Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is Canada’s national public broadcaster. It produces, procures and distributes Canadian programming in English, French and eight Aboriginal languages.

Rating: A

(Received an F in 2009–2010)

Assessment

  • The improvement in the CBC’s performance is impressive. For example, the CBC reduced its deemed refusal rate from 57.7 percent in 2009–2010 to 4.2 percent in 2011–2012.
  • The average time the CBC took to complete a request dropped from 158 days in 2009–2010 to 36 days in 2011–2012.
  • In 2011–2012, the number of complaints the OIC received about the CBC was still high but reflected a 47-percent decrease from 2009–2010.
  • The CBC President and CEO showed notable leadership in the wake of the CBC’s failing grade on the 2009–2010 report card. Among other measures, he incorporated access to information compliance into the performance management agreements of the senior management cadre, and communicated the importance of transparency and compliance with the Act to all staff.
  • The CBC proactively posts frequently requested information on its website.
Quick facts 2009–2010 2011–2012
Number of requests carried over from previous fiscal year 108 18
Number of new requests 247 218
Number of requests completed 315 208
Number of pages reviewed for requests completed 44,054 79,362
Deemed refusal rate* 57.7% 4.2%
Average number of days to complete a request 158 36
Number of consultation requests received 38 37
Percentage of required extension notices submitted to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) 100% 91%
Number of complaints registered with the OIC 134 71
Number of complaints the OIC resolved** (36) 47 9
Number of full-time equivalents in access to information operations, as of the end of the fiscal year 7.63 8

*Percentage of carried over and new requests delayed beyond the deadlines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act. (See Appendix A for the formula the OIC used to calculate this rate.)

**A complaint is resolved when the OIC finds it has merit and the institution resolves it to the Commissioner’s satisfaction. The number of complaints reported reflects complaints resolved as of October 2012. For comparative purposes, the figure that appeared in the 2009–2010 report card is presented in parentheses. See Figure 5 for more information.

Follow-up on 2009–2010 recommendations

Leadership Met expectations
Action plan Met expectations*
Training Met expectations
Extension notices Met expectations
Deemed refusal rate Met expectations

See report card text for details (full text of the recommendations).

*Met expectations through alternative action. Refer to response 2 under "Follow-up on the 2009–2010 recommendations" for details.

Report card

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) made dramatic improvements in its access to information operations and achieved an outstanding level of compliance in 2011–2012. The CBC reduced its deemed refusal rate significantly—from 57.7 percent in 2009–2010 to 4.2 percent in 2011–2012. In 2011–2012, the CBC took an average of 36 days to complete requests, down from 158 in 2009–2010. The CBC submitted to the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) 91 percent of the required notices of extensions of more than 30 days, as required by section 9(2) of the Access to Information Act.

As we have seen for other institutions, leadership was the primary factor in the CBC’s improved performance. After the CBC received an “F” on our 2009–2010 report card, the President and CEO made compliance with the Act a corporate priority and communicated the importance of transparency and compliance with the Act to all staff. Compliance was also included in the objectives of all vice-presidents as part of the CBC’s individual performance management process. This, in turn, emphasized the importance of transparency throughout the institution and highlighted the expectation that sectors would fully support access to information operations. All employees were reminded of their role in responding to requests. Access officials reported that the corporate communications group reminded staff that the CBC is a public institution and that Canadians have a right to information about its operations.

The CBC initiated training for employees at all levels, with the reported effect of increased clarity about their respective roles and responsibilities, as well as a better understanding of the more technical aspects of administering the Act. Access officials said that the sessions established an important connection between the access to information office and the various sectors in the CBC, and resulted in improved cooperation.

The CBC reported that, as a result of this enhanced focus on transparency and training, employees at all levels have become more comfortable with the requirements of the Act and the importance of transparency.

Challenges encountered in achieving compliance were resolved by putting in place a mechanism that allowed management to react rapidly when requests were not advancing according to standard deadlines. To this end, access officials closely monitored benchmarks to ensure maximum compliance.

