Policy 1.4: Public Service Announcements


CBC/Radio-Canada recognizes the importance for the well-being of the community of many social, charitable and artistic activities. Therefore, it makes available to qualifying private and public organizations a limited amount of free time to assist them in promoting their public service aims and objectives. Because of the partisan nature of political organizations, their activities do not qualify for public service time.

The criteria used in accepting qualifying organizations and the criteria governing acceptance of announcements from such organizations, are as follows:


1. Private organizations

Examples of acceptable private organizations are charitable and religious organizations, service clubs, publicly supported arts organizations, etc. To be eligible, these organizations must:

  1. have a permanent office in Canada, not be profit-oriented, be registered with Revenue Canada as charitable organizations and in a position to assure contributors that their financial contributions will be deductible for income tax purposes;
  2. conduct activities that are generally perceived by the public as serving Canadian society as a whole.

2. Public organizations

Examples of acceptable public organizations are departments or agencies of the federal, provincial or municipal governments, dealing with traffic safety, fire prevention, energy conservation, alcoholism and drug abuse, recreational and artistic activities, election information, etc.


  1. CBC/Radio-Canada does not provide free time to broadcast messages that advocate a point of view or course of action on a public issue. For the purpose of this policy a public issue is a matter about which there is significant difference of opinion and that is or is likely to be the subject of public debate. Public service announcements that attempt to influence listener or viewer attitudes on a public issue are subject to review by Advertising Standards, Head Office.
  2. Announcements must deal with public service activities of the organization and not with activities that serve only their private interests.
  3. Promotion of religious doctrines or ideologies is not acceptable.
  4. Persons holding political office and senior government officials may not normally be named or appear in public service announcements.
  5. The organizations on whose behalf a public service announcement is broadcast must be identified. However, a message from an ineligible organization may be accepted on an exceptional basis if the message is one that the Corporation would willingly broadcast as an expression of its own sentiments. In such instances, the sponsoring organization would not be identified.
  6. Announcements must:
    • be presented with good taste in word, tone and scene;
    • be suitable for introduction into the intimacy of the home in mixed, family or social groups of various ages;
    • not offend or embarrass through indelicacy of expression or presentation;
    • avoid disparaging individuals or groups;
    • be within the moral, ethical and legal standards of current society.


  1. The scheduling of public service announcements is entirely at the discretion of the Corporation.
  2. Some organizations eligible for public service announcements may also purchase time. The amount purchased will have no influence on the number of free announcements scheduled.
  3. Preference in the scheduling of public service announcements is given to messages produced in Canada, using Canadian talent.
  4. Public service announcements of government departments and agencies may be broadcast during election and by election campaigns provided the messages do not assume a political significance during the campaign.


Designated Communications officers will ensure that the organization on whose behalf a message is submitted is eligible for public service time and that the message itself conforms to the Corporation's presentation standards.

When interpretation of this policy is required, the matter must be referred to Advertising Standards, Head Office, for appropriate management direction.

If announcements for the same organization are submitted in French and English versions, both versions should be acceptable before either is scheduled.

Announcements that may be broadcast on stations in more than one region are considered national advertisements and are subject to review and approval by the Network public service clearance offices in Toronto (English) and Montreal (French).


These are internal guidelines, designed to assist those within the Corporation in interpreting and applying CBC Corporate Policy governing Public Service Announcements.

They are issued as an appendix to the policy so that they may more readily be amended to meet changing Corporate needs.


  1. Recruiting campaigns of charitable organizations for unpaid volunteers
  2. Religious organizations
    May promote generally accepted standards of behaviour, concerts, public meetings, etc. May not promote religious doctrine or creed.
  3. Lotteries of private public service organizations
    Must be government-approved and have a lottery licence.
  4. Consumer protection organizations
    Service promoted must be in public interest.
  5. Government-owned recreation areas, parks, museums, art galleries, zoos, etc.
  6. Canadian artists performing at dinner theatres, restaurants, etc.
    All proceeds, including food and drink, must go to eligible public service organization. Identification of location must be factual (for address purposes only).
  7. Canadian artists’ works at private gallery
    Promote artist - gallery identification must be factual (for address purposes only).
  8. Professional arts organizations, theatres and concert halls
    Promotion is generally limited to benefit or fund-raising performances, free performances, auditions to select students for educational programs, the debut of Canadian artists, performances of schools or amateur or multicultural groups.


Arts activities that receive financial assistance through federal, provincial or municipal grants may be eligible for scheduling as well as arts activities of public educational institutions. Amateur and lesser-known arts groups will receive priority in scheduling as they are usually totally dependent on public service promotion.


  1. Private non-profit organizations that have commercial or professional interests are not normally eligible for public service time.
  2. Professional, trade and industry associations
  3. Umbrella groups made up of public service and private interest organizations
  4. Professional sports (regardless of community ownership)
  5. Competitive broadcast services
    Not in best interests of CBC (includes telethons)
  6. U.S.-based organizations (whether charitable, cultural or artistic)
  7. Armed Forces recruiting
    Exception for special recruiting may be granted if in national security interests.
  8. Tourist promotion
  9. Government-run lotteries
    Considered commercial
  10. Election activities of any organization (political or not)
  11. Political party activities (political or social)
  12. Protest groups
  13. Organizations identified with specific birth control methods or products (including pro-choice and anti-abortion)


Broadcast language

Messages that make use of a language other than the normal broadcast language of a station may be accepted if the need for the use of the other language is apparent and does not confuse the audience. Subtitles used simply for translation purposes are not sufficient. Only messages created for English- or French-speaking audiences may be broadcast over CBC English or French services respectively. Bilingual identification of the source of a public service announcement is acceptable.

Audience solicitation

CBC/Radio-Canada does not provide facilities to handle mail or telephone pledges. Messages requesting audience mail or telephone response must direct the response to the organization concerned and not to CBC/Radio-Canada, e.g., “in care of this station”.


Supers used in public service television announcements must be large enough and on screen long enough to be easily read.

CBC/Radio-Canada identification

CBC/Radio-Canada normally does not associate itself with the content of public service announcements. Consequently, credit lines such as “presented by this station and . . . (name of organization)” should be avoided.

Advertising Standards
Head Office, Ottawa
January 1993

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