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Twitter flags the CBC, Australian Broadcast Corporation, and other state broadcasters as 'government-funded media'
David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Twitter flags the CBC, Australian Broadcast Corporation, and other state broadcasters as 'government-funded media'

Twitter has gone farther to highlight the cozy linkages between various media outlets and the governments in their respective countries after recently labeling NPR and PBS as statist media outfits.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Radio New Zealand (RNZ), and the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC News), along with other media outlets, have been tagged on the platform as "Government-funded Media." Although initially flagged "government-funded," the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has since been rebranded as "Publicly-funded media."

Conservatives who have long criticized these media outfits for their apparent lack of distance from centralized power have lauded the decision, whereas some liberals have derided Twitter's efforts to increase transparency as an attack on democracy and the public trust.

Degrees of separation

According to Twitter's definitions, these labels "provide additional context for accounts heavily engaged in geopolitics and diplomacy."

Whereas a "state-affiliated media account" is defined as "outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution," a "government-funded media account" 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."

Finally, for publicly funded media accounts, "Publicly-funded media refers to media organizations that receive funding from license fees, individual contributions, public financing, and commercial financing."

Canadian state media, 'government-funded'

Just as NPR and its devotees took issue with its new designation on Twitter, going so far as to quit the platform, the CBC lashed out in a statement obtained by the Toronto Star, itself a government-subsidized paper.

"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," said the statement. "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."

Canadian psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson responded, tweeting, "A Twitter triumph for @JustinTrudeau and, indeed, all Canadians! @elonmusk has awarded @cbc the prestigious government-funded media designation! Our humble local broadcaster joins luminaries such as @NPR in receipt of this singular honor. Veritable shades of Pravda!"

Pierre Poilievre, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, wrote, "CBC officially exposed as 'government-funded media.' Now people know that it is Trudeau propaganda, not news."

Rachel Gilmore, a reporter for Global News — which also receives money from the Canadian government — denounced the move by Twitter and its celebration by Poilievre, writing, "This is beyond disturbing. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is calling a national Canadian news organization 'propaganda' and 'not news.' This is a craven attack on the truth, democracy."

The CBC admits on its website that it received over $1 billion in operating funding, $109 million in capital funding, and $4 million in working capital from the Trudeau government this year alone.

Despite 100% of the population funding the CBC, as of 2020, less than 4% of the population tuned in, reported the Globe and Mail.

While its viewership appears to be ever shrinking, the Liberal government has repeatedly promised to boost the state broadcaster's funding. For instance, in the 2015 election, the Trudeau Liberals promised to throw an addition $150 million in taxpayer funds to the CBC, extra to its $1.1 billion in base government funding, reported the Toronto Sun.

In addition to its leadership openly badmouthing and waging lawfare against conservatives, the CBC, promised support by leftist politicians, reportedly undercuts private media outlets and competition, in part by distorting the ad market. Additionally, the CBC, like the Liberal government, has been accused of utilizing government funding to advance identitarian and other woke programming.

Poilievre is actively campaigning to get the CBC defunded. An Angus Reid poll conducted in March 2022 found that there is strong support among Canadian conservatives for cutting the CBC loose.

Although not the full measure he seeks, Poilievre nevertheless pressed Twitter in an April 11 letter to "apply the Government-funded Media label to the CBC's various news-related accounts, including @CBC, @CBCNews, and @CBCAlerts."

At the time of publication, the primary CBC account had been flagged as government-funded, but @CBCNews and @CBCAlerts accounts have yet to be tagged.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, a former managing editor at CBC Radio and vice president of news and information at NPR, told the Toronto Star, "Public broadcasting is under increasing criticism and attack these days because the very idea that there may be some connection to government funding is seen by some people, especially on the conservative side of things, as a bad thing."

Australian state media, 'government-funded'

After getting the "government-funded" branding on Twitter, the ABC pushed for the "publicly-funded" tag that the BBC ultimately secured. It has yet to seen any change in its status.

The Australian state broadcaster wrote on Twitter, "FYI: The ABC is 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 organisation, free from political and commercial interests."

Unlike NPR, the ABC indicated it would continue posting to its Twitter account after receiving the label.

A spokesman for the state media outfit told Crikey, "The ABC doesn’t currently have any plans to shut down all its Twitter accounts. ... We’re liaising with Twitter regarding changes to account verification and labels."

Some critics have suggested that ABC News' favorable coverage of the Australian government's quarantine camps, COVID protocols, and clampdowns on lockdown protesters was indicative of government ties stronger than the organization lets on.

New Zealand state media, 'government-funded'

RNZ, which reportedly receives nearly $50 million a year from the government, has threatened to leave the platform over its new label.

Megan Whelan, head of content for the state broadcaster, said in a Twitter statement Sunday, "RNZ’s editorial independence is enshrined in our charter and editorial policy. Twitter’s own policy defines government-funded media as cases where the government 'may have varying degrees of government involvement over editorial content', which does not apply to RNZ."

"Not only is our editorial independence protected by the law, we guard it vigorously. Over the next few days, we will be considering our options," continued the statement. "Including talking to Twitter to have the label removed or revised, or as other public media around the world have done, leave the platform," continued the statement.

British state media, 'government-funded'

Although the BBC persuaded Twitter to change its designation from "government-funded media" to "publicly-funded media," the British government has highlighted that it has directly funded counter-information campaigns at the BBC.

For instance, on March 24, 2022, the British government stated that the "BBC gets emergency funding to fight Russian disinformation" to the tune of £4.1 million. The purpose of this funding, which was extra to the so-called public funding raised by the mandatory license fees imposed upon the British citizenry, was "to help it increase trusted and independent content to counter disinformation about the war in Ukraine."

The BBC contended last week that it was "independent," and Musk, in turn, said that the state media broadcaster was one of the "least biased" outlets.

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