CBC aims to centralize its social media content

Broadcaster wants to attract viewers through the Internet

TORONTO -- The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) is clamping down on facebooking and twittering at the public broadcaster.

But it's not causal Internet surfing that's occupying the minds of CBC execs. The culprit is a growing number of Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts for individual network series and on-air personalities.

The CBC wants to get social network sites cranking for the public network to give it a single voice, highlight content, and steer Internet users to individual CBC shows.

CBC creative director of advertising and media Jill Atkinson in an internal note to CBC employees cited too many network Facebook and Twitter accounts with competing agendas that "should be culled."

"The plan is to reflect... our television priorities and to create a community that acts as a conduit to the show's individual promotional websites," Atkinson wrote.

She added the CBC created a Facebook page to tout its fall schedule, secured followers, and then posted no content on the page.

"And we said 'come on,' what a missed opportunity," Atkinson protested.

CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said the CBC is not looking to dictate to employees how they twitter, but instead make it easier for audiences to reach and view network shows.

"It's not feasible to control it (social networking), but you have an interest in offering up at least a consistent and coherent version of what we're trying to go with here," he said.

Among current CBC experiments is an official CBC Facebook page, with discussion boards, where Canadians are encouraged to sound off on how they feel about the network, its shows and its evolving public broadcasting mandate.

But setting one social network voice for the CBC is complicated by Canada's physical geography and expanse, with TV viewers in Vancouver not caring what people are watching in Halifax, across five time zones.

And Keay concedes the CBC needs to maintain an organic approach to social networking to ensure innovation, and to grapple as a broadcaster with digital narrowcasting tools like Twitter and Facebook.

"You'll see us trying different things. It's a large and diverse organization," Keay said.