The public interest group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting (FCB) says no major TV station owners in Canada are willing to run an ad it has produced criticizing the Harper government for its approach to the CBC.
But at least one major broadcaster is disputing the claim, saying they did indeed run the commercial.
The ad, posted to the FCB website, shows a Harper aide tied to a chair and floating underwater, holding his breath.
“After all these years of loyalty, all I said was, ‘Prime Minister, maybe we should leave the CBC alone’,” the voiceover says.
“But the moment I said it I knew I was in trouble,” the narrator continues, as another man, tied to another chair, appears in the water.
“The ads the networks do not want Canadians to see are meant to hold the Harper government to account for the damage it has done to public broadcasting in Canada,” Friends spokesperson Ian Morrison said in a statement.
But Bell Media vice-president Scott Henderson says the network did run the ad.
"To the best of my knowledge, this ad has not been rejected by Bell Media. In fact, I can confirm it aired last night on TSN during the Raptors game," Henderson wrote in an email to HuffPost.
UPDATE: Friends of Canadian Broadcasting stands by its assertion that Bell Media refused the ad.
"Raptors TV, which has an agreement to provide coverage of some Raptors games to TSN, agreed to run them," a spokesperson said in an email. "That is how the ad showed up on a TSN broadcast, not because Bell Media agreed to run them."
FCB named Bell Media as one of the companies it said would not run the ad, along with Corus, Quebecor, Rogers and Shaw. A number of U.S. border stations in Vermont, Washington state and Buffalo, N.Y., also refused the ad, FCB said.
The Huffington Post Canada has reached out to the broadcasters, and will update this story with their responses.
FCB pre-emptively defended the ad, noting it had been approved by the Television Bureau of Canada, an industry group.
The public interest group has been among the most vocal defenders of the CBC as the network has undergone public funding cuts and public spats with the federal government.
It has criticized the Harper government for what is says are attacks on the CBC’s independence, thanks to a new policy that allows the Treasury Board to have the final word on pay levels at the broadcaster. Critics say CBC staffers will be hesitant to report critically on a government that controls their pay.
Friends of Canadian Broadcasting has also criticized the Harper government’s cuts to public funding of the CBC, noting that, since Prime Minister Harper took power, public funding has fallen from just short of $1.3 billion to around $1.04 billion.
The network’s problems were compounded by the loss in 2013 of its lucrative NHL broadcast rights to Rogers, which signed a $5.2-billion, 12-year deal with the NHL.
The CBC has seen successive rounds of layoffs amid its financial difficulties.
Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is developing a reputation for controversial ads. It took flak in 2013, particularly from conservative commentators, over an ad that depicted a journalist being bundled into the trunk of a car after asking Harper difficult questions, while music similar to “The Godfather” theme played.
Critics called the ad “bigoted,” saying it amounted to “an ethnic slur against Italians.”
— With files from Sunny Freeman, The Huffington Post Canada
This story has been altered from its original version, to include comments from Bell Media.
Also on HuffPost: