Musk labels CBC "69% Government-funded" as more news outlets quit Twitter

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Apr 2023

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Twitter profile has a new label that Elon Musk wrote specifically for Canada's public broadcaster: "69% Government-funded Media." While Musk appears to be enjoying his feud with media outlets, his insistence on using "state-affiliated" and "government-funded" labels for public broadcasters has driven several news organizations to quit the social network that he bought for $44 billion.

"Canadian Broadcasting Corp said they're 'less than 70% government-funded,' so we corrected the label," Musk wrote in a tweet last night. The tweet included a screenshot of CBC's Twitter profile with the new "69% Government-funded Media" label.

The "69% Government-funded" label, while obviously a joke, appears to be inaccurate. The CBC may not have told Musk the exact percentage, but the organization's publicly available 2022 financial report says it received $1.24 billion in government funding and another $651.4 million in revenue from advertising, subscriber fees, and investments. That would mean government allocations accounted for about 66 percent of the CBC's 2022 funding and revenue.

Another screenshot posted by Musk suggests that he briefly labeled the CBC as "70% Government-funded Media" before changing it to 69 percent. Musk apparently took the 70 percent figure from an inaccurate tweet posted by an account called "TitterDaily." TitterDaily claimed to be pulling data from the "CBC's 2021-2022 annual report" but instead posted a screenshot from the CBC's 2020-2021 annual report and miscalculated the percentage from the older report's numbers.

Musk replied to TitterDaily last night, writing, "Just trying to be accurate. Would they be ok if we said 70% govt funded?" He then posted a screenshot of the 70 percent label and wrote, "Their concern has been addressed." Musk applied the 69 percent label less than an hour later.

Conservative leader asked Musk to label CBC

Musk previously labeled CBC as government-funded media on Sunday without any percentage displayed. Musk added the label after Canadian Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked Twitter to do so, claiming it was needed to "protect Canadians against disinformation and manipulation by state media." After Musk complied, Poilievre tweeted, "Now people know that it is Trudeau propaganda, not news."

The CBC disputed the government-funded label on Sunday, writing:

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. 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... In addition, our journalism is independent and subject to our Journalistic Standards and Practices, as well as an independent complaints process.

A CBC spokesperson issued a statement saying the news organization "will be pausing our activity on our corporate Twitter account and all CBC and Radio-Canada news-related accounts" because the government-funded label "undermines the accuracy and professionalism of the work" performed by CBC journalists. The CBC also reportedly sent a letter to Twitter asking the company to remove the label.

Musk previously branded NPR with Twitter's "state-affiliated media" tag, which is typically applied to propaganda outlets controlled by governments, despite NPR getting less than 1 percent of its funding directly from the US government. Musk's decision to label NPR as state-affiliated contradicted Twitter's own policy at the time, which said: "State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US, for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media for the purposes of this policy."