OTTAWA - A complaint has been filed with the broadcast regulator over a new CBC music venture private media companies say abuses the public purse and inhibits competition.
Montreal-based Stingray Digital Group has asked the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to force the state broadcaster to live up to its mandate and pull the plug on free music downloads if need be.
Other media, including Quebecor - the parent of Sun Media and Sun News - COGECO, Radio Nord, Golden West Radio and Newcap Radio - have complained to Heritage Minister James Moore, who has praised the music venture.
They argue the CBC is violating the Broadcast Act by using public funds to poach on their turf by investing heavily in platform technologies and offering free tunes when they charge a fee,
They also say they pay more in royalties than the CBC.
The companies say the CBC has an unfair advantage because it pays less to singers, composers and the like due to its non-profit status, and that its $1.2-billion annual subsidy allows it to give music away.
In a letter to Moore, the media group says the CBC site ignores its mandate.
"It certainly appears that the CBC is using funds from its government appropriations to sustain a service that directly competes with private broadcasters," the letter states.
A spokesman for Moore said it would be up to the CRTC to sort out.
"This is a matter between private companies, a Crown corporation and our arms-length regulator," said James Maunder.
A CBC spokesman says it will continue to offer the service until told otherwise.
"This isn't about competing, it's about CBC providing a service to Canadian music fans in a digital world, which is core to our mandate," said Chuck Thompson.
In its complaint, Stingray asks the regulator to make the CBC break down where it spends it allotment on television, radio and Internet and not lump it all together and want to ensure tax dollars are not funding the music venture.