Canadian content, and "additional funding of new investments to face consumer and technology disruption". The broadcaster argued that it had operated "[under] a business model and cultural policy framework that is profoundly broken", while other countries "[reaped] the benefits of strong, stable, well-funded public broadcasters."
CBC News is the largest broadcast newsgathering operation in Canada, providing services to CBC radio as well as CBC News Network, local supper-hour newscasts, CBC News Online, and Air Canada's in-flight entertainment. New CBC News services are also proving popular such as news alerts to mobile phones and PDAs. Desktop news alerts, e-mail alerts, and digital television alerts are also available.
CBC Radio has five separate services, three in English, known as CBC Radio One, CBC Radio 2 and CBC Radio 3, and two in French, known as Ici Radio-Canada Première and Ici Musique. CBC Radio One and Première focus on news and information programming, but they air some music programs, variety shows and comedy; in the past, they also aired some sports programming. CBC Radio One and Première used to broadcast primarily on the AM band, but many stations have moved over to FM. Over the years, a number of CBC radio transmitters with a majority of them on the AM band have either moved to FM or had shut down completely.
The CBC plans to phase out more CBC AM transmitters across Canada. This goal however remains to be seen in light of the CBC budget cutbacks.
The CBC's long-range radio plan (LRRP) was developed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in collaboration with the CBC to identify those FM frequencies that would likely be required to deliver the CBC's radio services to the maximum number of Canadians. The CBC is not subject to any conditions or expectations concerning its LRRP. The CBC noted that Première Chaîne (now Ici Radio-Canada Première) and CBC Radio One were available to about 99 percent of the Canadian population. The CBC stated that it plans to maintain its radio service but has no plans to grow the coverage area. It described the LRRP as a planning vehicle and indicated that it would no longer use it. Given reductions in public funding to the CBC and given that Première Chaîne and Radio One are available to the vast majority of Canadians, the commission considers that the CBC's plan to maintain current coverage and discontinue the LRRP is reasonable. Accordingly, the Commission accepts the CBC's proposal to discontinue the LRRP.
CBC Radio 2 and Ici musique, found exclusively on FM, air arts and cultural programming, with a focus on music. CBC Radio 3, found only online and on satellite radio, airs exclusively independent Canadian music.
CBC Radio also operated two shortwave services. One, Radio Nord Québec, broadcast domestically to Northern Quebec on a static frequency of 9625 kHz, and the other, Radio Canada International, provided broadcasts to the United States and around the world in eight languages. Both shortwave services were shut down in 2012 due to budget cuts; the Sackville transmitter site was dismantled in 2014.
Additionally, the Radio One stations in St. John's and Vancouver operated shortwave relay transmitters, broadcasting at 6160 kHz. Some have suggested that CBC/Radio-Canada create a new high-power shortwave digital radio service for more effective coverage of isolated areas.
In November 2004, the CBC, in partnership with Standard Broadcasting and Sirius Satellite Radio, applied to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for a licence to introduce satellite radio service to Canada. The CRTC approved the subscription radio application, as well as two others for satellite radio service, on June 16, 2005. Sirius Canada launched on December 1, 2005, with a number of CBC Radio channels, including the new services CBC Radio 3 and Bande à part.
In some areas, especially national or provincial parks, the CBC also operates an AM or FM transmitter rebroadcasting weather alerts from the Meteorological Service of Canada's Weatheradio Canada service.
The CBC operates two national broadcast television networks; CBC Television in English, and Ici Radio-Canada Télé in French. Like private broadcasters, both those networks sell advertising, but offer more Canadian-produced programming. Most CBC television stations, including those in the major cities, are owned and operated by the CBC itself and carry a common schedule, aside from local programming.
Some stations that broadcast from smaller cities are private affiliates of the CBC, that is, stations which are owned by commercial broadcasters and air a predominantly CBC schedule. However, most affiliates of the English network opt out of some network programs to air local programming or more popular foreign programs acquired from other broadcasters. Private affiliates of the French network, all of which are located in Quebec, rarely have the means to provide alternate programming, and thus diverge from the main network schedule only for local newscasts. Such private affiliates are becoming increasingly rare, and there have been indications that the CBC plans to discontinue all affiliation agreements with non-CBC owned television stations in the 2010s.
