General + Regulatory + Telecom + Media NewsCBC forges ahead with 'Tandem' branded content and podcast initiative

CBC forges ahead with ‘Tandem’ branded content and podcast initiative

CBC/Radio-Canada has announced it’s moving forward with its Tandem branded content and podcast initiative above the concerns of dozens of current and former CBC journalists, and the Canadian Media Guild (CMG), among others.

In response to those concerns, the public broadcaster issued a statement Thursday, clarifying its position and issuing a series of guidelines aimed at eliminating audience confusion between journalism and commercial advertising on CBC/Radio-Canada platforms.

“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 Catherine Tait, President and CEO. “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 November 26, 2020, we are issuing new guidelines that further strengthen and clarify the boundaries between our journalistic content and advertising.”

Those guidelines include restricting branded content exclusively to local digital pages in separate, delineated areas; clearly labeling Tandem content as “paid” rather than “sponsored”; and using different graphic treatment to distinguish it from journalistic content. An “Explain this/De quoi s’agit-il” link will also be embedded in paid content.

As well, the public broadcaster has clarified that no CBC/Radio-Canada journalists or hosts will be involved in the creation or presentation of branded content, encompassing audio, video and alpha-numeric formats.

CBC says a working group will continue to monitor the evolution of the initiative and other digital advertising as market changes warrant.

“We recognize that as the nation’s public broadcaster we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard, with more stringent guidelines than our peers to ensure a clear separation between our journalism and commercial content,” said Barb Williams, Executive Vice-President of CBC, in the same statement. “That said, as long as we operate a diversified business model and aim to maintain current levels of service to Canadians, we must be able to provide advertisers with the suite of options that all of our reputable colleagues provide.”

FRIENDS petition draws 11k signatures

Public broadcaster watchdog FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting, meanwhile, is continuing a petition drive calling for the cancellation of the Tandem initiative, which so far has drawn over 11,000 signatures. At the heart of the campaign, is the idea that CBC’s credibility shouldn’t be for sale.

“We do not accept the decision to continue with Tandem,” Daniel Bernhard, FRIENDS Executive Director, told Broadcast Dialogue. “The thousands of Canadians who have signed our petition calling on CBC’s Board of Directors to put a stop to Tandem, must also be disappointed with this decision. We all understand that the CBC is a public service, not a private broadcaster. Unfortunately, Catherine Tait doesn’t get this distinction.”

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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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