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The CBC/Radio-Canada building in Montreal.

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ads will be coming to CBC Radio 2 after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved the public broadcaster's request to open its airwaves to commercial messages.

The CRTC issued its blessing for ads on Radio 2 and the French-language Espace Musique radio network as part of the CBC's licence renewal announced Tuesday morning. Advertising will be limited to no more than four minutes per broadcasting hour. "In order to minimize the impact on their listeners, the advertising broadcast will be consolidated in a maximum of two blocks each hour," the regulator decreed.

But after private broadcasters told the commission during the licence renewal hearing last November that they feared greater competition for advertising dollars, and loyal listeners complained about the potential intrusiveness of ads, the regulator said it will be keeping a close eye on the development. The CBC must apply for permission at the end of a three-year trial period if it wishes to keep running ads.

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"The CBC will have to demonstrate that the advertising has not had an undue adverse effect on advertising markets, that listeners have not been unduly inconvenienced by the advertising, that the level of investment in radio broadcasting has been maintained, and that there has been no reduction in the variety and diversity of programming provided by the Radio 2 and Espace Musique services," the CRTC said.

The CBC received the five-year licence term it had requested.

But there were other conditions. The CRTC implied that it was not satisfied the CBC's ombudsmen – one for each of the English-language and French-language services – had enough independence. Though terms traditionally last five years, the most recent English-language ombudsmen, Kirk LaPointe, left the position after only two years in office. The CRTC called on the CBC "to clarify that ombudsmen's contracts cannot be terminated except for reasons such as gross misconduct or in instances where the ombudsmen's actions have been deemed to be inconsistent," with the broadcaster's code of conduct.

The CBC will also be required to broadcast at least 15 hours per week of Canadian programming aimed at children under 12.

As part of its licence renewal, the CBC's French-language news service RDI received mandatory carriage on digital basic TV systems in francophone communities in English-language markets; its English-language CBC News Network received mandatory carriage in anglophone communities in French-language markets.

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