In 2011–2012, the CBC reported to the OIC that it took 24 extensions of more than 30 days (see Figure 3). This equals 11 percent of the requests it received. The number of extensions has increased from the one the CBC reported in 2009–2010; however, we note that 75 percent of the extensions were for less than 90 days. We will continue to monitor the use of extensions at the CBC.

The CBC moved its access to information office from Corporate Services to its Media Law Division and appointed the Associate General Counsel as the coordinator. The CBC is of the view that there is a natural complement between the two roles, given the language of section 68.1 of the Act (the CBC’s unique exclusion for programming, creative and journalistic information). It is also of the view that facilitating the office’s access to legal counsel can help to expedite requests. While there may be advantages to this arrangement, we remain concerned that placing the access function directly under the responsibility of the CBC’s legal services group may give rise to conflicting interests when issues relating to litigation occur and may lead to an overly technical approach to the application of the law. We will continue to monitor the effects of this arrangement.

The CBC’s delegation order is also of some concern to us, since it restricts the authority to apply the exclusion for programming, creative and journalistic information to just the coordinator. However, the director is the de facto manager of the access program and, as such, should, in our view, be accorded full delegation of authority. The CBC informed us that it is considering a change to the delegation order. Access officials explained that the current delegation was put in place as a “safeguard” while the institution acclimatized to the application of the Act, and the director, who is comparatively new, became familiar with the institution.

Having resolved many of its internal access challenges, the CBC focussed its efforts on communicating to Canadians about access. The CBC’s website has a section dedicated to transparency and accountability that is current, user-friendly and easy to navigate. As required by the Treasury Board Secretariat, the CBC lists its completed access requests on this site, except for those that disclose personal information. However, the CBC also posts complete release packages that are identified as being of “general interest.” Access officials determined what is of interest by tracking request trends as well as external enquiries received by its corporate communications group. Completed requests of general interest include, subject to any exemptions applied, the content of audits, policies, minutes of meetings of the board of directors, as well as business and hospitality expenses. The CBC also proactively posts information about audits and expenses, as well as board minutes that have not yet been the subject of access requests. In our view, these actions are best practices.

In November 2011, the Federal Court of Appeal concluded that the Information Commissioner has the right to examine information the CBC has claimed is related to its journalistic, creative and programming activities (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation v Canada (Information Commissioner) 2011 FCA 326). The CBC did not appeal this decision. As a result, in January 2012, we re-activated a number of complaints that we had put on hold in 2008–2009. While we initially had some difficulty obtaining responses to our investigative inquiries, subsequent communication with CBC management by our investigative branch has resulted in a much improved response time. We closed 186 complaints in 2011–2012, including many of the older complaints we had on file. We discontinued 131 complaints, 4 were settled, 25 were resolved and 26 were not substantiated. While we continue to work diligently with the CBC to resolve the complaints that remain in our inventory (234 as of October 1, 2012), we maintain that, to protect requesters’ rights, the CBC must dedicate more resources to complaint resolution until this backlog of complaints is eliminated.

Finally, one of the issues that arose during our complaint investigations was that the CBC was not retrieving and processing records that it claimed were excluded as relating to programming, creative or journalism matters. The CBC has reported to us that it now retrieves and processes all requested records. It has also informed us that it is now releasing more information than it was previously. We will continue to monitor the CBC’s retrieval and processing of records to ensure compliance with the Act.

Figure 1: Access to information workload, 2009–2010 to 2011–2012

Access to information workload, 2009–2010 to 2011–2012
Text Version

Figure 1: Access to information workload, 2009–2010 to 2011–2012
This graphic is a horizontal bar chart that represents the sources of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) workload. The chart is broken down into three sections, each representing a fiscal year, with 2009–2010 on top, followed by 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 on the bottom. Each section has four bars, representing new access to information requests the CBC received, requests carried over from the previous fiscal year, consultation requests received, and the total of the three.

The graph shows that the number of new access requests the CBC received increased from 247 in 2009–2010 to 327 in 2010–2011 and then decreased to 218 in 2011–2012. Requests carried over decreased from 108 in 2009–2010 to 40 in 2010–2011 and then to 18 in 2011–2012. Consultation requests decreased from 38 in 2009–2010 to 19 in 2010–2011 and then increased to 37 in 2010–2011.

