Twitter Labels Canadian Broadcaster ‘69% Government-Funded Media’
(CNSNews.com) – A widening controversy over Twitter’s decision to label media outlets that receive government funding took a new twist Monday night when the platform changed its label for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to “69% Government-funded Media.”
Twitter had previously labeled CBC “70% Government-funded Media,” which in turn was a change from the original “Government-funded Media” label that had drawn sharp complaints from the broadcaster.
Drawing attention to the most recent label change, Twitter owner Elon Musk tweeted, “Canadian Broadcasting Corp said they’re ‘less than 70% government-funded’, so we corrected the label.”
U.S. National Public Radio was the first major outlet to announce last week that it was withdrawing from Twitter in protest after it was labeled “state-affiliated” media. Twitter subsequently changed the label to the less-egregious “government-funded” but NPR stuck to its decision.
CBC also announced that, in response to the labeling, it and Radio-Canada were “pausing our activities” on Twitter.
Earlier, Twitter had begun to tag some CBC feeds “government-funded media,” prompting the outlet to say that it and its sister broadcaster Radio-Canada were “publicly funded through a parliamentary appropriation that is voted upon by all Members of Parliament” and that its “editorial independence is protected in law.”
(Although CBC, which has 714,200 followers, is labeled “69% Government-funded Media” the CBC News feed, with 3.4 million followers, does not carry the label as of Tuesday, and neither does Radio-Canada.)
Reacting to Musk’s tweet on the latest label change for CBC, the federal director of the advocacy group Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), Franco Terrazzano tweeted simply, “Still 69% too high.”
CTF Alberta director Kris Sims commented, “Odd to see the upset to the ‘government-funded media’ label being put on CBC. CBC is government-funded media. It says ‘government funding’ in its financial statements. That’s like getting upset about a zebra being labelled as having stripes.”
The row over the CBC labeling spilled over into the political arena, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau slamming opposition Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre for having called on Musk in a letter last week to label CBC’s news-related accounts “government-funded.”
Trudeau on Monday lashed out at his rival, telling reporters that “attacking this Canadian institution, attacking the culture and local content that is so important to so many Canadians, really indicates the values and the approach that Mr. Poilievre is putting forward.”
“The fact that he has to run to American billionaires for support to attack Canadians, says a lot about Mr. Poilievre and his values,” he said.
Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Samantha Laurey / AFP via Getty Images)
Twitter’s guidelines define “state-affiliated” media as those in which “the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.”
It uses that label for outlets like the pro-Kremlin RT, the Chinese Communist Party organ Global Times, and the Cuban Communist Party central committee outlet Granma.
By contrast, Twitter defines “government-funded” media 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.”
PBS on Thursday joined NPR in suspending its use of Twitter, also rejecting the “government-funded” label. (Although the PBS feed carries the label, the PBS NewsHour account does not.)
Twitter has shown a willingness to adjust labels in some cases, softening its label for the British Broadcasting Corporation from “government-funded” to “publicly-funded” after the BBC said its funding came from the public through television license fees
Elsewhere, “government-funded” labels have begun appearing in recent days on some – although not all – feeds used by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Australia’s multicultural Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), and Radio New Zealand.
ABC tweeted in response that it was “a publicly funded broadcaster, governed by the ABC Charter which is enshrined in legislation. For more than 90 years the ABC has always been and remains an independent media organization, free from political and commercial interests.”
An SBS spokesperson said the service appreciated Twitter’s transparency motivations but believed a “publicly-funded” label would better reflect the nature of its hybrid funding model, as well as the fact that it “retains full independence from government in our news editorial and content decision making.”
Radio New Zealand’s head of content Megan Whelan said RNZ’s editorial independence was protected by law and “vigorously” guarded. She said RNZ would be considering its options, including asking Twitter to remove or revise the label, “or as other public media around the world have done, leave the platform.”