01/12/2012 05:03 EST | Updated 03/13/2012 05:12 EDT

Next head of federal broadcast regulator doesn't need to be bilingual

OTTAWA - The next head of Canada's broadcast regulator must be bilingual, the federal government announced Thursday.

The commitment from Heritage Minister James Moore comes amid a period of increased language tension, following the hiring of English-only candidates to key federal positions.

"The next Chair of the CRTC will be bilingual," Moore said on Twitter, repeating the statement moments later in French.

Moore made the bilingualism promise immediately after news emerged Thursday that a dual-language requirement was being downplayed in the CRTC job description.

The job posting to replace CRTC chairman Konrad Von Finckenstein says bilingualism is "preferred," but it doesn't say anything about it being an essential condition.

Von Finckenstein's mandate ends Jan. 24.

The NDP drew attention to the job ad on Thursday, insisting that the next CRTC chairman must be bilingual and saying it would be appalling to appoint a unilingual candidate.

"For me, it is heresy," said Pierre Nantel, an NDP MP.

He said he found the situation particularly shocking given the CRTC chairman has significant impact on culture, the media and television.

Nantel said the chairman must be bilingual in order to understand Canada's two cultures.

The government says all job postings in the Department of Canadian Heritage have standard wording about bilingualism being simply preferable. But Liberal MP Denis Coderre chimed in on Twitter, saying the government should change the wording of its job descriptions.

The CRTC posting comes after months of increasingly intense language disputes.

The issue began heating up earlier this year in Ottawa, with the appointment of unilingual English candidates to key jobs, such as Supreme Court justice and auditor-general.

That has since prompted closer scrutiny of unilingual Anglos in high-profile jobs in Quebec, in a series of media reports that some Anglo commentators have compared to a witchhunt.

The most famous target is the interim coach of the Montreal Canadiens, who is unable to speak French, and whose hiring has prompted a protest outside a Habs game.

Unlike the CRTC posting, the posting for the auditor-general's job had clearly said bilingualism is essential.

The CRTC posting says the candidate must be open to traveling across Canada, possess superior oral and written communication skills and be able to act as spokesman for the CRTC.

And it pays between $256,100 and $301,200.

The CRTC regulates all aspects of Canadian broadcasting and acts to maintain the balance between the public interest and cultural, social and economic needs.

Von Finckenstein has been in the job since 2007.