The Yukon government is paying for CBC sponsored content.
A story headlined “Experience the Yukon: Perfect winter Whitehorse itinerary” was published on Jan. 23.
That article resembles a news story — except it is labeled as sponsored or paid content in multiple locations. It identifies the advertiser as “Yukon: Larger than Life.” A click on the advertiser takes the viewer to the Travel Yukon website.
“This is paid content produced on behalf of Travel Yukon. This is not CBC journalistic content,” reads a line in italics at the bottom of piece.
CBC sponsored content by governments appears to be rare.
Leon Mar, a CBC corporate spokesperson, said by email that the Yukon’s department of Tourism and Culture is among a total of three government agencies that have placed paid content with the national broadcaster, along with Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development and Tourism and the federal department of Canadian Heritage.
“We believe it’s imperative that CBC/Radio-Canada protect its journalistic integrity and that there be no confusion between what is advertising and what is news,” Mar said. “That’s exactly why we have strict guidelines in place to ensure distinct separation and to clearly identify paid content.”
In an email, the territorial department of Tourism and Culture’s marketing unit said the article is part of a $28,000 digital-only advertising campaign. According to the department, it is the only sponsored content initiative the department is conducting with CBC’s advertising department in 2023-24.
“All ads have been geo-targeted Canada-wide, excluding the Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, and Quebec regions,” reads the email.
According to the department, each online article is “guaranteed” 5,000 page views or reads during the ad’s four-week run.
CBC Tandem, officially launched Sept. 17, 2020, by the CBC’s Media Solutions Group, is an online-only branded content service.
In response to concern raised by CBC journalists, former employees and other stakeholders, the public broadcaster issued a statement on Dec. 3, 2020, clarifying the corporation’s position on the issue of branded content.
“Management of CBC/Radio-Canada and its Board of Directors strongly believe that advertising content on its digital platforms must be clearly identified so that it cannot be confused with journalistic content,” said president and CEO Catherine Tait.
“To this end, after a thorough review of branded content directives at CBC and Radio-Canada by senior news, sales and programming leaders, and an in-depth discussion at the board of directors’ meeting of Nov. 26, 2020, we are issuing new guidelines that further strengthen and clarify the boundaries between our journalistic content and advertising.”
In a broadcasting ruling dated June 22, 2022, on licence renewals, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) noted CBC Tandem was a “topic of concern” and a “relatively significant point of discussion.”
The decision notes that several interveners voiced concern that Tandem could “blur the line between a program and an advertisement, which could create confusion for audiences.”
The commission said the CBC Tandem approach “remains pertinent” in light of the CBC’s funding model.
“The revenue-generating activities of the Tandem initiative are onside with the general approach that has been taken with the CBC in the past and consistent with the context in which the CBC currently finances its operations,” reads the decision.
“The commission finds that it should not limit the CBC’s commercial activities any further than they already are.”
An explainer on paid content at CBC can be accessed through a link at the bottom of the paid content.
“A portion of the CBC and Radio-Canada operating budget is generated through the sale of advertising. In addition to traditional advertising, on digital properties, CBC/Radio-Canada also offers its advertising clientele to host other advertising formats on its digital platforms, such as branded content identified as ‘Paid Content’,” reads the explainer.
“Paid content is not CBC’s editorial or journalistic content. It is produced by the client or by CBC Tandem, the CBC’s commercial content production service. CBC Tandem operates separately and independently from the editorial and journalistic teams of CBC, which are not involved in the creation of paid content.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com