The total workload for 2009–2010 was 393 files. The total for 2010–2011 was 386 files. The total for 2011–2012 was 273 files.

This graph shows the sources of the CBC’s workload. For the sake of observing trends, we have included figures from 2010–2011 as well as the two years we completed a report card on the CBC. Comparing 2009–2010 to 2011–2012, the institution saw a 31-percent decrease in its overall workload, including a 83-percent decrease in the number of requests carried over and a 3-percent decrease in the number of consultation requests from other institutions. The number of new access requests decreased by 12 percent (247 in 2009–2010 to 218 in 2011–2012), after a spike to 327 in 2010–2011. The number of pages the CBC reviewed for completed requests increased by 80 percent from 2009–2010 to 2011–2012.

Figure 2: How long it took to complete new requests, 2009–2010 and 2011–2012

How long it took to complete new requests, 2009–2010 and 2011–2012
Text Version

Figure 2: How long it took to complete new requests, 2009–2010 and 2011–2012
These are two side-by-side pie charts that represent how long it took the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to complete new access to information requests, with 2009–2010 on the left and 2011–2012 on the right. Each pie has three sections. Clockwise from the top right, the first section represents the number of requests the CBC completed within 30 days, the second section the number of requests it completed in more than 30 days when it took an extension, and the third the number of requests it completed late (after 30 days) when it did not take an extension. This third section is then broken down to show the percentage of requests that were completed between 1 and 30 days late, between 31 and 60 days late, between 61 and 90 days late and more than 90 days late.

The 2009–2010 pie chart (on the left) shows 53 percent of the pie allocated to requests completed within 30 days (113 requests), 0 percent to requests completed in more than 30 days with an extension (0 requests) and 47 percent to requests completed in more than 30 days with no extension (99 requests). This last section is then broken down to show that 37 percent of these requests were completed 1–30 days late, 22 percent 31–60 days late, 18 percent 61–90 days late and 22 percent more than 90 days late.

The 2011–2012 pie chart (on the right) shows 83 percent of the pie allocated to requests completed within 30 days (158 requests), 15 percent to requests completed in more than 30 days with an extension (28 requests) and 2 percent to requests completed in more than 30 days with no extension (4 requests). This last section is then broken down to show that 25 percent of these requests were completed 1–30 days late, 75 percent 31–60 days late, 0 percent 61–90 days late and 0 percent more than 90 days late.


Between 2009–2010 and 2011–2012, the proportion of new access requests the CBC completed within the timelines (30 days and extended) set out in the Access to Information Act rose from 53 percent to 98 percent. The remaining requests were completed late: 4 requests (2 percent) in 2011–2012 compared to 99 requests (47 percent) in 2009–2010.

Figure 3: Number and length of time extensions taken, 2009–2010 and 2011–2012

Number and length of time extensions taken, 2009–2010 and 2011–2012
Text Version

Figure 3: Number and length of time extensions taken, 2009–2010 and 2011–2012
This graphic is of two horizontal bar charts, one on top of the other, that represent the number and the length of time extensions taken by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The graph on top represents data from 2009–2010 while the bottom graph represents data from 2011–2012. Along the y-axis there are five categories. These categories are 31–90 days, 91–120 days, 121–150 days, more than 180 days and unspecified. Along the x-axis is the number of time extensions taken.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported taking 1 extension for 31–90 days in 2009–2010 but 18 in 2011–2012. In 2009–2010, it took 0 extensions for 91–120 days and 0 in 2011–2012. In 2009–2010, it took 0 extensions for 121–150 days and 0 in 2011–2012. In 2009–2010, it took 0 extensions for 151–180 days but 1 in 2011–2012. In 2009–2010, it took 0 extensions for more than 180 days and 0 in 2010–2011. In 2009–2010, it took 0 extensions for an unspecified time but 5 in 2011–2012.

This graph shows the number and length of the time extensions the CBC reported to have taken in 2009–2010 and 2011–2012. The institution supplied this information in the notices it sent to the OIC under subsection 9(2) of the Access to Information Act. The CBC notified the OIC in the one case in which it took an extension of more than 30 days in 2009–2010. In 2011–2012, the CBC submitted 91 percent of the required extension notices. The OIC notes the increase in the CBC’s use of extensions, and will be monitoring it.