CBC television stations in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon tailor their programming mostly to the local native population, and broadcast in many native languages, such as Inuktitut, Gwich'in, and Dene.
One of the most popular shows is the weekly Saturday night broadcast of NHL hockey games. In English, the program is known as Hockey Night in Canada, and in French, it was called La Soirée du hockey. Both shows began in 1952. The French edition was discontinued in 2004, though Radio-Canada stations outside of Quebec simulcast some Saturday night games produced by RDS until 2006. The network suffered considerable public embarrassment when it lost the rights to the show's theme music following a protracted lawsuit launched by the song's composer and publishers. In 2013, CBC lost the rights to telecast NHL games to Rogers Media-owned Sportsnet. Although CBC continues to broadcast the NHL as a licensed broadcaster until 2026 all editorial content is produced by Rogers under a time-brokerage agreement.
Ratings for CBC Television have declined in recent years. In Quebec, where the majority speaks French, la Télévision de Radio-Canada is popular and garners some of the highest ratings in the province.
Both terrestrial networks have also begun to roll out high-definition television feeds, with selected National Hockey League and Canadian Football League games produced in HD for the English network. After the digital switchover, CBC chose to use the 720p format on CBC and Radio-Canada.
The CBC also wholly owns and operates three specialty television channels – CBC News Network, an English-language news channel; Réseau de l'information (RDI), a French-language news channel; and Explora, a Category B digital service. It owns a managing interest in the Francophone arts service ARTV, and (82%) of the digital channel, documentary
Children's programming air under the commercial-free preschool programming block called Kids' CBC.
The CBC has two main websites. One is in English, at CBC.ca, which was established in 1996; the other is in French. The website allows the CBC to produce sections which complement the various programs on television and radio. In 2012, the corporation launched CBC Music, a digital music service which produces and distributes 40 music-related webstreams, including the existing audio streams of CBC Radio 2 and CBC Radio 3.
In 2012, the CBC announced its plans for a new local news service in Hamilton, Ontario. With the Hamilton area already within the broadcast range of CBC Radio and CBC Television's services in Toronto, it was not financially or technically feasible for the public broadcaster to launch new conventional radio or television stations in Hamilton; accordingly, the corporation has developed a new model, with Hamilton as its test project, to launch a local digital service that would be accessible on the Internet and telecommunications devices such as tablets and smartphones. The project launched in May 2012.
Established in 2002, the CBC/Radio Canada merchandising business operates retail locations and cbcshop.ca, its educational sales department CBC Learning sells CBC content and media to educational institutions, CBC Merchandising also licenses brands such as Hockey Night in Canada (whose branding is still owned by the CBC) and Coronation Street (as a Canadian licensee under arrangement from ITV Studios).
CBC provides viewers with interactive on demand television programs every year through digital-cable services like Rogers Cable.
CBC Records is a Canadian record label which distributes CBC programming, including live concert performances and album transcripts of news and information programming such as the Massey Lectures, in album format. Music albums on the label, predominantly in the classical and jazz genres, are distributed across Canada in commercial record stores, while albums containing spoken word programming are predominantly distributed by the CBC's own retail merchandising operations.
CBC provides news, business, weather and sports information on Air Canada's inflight entertainment as Enroute Journal.
Unions representing employees at CBC/Radio-Canada include:Canadian Media Guild (CMG) represents on-air, production, technical, administrative and support staff outside of Québec and Moncton.
Association of Professionals and Supervisors (APS)*
American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM)*
Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (performers; ACTRA)
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (stagehands; IATSE)
Writers Guild of Canada (WGC)*
Association des réalisateurs (AR)
Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada (SCRC)
Société des auteurs de la radio, de la télévision et du cinéma (SARTeC).
Syndicat Canadien de la fonction publique, Conseil des sections locales, Groupe des employé(e)s de bureau et professionnel(le)s (SCFP).
Société professionnelle des auteurs-compositeurs du Québec (SPACQ)
Syndicat des technicien(ne)s et des artisan(e)s du réseau français (STARF).
Union des artistes (UDA)
During the summer of 1981 there was a major disruption of CBC programming as the technicians union, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, went on strike. Local newscasts were cut back to the bare minimum. This had the effect of delaying the debut of The Journal, which had to wait until January 1982.
