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Guest Post

Paul LeBlanc, President
Suite 200 – 625 West Kent Ave.  Vancouver BC V6P 6T7
Office:   (604) 327-3278  x 23

94709171_6e9ea0e08bphoto credit:  Roland

I sell advertising for a living.  I have nothing at all against advertising.

I run a sign company.  And while we do make some signs to direct and inform people about various things, about 90% of what we make is advertising of some form.

So I am a big believer in advertising, and do lots of it myself.

Nonetheless, my favourite radio station carries none at all.  There is a rumour in the land that this might change, and despite my belief in the value and power of advertising, that news makes me very unhappy.

First the story.  Hubert Lacroix, Prime Minister Harper’s appointment as president of the CBC, was speaking to the Empire Club in Toronto last month.  During his speech, he mentioned that “increasing the advertising we accept on the air” was one way they might consider to address their funding problem.

My second favourite radio station carries many, many ads.  CKNW, the longstanding and very successful bastion of west coast talk radio, carries so many ads that sometimes it’s a real effort to find the content.  And while that content sometimes seems to consist of nothing but phoned in rants to put every jaywalker in jail for 20 years, it’s still a great snapshot of what a good chunk of the citizenry is thinking.  Their coverage of provincial politics is often pretty good, and yes, it probably is the radio station I would turn to in an emergency, at least if it was a local one.

But I know that CKNW needs to sell ads to stay on the air.  It has a giant corporate parent, Corus Entertainment in Toronto, which is publically traded on both the TSX and NYSE.  So the message CKNW beams out over the airwaves will never rock the corporate boat too far.  More to the point, CKNW, or any commercial enterprise, will not run programming unlikely to draw the large numbers of listeners advertisers want.

So I want a non-commercial option.  I want the radio station that gave me Gwynne Dyer talking convincingly about how a south Asian war might be caused by climate change.  I want the radio station that called Romeo Dallaire night after night in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994.  And I want the radio station that spent five days in a row debating the relative merits of a bunch of Canadian novels.

Even if fewer people listen to these programs than listen to the CKNWs of this country (and that’s not always true) those ideas need to get out.  They need to be heard and the country as a whole benefits from them being told.  That’s why our scarce tax dollars should continue to be invested in CBC Radio and why CBC Radio can never be allowed to turn into CKNW.

I have started a small Facebook Group to see who agrees with me on this.  If you do, please drop in and join up.

Readers, I bet you have opinions.  Chime in!  Should CBC resort to advertising, or will that completely and irrevocably change the nature of the CBC?

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. AnthonyFloyd

    Interesting post. But you seem to suggest that it’s EITHER advertisements and the innane buzz of corporate radio OR ad-free public radio. Why can’t there be a publically subsidized CBC that happens to have some ads during the “peak hours” or more?
    FWIW, I agree that ads on CBC radio would be a Bad Thing, but I’m willing to live with them if that’s the only way we can keep the CBC going. I’m concerned, though, that the private radio stations/networks will object loudly about unfair competition: using public money/support + compete for ad $$$.


    Mar 17, 2009
  2. Once media is accepting sponsorship, they must mind what they say. If what they would like to say conflicts with the interests of their sponsor, then if their interested in keeping that sponsor, they will have to refrain from saying it. Sponsored radio is always biased.


    Mar 17, 2009
  3. brad

    CBC TV has ads (even RDI, the “serious” topical and educational station of Radio-Canada here in Québec has ads), so in a way it’s odd that CBC radio doesn’t have them.

    In the U.S., public radio and public television are both advertising-free, but on public TV especially the corporate sponsor acknowledgements have become so long and elaborate that they are essentially commercials. And the periodic pledge drives on public radio are far more annoying to me than commercials. You donate on the first day of the drive and then you have to endure another five or six days of relentless shilling until the pledge drive is over.

    Radio is cheaper than TV so I can understand why avoiding advertising there could be seen as a feasible long-term goal, but good journalism costs money. I’m so good at tuning out ads on the web, print, television, and radio that I honestly probably wouldn’t even notice if CBC radio started having advertising.


    Mar 18, 2009
  4. I don’t want to hear ads on CBC Radio. For no other reasons than selfish ones. I am constantly bombarded with buy this, buy that crap that I see CBC as a peaceful haven of information in a sea of high-pressure consumerism.

    For another take on this issue, go check out Megan’s post, its worth the read folks.

    Amy H.’s last blog post..HAHA!


    Mar 18, 2009
  5. How do you kill something? First make sure nobody cares about it.

    We can be sure nobody in the current federal cabinet would miss the CBC were it to vanish, but they have no interest in the political fallout that would ensue should they do so. By turning CBC Radio into something barely distinguishable from commercial radio, they will doom it to irrelevance and still further budget cuts. If we allow this now, even to help an institution we really care about, we will cause it much greater pain in the long run.


    Mar 18, 2009

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