General + Regulatory + Telecom + Media NewsNABS reports record year as pandemic drives demand for services

NABS reports record year as pandemic drives demand for services

As the pandemic wore on last year putting stress on those who’d lost their jobs or been furloughed, and families struggled with at-home learning and other challenges, demand for NABS Canada services skyrocketed.

Since 1983, NABS Canada (the National Advertising Benevolent Society) has quietly worked behind-the-scenes to confidentially support those in media, marketing and advertising, who might be in need of counselling, addictions support, financial assistance or career advice – all free of charge.

Like other support agencies, 2020 forced NABS to pivot to offer its services virtually, rather than in group sessions or one-on-one, which was behind part of the uptick in the number of professionals tapping their resources.

NABS’ toll-free Supportline saw call volumes soar, with those referencing personal health and wellbeing seeing a 78% increase and calls about relationships up 26%. NABS counsellors also took more calls seeking advice on separation/divorce, child custody, and debt/credit servicing. The number of Media professionals accessing the Supportline also increased, now accounting for almost one-third of callers (27.8%).

NABS’ LifeSpeak Video platform also saw explosive growth with the number of people accessing the Health & Wellness platform – featuring video and blog content as well as interactive “ask the expert” sessions on topics like stress management, mental health, parenting, and professional development – more than doubling the number of users in 2019.  

“We supported 3,200 people across the country in 2020. That’s our biggest year ever, primarily because of two major things – one being the greater need, people going through a tonne of stuff, even just beyond COVID, but also we really pivoted to migrate a lot of our offering online and offer those services virtually, allowing us to reach smaller markets that we would not have been able to do in the past,” explained Mark Neves, Director, Central.

Neves said the organization is trying to get the word out to broadcasters and advertising professionals in small markets to make them more aware of its services.

“We find in a lot of cases, they don’t really believe it…it sounds too good to be true,” said Neves, adding that the confidential nature of the service has allowed it to operate under the radar in many secondary markets.

Prior to the pandemic, one of the pillars of NABS programming – its career coaching workshop – was held twice monthly in a group setting in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Now, via Zoom, the agency can offer the program across the country and is seeing participation from cities like Halifax and Edmonton that would previously have been unable to access the service.

NABS is funded primarily through in-kind donations of commercial air time from broadcasters that it re-sells, in addition to other fundraising initiatives.

Steven Sienko, President of Target Broadcast Sales, was one of NABS top three donors in 2020 and is among those encouraging the organization to reach out to raise awareness of the agency’s resources among staff in small market radio.

“His dad, Vic Sienko, formed Target Broadcast Sales back in the ’80s. All the markets and stations he represents are those not owned by mega operators like Corus or Bell,” Bryan Press, National Director, NABS Media, told Broadcast Dialogue. “In markets like Tillsonburg , Woodstock, Cold Lake…he is seeing more than ever that they don’t have the resources to lean back on.”

Press added that in some cases, even where employees have access to an in-house Employee Assistance program, they may be reticent to use it.

“Employees may not want to let their company know they’re addicted or they’ve been evicted…they want to appear squeaky clean and be a top performer,” said Press.

Learn more about how to access NABS services or how you can donate, here.

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Connie Thiessen
Connie Thiessen
Connie has worked coast-to-coast as a reporter, editor, anchor and host at CKNW and News 1130 in Vancouver, News 95.7 and CBC in Halifax, and CFCW Edmonton, among other stations. With a passion for music, film and community service, she led News 95.7 to a 2013 Atlantic Journalism Award and regional RTDNA award for Best Radio Newscast. More recently, she was nominated for Music Journalist of the Year at Canadian Music Week 2019. To report a typo or error please email -

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