On August 15, 2005, 5,500 employees of the CBC (about 90%) were locked out by CBC CEO Robert Rabinovitch in a dispute over future hiring practices. At issue were the rules governing the hiring of contract workers in preference to full-time hires. The locked-out employees were members of the Canadian Media Guild, representing all production, journalistic and on-air personnel outside Quebec and Moncton, including several foreign correspondents. While CBC services continued during the lockout, they were primarily made up of repeats, with news programming from the BBC and newswires. Major CBC programs such as The National and Royal Canadian Air Farce were not produced during the lockout; some non-CBC-owned programs seen on the network, such as The Red Green Show, shifted to other studios. Meanwhile, the locked-out employees produced podcasts and websites such as CBCunplugged.com.
After a hiatus, talks re-opened. On September 23, t Joe Fontana, the federal minister of labour, called Robert Rabinovitch and Arnold Amber (the president of the CBC branch of the Canadian Media Guild) to his office for talks aimed at ending the dispute.
Late in the evening of October 2, 2005, it was announced that the CBC management and staff had reached a tentative deal which resulted in the CBC returning to normal operations on October 11. Some speculated that the looming October 8 start date for the network's most important television property, Hockey Night in Canada, had acted as an additional incentive to resolve the dispute.
The CBC has been affected by a number of other labour disputes since the late 1990s:In early 1999, CBC English- and French-network technicians in all locations outside Quebec and Moncton, members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, went on strike. The Canadian Media Guild was set to strike as well, but the CBC settled with both unions.
A similar dispute, again involving all technicians outside Quebec and Moncton, occurred in late 2001 and concluded by the end of the year.
In spring 2002, on-air staff in Quebec and Moncton (again, on both English and French networks) were locked out by local management, leaving, among other things, NHL playoff games without commentary on French television.
While all labour disputes resulted in cut-back programming and numerous repeat airings, the 2005 lockout may have been the most damaging to CBC. All local programming in the affected regions was cancelled and replaced by abbreviated national newscasts and national radio morning shows. BBC World (television) and World Service (radio) and Broadcast News feeds were used to provide the remainder of original news content, and the CBC website consisted mainly of rewritten wire copy. Some BBC staff protested against their material being used during the CBC lockout. "The NUJ and BECTU will not tolerate their members' work being used against colleagues in Canada", said a joint statement by BBC unions. The CMG questioned whether, with its limited Canadian news content, the CBC was meeting its legal requirements under the Broadcasting Act and its CRTC licences.
Galaxie (which CBC owned at the time) supplied some music content for the radio networks. Tapes of aired or produced documentaries, interviews and entertainment programs were also aired widely. Selected television sports coverage, including that of the Canadian Football League, continued, but without commentary.
As before, French-language staff outside of Quebec were also affected by the 2005 lockout, although with Quebec producing the bulk of the French networks' programming, those networks were not as visibly affected by the dispute apart from local programs.
In the 1950s the CBC provided hands-on training and employment for actors, writers, and directors in the developing field of its television dramatic services. Later many of these people moved to the United States to work in New York and Hollywood.
The CBC was the only television network broadcasting in Canada until the creation of ITO, a short-lived predecessor of today's CTV, in 1960; even then, large parts of Canada did not receive CTV service until the late 1960s or early 1970s. The CBC also had the only national radio network. Its cultural impact was therefore significant since many Canadians had little or no choice for their information and entertainment other than from these two powerful media outlets.
Even after the introduction of commercial television and radio, the CBC has remained one of the main elements in Canadian popular culture through its obligation to produce Canadian television and radio programming. The CBC has made programs for mass audiences and for smaller audiences interested in drama, performance arts, documentaries, current affairs, entertainment and sport.
The CBC's cultural influence, like that of many public broadcasters, has decreased in recent decades. This is partly due to severe budget cuts by the Canadian federal government, which began in the late 1980s and levelled off in the late 1990s. It is also due to industry-wide fragmentation of television audiences (the decline of network television generally, due to the rise in specialty channel viewership, as well as the increase of non-television entertainment options such as video games, the Internet, etc.) Private networks in Canada face the same competition, but their viewership is declining more slowly than CBC Television's.
In English-speaking Canada, the decline in CBC viewership can be partly attributed to popularity of private television networks' rebroadcast of American programming with substituted Canadian advertising. American programs appear to attract higher audiences than do much of the made-in-Canada programming that is a CBC specialty.
