CBC pauses Twitter activity after being labelled 'government-funded media'

CBC/Radio-Canada has paused activities on its corporate and news Twitter accounts, after the social media platform put a "government-funded media" label on its @CBC account, in its latest move to stamp public broadcasters with designations.

Latest move by Twitter to stamp public broadcasters with designations

A screen cap shows the @CBC Twitter account featuring a "government-funded media" label.
A screen capture shows the @CBC Twitter account featuring a 'government-funded media' label. (@CBC/Twitter)

CBC/Radio-Canada has paused activities on its corporate and news Twitter accounts, after the social media platform put a "government-funded media" label on its @CBC account, in its latest move to stamp public broadcasters with designations.

"Twitter can be a powerful tool for our journalists to communicate with Canadians, but it undermines the accuracy and professionalism of the work they do to allow our independence to be falsely described in this way," said corporate spokesperson Leon Mar.

"Consequently, we will be pausing our activity on our corporate Twitter account and all CBC and Radio-Canada news-related accounts."

The pause will also apply to all CBC Sports accounts, entertainment-related accounts — such as for CBC-TV and radio programs — and any regional accounts.

The announcement came as Twitter also labelled some media outlets in several countries as "state-affiliated" or "government-funded."

According to Twitter, "government-funded media is defined as outlets where the government provides some or all of the outlet's funding and may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content."  

Tell us what you think!

Help shape the future of CBC article pages by taking a quick survey.

Editor in chief Brodie Fenlon said the pause of CBC News accounts was necessary. 

"It is important to take a moment to assess what Twitter has done. That is why we have pressed pause today on our accounts. Our journalistic independence is the cornerstone of who we are as a public broadcaster. Suggesting otherwise is inaccurate and untrue," he said.

Late Monday, Twitter CEO Elon Musk tweeted, "Their concern has been addressed," with the CBC label changed to "70% Government-funded Media." About an hour later, it changed again to "69% Government-funded Media," reflecting what Musk said was based on the CBC's government funding of "less than 70%."

NPR, BBC also labelled

National Public Radio in the U.S. announced earlier this month that it was leaving the platform after Twitter labelled its account as "state-affiliated media," saying that doing so undermines its credibility by "falsely implying that we are not editorially independent."

U.S. public broadcaster PBS followed suit, also leaving Twitter after it received the "government-funded" stamp.

The CBC is a Crown corporation, wholly owned by the state but operated at arm's length from government.

CBC News is governed by policies laid out in its Journalistic Standards and Practices, which states: "We are independent of all lobbies and of all political and economic influence... Public interest guides all our decisions."

WATCH | Justin Trudeau talks about Twitter's decision on CBC:

Trudeau reacts to CBC 'government funded' label on Twitter

8 months ago
Duration 1:41
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it's 'disappointing' that the Conservative Party leader attacked independent journalism by asking for the label to be added to the CBC's Twitter account.

In a statement Sunday night, Mar emphasized the government does not influence CBC's editorial content.

"Twitter's own policy defines government-funded media as cases where the government 'may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content,' which is clearly not the case with CBC/Radio-Canada," Mar said.

"CBC/Radio-Canada is publicly funded through a parliamentary appropriation that is voted upon by all Members of Parliament. Its editorial independence is protected in law in the Broadcasting Act."

Mar later said that Twitter did not consult with CBC before applying the label.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre had recently called on Twitter CEO Elon Musk to add a "government-funded" label to accounts that promote "news-related" content from CBC.

Reacting to the label being implemented on Sunday, Poilievre tweeted that the CBC has been "officially exposed" as "Trudeau propaganda, not news."

In its 2021-22 annual report, the CBC reported government funding of $1.24 billion. It also reported $651 million in revenue, largely from advertising during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games, which were held in the same fiscal year, and stronger demand for television advertising than the previous year. In the fiscal year 2020-21, CBC reported $1.39 billion in government funding and $504 million in revenue.

Australia's ABC News said Monday it had received a new label on Twitter, branding the broadcaster as "government-funded media." An ABC spokesperson said the news organization was "liaising with Twitter regarding the change."

Similarly, Twitter last week changed a label on the main account of the BBC, the U.K.'s public broadcaster, to "government-funded media." 

The BBC disputed the change, saying it "is, and always has been, independent. We are funded by the British public through the licence fee."

In response, Twitter altered the label to "publicly-funded media."

In an interview with a BBC reporter, Musk said, "If we use the same words that the BBC uses to describe itself, that presumably would be OK… That seems to pass a reasonable test."