Figure 4: Number and outcome of delay-related complaints, 2009–2010 to 2011–2012

Number and outcome of delay-related complaints, 2009–2010 to 2011–2012
Text Version

Figure 4: Number and outcome of delay-related complaints, 2009–2010 to 2011–2012
This graphic displays two horizontal bar charts, one on top of the other. The top chart represents deemed refusal complaints against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The bottom chart represents time extension complaints. Each chart is separated into thirds representing fiscal years 2009–2010, 2010–2011 and 2011–2012. In each third, there are fours bars representing whether the complaint was resolved, not substantiated, discontinued or pending.

The deemed refusal complaints graph (on the top) shows 6 deemed refusal complaints resolved in 2009–2010, 2 not substantiated, 0 discontinued and 0 pending, for a total of 8 complaints. In 2010–2011, there were 0 deemed refusal complaints resolved, 0 not substantiated, 1 discontinued and 0 pending, for a total of 1 complaint. In 2011–2012, there was 1 deemed refusal complaint resolved, 0 not substantiated, 0 discontinued and 0 pending, for a total of 1 complaint.

The time extension complaints graph (on the bottom) shows 0 time extension complaints resolved in 2009–2010, 0 not substantiated, 0 discontinued and 0 pending, for a total of 0 complaints. In 2010–2011, there were 13 time extension complaints resolved, 1 not substantiated, 4 discontinued and 0 pending, for a total of 18 complaints. In 2011–2012, there were 5 time extension complaints resolved, 7 not substantiated, 2 discontinued and 0 pending, for a total of 14 complaints.

These graphs show the number and outcome of two types of complaint registered against the CBC in the three fiscal years starting in 2009–2010: complaints about deemed refusals (access to information requests that the CBC delayed beyond the deadlines—30 days and extended—set out in the Access to Information Act) and complaints about the CBC’s use of the time extensions allowed under the Act. The number of deemed refusal complaints has decreased since 2009–2010. There were no time extension complaints against the CBC in 2009–2010, followed by a large increase in 2010–2011. There were slightly fewer of these complaints in 2011–2012.

*Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

Figure 5: Number and outcome of complaints received by the OIC, 2009–2010 to 2011–2012

Resolved* Not substantiated Discontinued Pending Total
2009–2010          
Administrative 10 4 0 0 14
Refusals 37 17 37 29 120
Total 47 21 37 29 134
2010–2011          
Administrative 21 4 5 0 30
Refusals 2 6 66** 79 153
Total 23 10 71 79 183
2011–2012          
Administrative 7 7 2 0 16
Refusals 2 2 10** 40 54
Cabinet confidences 0 0 0 1 1
Total 9 9 12 41 71

This table sets out the number and outcome of the complaints the OIC registered against the CBC in the three reporting periods starting in 2009–2010. The overall number of complaints registered against the CBC in 2011–2012 decreased by 47 percent from 2009–2010, after an increase in 2010–2011. In 2011–2012, the majority of the complaints were about the refusal to disclose information. In addition, most of the new complaints (79 percent) were made by one complainant.

*Resolved complaints are those that the OIC finds to have merit and that the institution resolves to the Commissioner’s satisfaction.

**The OIC began using new disposition categories in 2010–2011. Since then, there have been three complaints (two in 2010–2011 and one in 2011–2012) closed in the new Settled category, meaning that the complaint was settled to the satisfaction of the complainant and the institution, without the need for the OIC to make a finding. For reporting purposes here, and to ensure consistency with previous reports, these complaints were placed in the Discontinued category.

Follow-up on the 2009–2010 recommendations

The OIC issued four recommendations to the CBC in its 2009–2010 report card. The following summarizes the CBC’s response (full text of recommendations and response).

  1. The OIC recommended that the President and CEO of the CBC demonstrate leadership in establishing access to information and its legislative obligations as an institutional priority.