Viewership on the CBC's French television network has also declined, mostly because of stiff competition from private French-language networks. Audience fragmentation is another issue. However, in contrast to the anglophone audience, French Canadians prefer home-grown television programming, a vibrant Quebec star system is in place, and little American or foreign content airs on French-language networks, public or private. And the CBC's French-language radio channel is sometimes the top-rated network.
In the case of breaking news, including federal elections, CBC Television may obtain the largest number of viewers. For instance, after election night 2006, CBC Television took out full-page newspaper ads claiming that 2.2 million Canadians watched their coverage, more than any other broadcaster. However, in similar ads, CTV also claimed to be number one, stating there was a CBC audience of only 1.2 million. In both cases, the methodologies were not clear from the ads, such as time periods and whether simulcasts on one or both of the networks' news channels (Newsworld for CBC, Newsnet for CTV) were counted.
Competition from private broadcasters like CTV, Global, and other broadcast television stations and specialty channels has lessened the CBC's reach, but nevertheless it remains a major influence on Canadian popular culture. According to the corporation's research, in 2011 92% of Canadians considered the CBC to be an essential service.
From 1994 to 2000, the CBC, in a venture with Power Broadcasting (former owner of CKWS in Kingston), jointly owned two networks:
- Newsworld International (NWI), an American cable channel that rebroadcast much of the programming of CBC Newsworld (now known as CBC News Network).
- Trio, an arts and entertainment channel.
In 2000, CBC and Power Broadcasting sold these channels to Barry Diller's USA Networks. Diller's company was later acquired by Vivendi Universal, which in turn was partially acquired by NBC to form NBC Universal. NBC Universal still owns the Trio brand, which no longer has any association with the CBC (and became an Internet-only broadband channel which was later folded into Bravo.) The channel was shut down and was replaced with the NBC Universal channel "Sleuth", which later became "Cloo".
However, the CBC continued to program NWI, with much of its programming simulcast on the domestic Newsworld service. In late 2004, as a result of a further change in NWI's ownership to the INdTV consortium (including Joel Hyatt and former Vice-President of the United States Al Gore), NWI ceased airing CBC programming on August 1, 2005, when it became Current TV. Current later folded and became Al Jazeera America on August 20, 2013.
In U.S. border communities such as Bellingham and Seattle, Washington; Buffalo, New York; Detroit, Michigan and Burlington, Vermont, CBC radio and television stations can be received over-the-air and have a significant audience. Farther from the border, some American fans of the network have acquired Canadian IP addresses to stream its sports broadcasts. Some CBC programming is also rebroadcast on local public radio, such as New Hampshire Public Radio, Vermont Public Radio and the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. CBC television channels are available on cable systems located near the Canada–US border. For example, CBET Windsor is available on cable systems in the Detroit, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio, areas; much of the rest of the state of Michigan receives CBMT Montreal on cable. CBUT Vancouver is broadcast on Comcast in the Seattle, Washington, area. At night, the AM radio transmissions of both CBC and Radio-Canada services can be received over much of the northern portion of the United States, from stations such as CBW in Winnipeg, CBK in Saskatchewan and CJBC in Toronto.
On September 11, 2001, several American broadcasters without their own news operations, including C-SPAN, carried the CBC's coverage of the September 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. In the days after September 11, C-SPAN carried CBC's nightly newscast, The National, anchored by Peter Mansbridge. The quality of this coverage was recognised specifically by the Canadian Journalism Foundation; editor-in-chief Tony Burman later accepted the Excellence in Journalism Award (2004), for "rigorous professional practice, accuracy, originality and public accountability", on behalf of the service.
C-SPAN has also carried CBC's coverage of major events affecting Canadians, including: Canadian federal elections, key proceedings in Canadian Parliament, Six days in September 2000 that marked the death and state funeral of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the power outage crisis in summer 2003, U.S. presidential elections (e.g. in 2004, C-SPAN picked up The National the day after the election for the view from Canadians), state visits and official visits of American presidents to Canada, and Barack Obama inauguration in 2009.
Several PBS stations also air some CBC programming. However, these programs are syndicated by independent distributors, and are not governed by the PBS "common carriage" policy.
Other American broadcast networks sometimes air CBC reports, especially for Canadian events of international significance. For example, in the early hours after the Swissair Flight 111 disaster, CNN aired CBC's live coverage of the event. Also in the late 1990s, CNN Headline News aired a few CBC reports of events that were not significant outside Canada.
Some CBC Radio One programs, such as Definitely Not the Opera, WireTap, Q, and As It Happens, also air on some stations associated with American Public Media or Public Radio International. Some of the CBC's radio networks are available to SiriusXM subscribers in the United States, including CBC Radio One (a special feed that exclusively contains CBC-produced content and no regional programs) and Première (a simulcast of its Montreal flagship CBF-FM), CBC Radio 3, and music-oriented services exclusive to SiriusXM.
Several Caribbean nations carry feeds of CBC TV:Bahamas, on the coral wave (Cable Bahamas) television system in the Northern Bahamas (Channel 8).
on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation Multi-Choice TV Cable system (Channel 703), and
on the Columbus Communications owned cable system "Flow Barbados" (channel 132).
Bermuda, on the CableVision digital cable service.
Grenada, carried on Columbus Communications owned cable system Flow Grenada.
Jamaica, distributed in areas served by Flow Jamaica.
Trinidad and Tobago, on the Columbus Communications Trinidad Ltd. (CCTL) television system.
CBC Television, Ici Radio-Canada Télé, CBC News Network and all other CBC channels can be received through cable and satellite TV channel providers across Canada, like through Bell TV, Rogers Cable, Videotron, Cogeco, and other smaller TV providers. The CBC and Radio-Canada channel signals can also be obtained free of charge, over-the-air, through antenna receivers in Canada's largest markets or in some border states along the Canada-U.S. border; however, CBC is not obtainable as a "free-to-air" (FTA) channel on FTA satellites (signals are encrypted on the Anik space satellites and require a dedicated satellite receiver).
In 2009, CBC President Hubert Lacroix commissioned a study to determine whether its news was biased, and if so, to what extent. He said: "Our job — and we take it seriously — is to ensure that the information that we put out is fair and unbiased in everything that we do". The study, the methodology of which was not specified, was due to report results in the fall of 2010.
In April 2010, the Conservatives accused pollster Frank Graves of giving partisan advice to the Liberal Party of Canada, noting his donations to the party since 2003. Graves directed a number of public opinion research projects on behalf of the CBC as well as other media organizations, and also appeared on a number of CBC television programs relating to politics. An investigation conducted by the CBC ombudsman found no evidence to support these allegations, stating that personal donor history is not relevant to one's objectivity as a pollster.
In March 2011, the Toronto Sun accused Vote Compass, an online voter engagement application developed by political scientists and launched by CBC during the 2011 federal election campaign, of a liberal bias. The accusation centred on the observation that one could provide identical responses to each proposition in Vote Compass (i.e., answer "strongly agree" to all propositions or "strongly disagree" to all propositions) and would in each case be positioned closest to the Liberal Party in the results. This claim was directly addressed by Vote Compass representatives, who noted that the propositions in the application are specifically constructed in such a way as to avoid acquiescence bias and that the result described by the Toronto Sun was arrived at by gaming the system. Vote Compass also released analyses of the data it gathered from the federal election, which have further negated efforts to discredit it. It is widely speculated that suspicions of bias were fuelled by Sun Media in an effort to promote its anti-CBC agenda and the concurrent launch of its cable news channel. The criticism appears to have been isolated to the 2011 Canadian federal election edition of Vote Compass and has not re-emerged in any subsequent editions of Vote Compass, either in Canada or internationally.
In February 2015, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made comments relating to the allegations. Speaking to Radio-Canada, Harper commented saying he understood that many at Radio-Canada "hated conservative values".
During the 2015 Canadian federal election, CBC was again accused of bias by some viewers and outlets. The majority of these claims spawned from a promise by both major parties in Canada, the Liberals and New Democratic Party after the two groups promised to greatly increase funding for CBC. The pledges came after the then Conservative government had cut $115 million from the CBC in the 2012 budget. Shortly before the pledges were made, CBC president Hubert Lacroix complained of the Conservative cuts, saying "the cuts make us weaker and affect morale, critics, key stakeholders and even some of the citizens we serve." Also in 2015, columnist Barbara Amiel writing in Maclean's referred to "the politically correct CBC News" that "follows a left-liberal zeitgeist", and called for "new blood" and a thorough overhaul of the CBC.