    In response, the CBC reported that access to information compliance was incorporated into the performance objectives of the vice-presidents as part of the CBC’s individual performance management process. The coordinator and the vice-president responsible for access to information receive access status reports on a weekly basis. Senior managers across the CBC are apprised quarterly of performance metrics in their respective business areas, which allows them to take necessary actions to maintain performance at the appropriate levels, and there are escalation procedures to ensure that requests advance in a timely fashion in the meantime. Communications, both corporate and internal, have focused on the need to be transparent and respect the right of Canadians to know what their public institutions are doing. Access to information officials reported that the President and CEO’s attention has given them the “space” to achieve success, and that there is now a prevailing understanding of, and commitment to, transparency across all levels of the institution.

  1. The OIC recommended that the CBC implement a multi-year action plan to improve access to information operations and results, including clarifying the retrieval, review and approval processes.

    In 2009–2010, the CBC responded that a multi-year plan was being developed. Subsequently, however, the plan quickly became simple and focused on the achievement of sustainable results, access officials said. They created a list of objectives to achieve, rather than a formal plan, embedded them in the performance objectives of the responsible employees and closely monitored the resulting performance, making adjustments as required. We are satisfied that this approach effectively responds to the recommendation.

  1. The OIC recommended that the CBC initiate training to promote access to information awareness across the entire institution.

    The CBC delivered three major training sessions for all levels of staff in key business areas. The director and staff of the access office led the sessions, with the coordinator and Assistant General Counsel on hand to respond to questions. The CBC reported that the training also served to establish a relationship between the access office and other groups within the institution, which has eased interaction between them. Additionally, the access office began publishing and distributing newsletters in both official languages to access liaison officers in each business area. Topics covered in these newsletters include the scope and purpose of the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act, the difference between exemptions and exclusions, and between discretionary and mandatory exemptions, and the protection of personal information.

  1. The OIC recommended that the CBC reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

    In response, the CBC set an objective to achieve a less-than-five-percent rate in two years—by the end of the 2012–2013 reporting period. In fact, the CBC reduced its deemed refusal rate to 4.2 percent in 2011–2012.

2011–2012 recommendations

The OIC commends the CBC for its vastly improved operations, and challenges it to assume a leadership role in the federal access to information community. The following recommendations are intended to ensure that the CBC maintains its success.

  1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the President and CEO of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation continue to demonstrate exemplary leadership and champion transparency throughout the organization.

    Response
    This recommendation is agreed with. The CBC will take the following actions:

  • Continue including ATIP performance in the objectives of the CEO and all Vice Presidents.
  • Disclose even more types of information proactively.
  • Continue making records that have been released in answer to Access to Information requests available to the public on the Corporation’s Transparency and Accountability web site.
  1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation continue to reduce its deemed refusal rate to zero.

    Response
    Going forward, we will consistently aim for a deemed refusal rate of 0. It is difficult to guarantee that we will achieve that rate every year. Our deemed refusal rate to the end of the first half of this fiscal year is 2%.

    The CBC will take the following actions:

  • Continue emphasizing ATIP performance as a corporate priority.
  • Continue rigorous internal ATIP performance reporting.
  1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that, to reflect current operations, the President and CEO of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation revise the delegation order to give the director of the access to information office full authority for access to information decisions.

    Response
    This recommendation is agreed with. The delegation instrument will be amended.

  1. To protect requesters’ rights, the Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation dedicate more resources to complaint resolution until the backlog of complaints is eliminated.

    Response
    Eliminating the complaint backlog is a priority for CBC. We will implement the following three step plan to reduce the complaint backlog:

    1) Continue working strategically with the OIC to group and prioritize complaints, and jointly monitor progress on them to ensure that maximum output is being achieved from available  resources;

    2) Ensure all CBC administrative processes related to complaint resolution are as efficient as possible; and

    3) When steps 1) and 2) have produced all the efficiencies they can, if necessary and as budget pressures permit, engage supplementary resource(s) as required.

  1. The Office of the Information Commissioner recommends that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report on its progress in implementing these recommendations in its annual report to Parliament on access to information operations.

    Response
    This recommendation is agreed with. The Corporation’s annual report on its access to information operations will include detail regarding our progress on implementing the above recommendations.