CBC Television was an early leader in broadcasting programming with closed captioning for the hearing impaired, airing its first captioned programming in 1981. Captioned programming in Canada began with the airing of Clown White in English-language and French-language versions on CBC Television and Radio-Canada, respectively. Most sources list that event as occurring in 1981, while others list the year as 1982.
In 1997, Henry Vlug, a deaf lawyer in Vancouver, filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging that an absence of captioning on some programming on CBC Television and Newsworld infringed on his rights as a person with a disability. A ruling in 2000 by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which later heard the case, sided with Vlug and found that an absence of captioning constituted discrimination on the basis of disability. The Tribunal ordered CBC Television and Newsworld to caption the entirety of their broadcast days, "including television shows, commercials, promos and unscheduled news flashes, from sign-on until sign-off."
The ruling recognized that "there will inevitably be glitches with respect to the delivery of captioning" but that "the rule should be full captioning." In a negotiated settlement to avoid appealing the ruling to the Federal Court of Canada, CBC agreed to commence 100% captioning on CBC Television and Newsworld beginning November 1, 2002. CBC Television and Newsworld are apparently the only broadcasters in the world required to caption the entire broadcast day. However, published evidence asserts that CBC is not providing the 100% captioning ordered by the Tribunal.
In 2004, retired Canadian Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier, a hard-of-hearing person, filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against Radio-Canada concerning captioning, particularly the absence of real-time captioning on newscasts and other live programming. As part of the settlement process, Radio-Canada agreed to submit a report on the state of captioning, especially real-time captioning, on Radio-Canada and RDI. The report, which was the subject of some criticism, proposed an arrangement with Cité Collégiale, a college in Ottawa, to train more French-language real-time captioners.
English-language specialty networks owned or co-owned by CBC, including documentary, have the lower captioning requirements typical of larger Canadian broadcasters (90% of the broadcast day by the end of both networks' licence terms). ARTV, the French-language specialty network co-owned by CBC, has a maximum captioning requirement of 53%.
In November 2007, the CBC replaced its documentary Beyond the Red Wall: Persecution of Falun Gong, about persecution of Falun Gong members in China, at the last minute with a rerun episode regarding President Pervez Musharaf in Pakistan. The broadcaster had said to the press that "the crisis in Pakistan was considered more urgent and much more newsworthy", but sources from within the network itself had stated that the Chinese government had called the Canadian Embassy and demanded repeatedly that the program be taken off the air. The documentary in question was to air on Tuesday, November 6, 2007 on CBC Newsworld, but was replaced. The documentary aired two weeks later on November 20, 2007, after editing.
On June 5, 2013, the CBC announced that it would be phasing out the Radio-Canada brand from its French-language broadcast properties, and unifying them under names prefixed with "Ici" ("here" or "this is"); for instance, the CBC planned to re-brand Télévision de Radio-Canada as "Ici Télé", Première Chaîne as "Ici Première", and move its French-language website from radio-canada.ca to ici.ca. Radio-Canada vice president Louis Lalande stated that the new name complemented its multi-platform operations, while also serving as an homage to the broadcaster's historic station identification slogan "ici Radio-Canada" ("this is Radio-Canada").
The announcement was criticized by politicians (such as Minister of Canadian Heritage James Moore), who felt that the new "Ici" brand was too confusing, and that the CBC was diminishing the value of the Radio-Canada name through its plans to downplay it. The re-branding was also criticized for being unnecessary spending, reportedly costing $400,000, in the midst of budget cuts at the CBC. On June 10, in response to the criticism, Hubert Lacroix apologized for the decision and announced that the new brands for its main radio and television networks would be revised to restore the Radio-Canada name alongside Ici, such as "Ici Radio-Canada Première".
The CBC also filed a trademark lawsuit against Sam Norouzi, founder of CFHD-DT, a new multicultural station in Montreal, seeking to have his own registration on the name "ICI" (as an abbreviation of "International Channel/Canal International") cancelled because it was too similar to its own Ici-related trademarks. Despite Norouzi's "ICI" trademark having been registered prior to the registration of CBC's own "Ici" trademarks, the corporation argued that Norouzi's application contained incorrect information surrounding his first use of the name in commerce, and also asserted the long-time use of "Ici Radio-Canada" as part of its imaging. Norouzi stated that he planned to fight the CBC in court.
In 2015, after allegations that CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi had harassed colleagues, Ghomeshi was placed on leave; his employment was terminated in October when the CBC indicated that they had “graphic evidence” that he had injured a female employee. The corporation commissioned an independent investigation. The resulting report by Janice Rubin, a partner at law firm Rubin Thomlinson LLP, discussed employee complaints about Ghomeshi that were not seriously considered by the CBC. Rubin concluded that CBC management had "failed to take adequate steps" when it became aware of Ghomeshi's “problematic behaviour.”
Ghomeshi was charged by police on multiple counts of sexual assault but was found not guilty of all but one of these in March 2016. He was to be tried in June on the last remaining charge, relating to a complainant who had also worked at CBC; her name was later revealed to be Kathryn Borel. On May 11, 2016 however, the Crown withdrew the charge after Ghomeshi signed a peace bond (which does not include an admission of guilt) and apologized to Borel. Borel was critical of the CBC for its handling of her initial complaint about Ghomeshi's behavior. "When I went to the CBC for help, what I received in return was a directive that, yes, he could do this and, yes, it was my job to let him," she told the assembled media representatives.
The CBC apologized to Borel publicly on May 11 in a statement by the head of public affairs Chuck Thompson. "What Ms. Borel experienced in our workplace should never have happened and we sincerely apologize...," he stated. The Corporation has also maintained that it had accepted Rubin's report and had "since made significant progress" on a revised policy of improved training and methods for handling bullying and harassment complaints.
In the May 11, 2016 Toronto Star article by Jacques Gallant cited above, public relations expert Martin Waxman spoke of a “damning indictment” of the CBC which included the following comment. “Yes, they did their inquiry, but if I were the CBC, I would think strongly about what is wrong with the culture and what they can do to repair it,” he said. The Star also quoted employment lawyer Howard Levitt stating that "harassment has not been fully addressed at the CBC" in his estimation. Levitt called the Rubin report a "whitewash" and reiterated his suggestion that a federal commission should conduct a more detailed enquiry into workplace issues at the public broadcaster.
The CRTC ordered that in 28 "mandatory markets", full power over-the-air analogue television transmitters had to cease transmitting by August 31, 2011. Broadcasters could either continue serving those markets by transitioning analogue transmitters to digital or cease broadcasting over-the-air. Cable, IPTV, and satellite services are not involved or affected by this digital transition deadline.
While its fellow Canadian broadcasters converted most of their transmitters to digital by the Canadian digital television transition deadline of August 31, 2011, CBC converted only about half of the analogue transmitters in mandatory to digital (15 of 28 markets with CBC TV, and 14 of 28 markets with SRC). Due to financial difficulties reported by the corporation, the corporation published a plan whereby communities that receive analogue signals by re-broadcast transmitters in mandatory markets would lose their over-the-air (OTA) signals as of the deadline. Rebroadcast transmitters account for 23 of the 48 CBC and SRC transmitters in mandatory markets. Mandatory markets losing both CBC and SRC over-the-air signals include London, Ontario (metropolitan area population 457,000) and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (metro area 257,000). In both of those markets, the corporation's television transmitters are the only ones that were not converted to digital.
On July 31, 2012, CBC shut down all of its approximately 620 analogue television transmitters, following an announcement of these plans on April 4, 2012. This reduced the total number of the corporation's television transmitters across the country to 27. According to the CBC, this would reduce the corporation's yearly costs by $10 million. No plans have been announced to use subchannels to maintain over-the-air signals for both CBC and SRC in markets where the corporation has one digital transmitter. In fact, in its CRTC application to shut down all of its analogue television transmitters, the CBC communicated its opposition to use of subchannels, citing, amongst other reasons, costs. CBC/R-C claims that only 1.7 percent of Canadian viewers actually lost access to CBC and Radio-Canada programming due to the very high penetration of cable and satellite. In some areas (particularly remote and rural regions), cable or satellite have long been essential for acceptable television.
Notable CBC alumni have included television and radio personalities, former Governors General of Canada Jeanne Sauvé, Adrienne Clarkson, and Michaëlle Jean, as well as former Quebec premier René Lévesque.