Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) recent launch of a free digital music service ( music.cbc.ca) has come under fire from some of the country's biggest private media companies who claim it infringes on their ability to make money.

The coalition, which includes Quebecor Inc. Stingray Digital, the Jim Pattison Group, Coegco Cable Inc. and Golden Weshas, filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), is charging that the national broadcaster is in violation of its mandate by going head to head with fee-based music streaming sites and commercial radio stations.

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The group is requesting that the CRTC and Heritage Minister James Moore require the CBC to start charging for its service, increase the Canadian content or shut down entirely.

"The CBC is using the preferential royalty rates it receives from the various collective societies because of its status as a non-profit public broadcaster to make the service viable in the long term," the Globe and Mail newspaper said the group wrote in the letter to Moore. "We asked that the CBC be compelled to justify its actions and explain how the launch of the CBC Music service is not competitive with existing services offered by private broadcasters and how it is not damaging to the industry."

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Chris Boyce, Executive Director, Radio and Audio, CBC English services, said in an email to Billboard.biz that he believes the digital music platform is indeed fulfilling its mandate. "CBC Music was developed to deliver Canadian music fans a unique service in a digital world," he said. "As a public broadcaster, that's core to our mandate and this service isn't about competing. There's no other service out there that provides the same range of content and context. Since we've launched in February, feedback from artists, labels and Canadians has been overwhelmingly positive."

"The only music that you can hear for free is when the birds sing," Stingray Digital CEO Eric Boyko told Globe and Mail reporter Steve Ladurantaye. "There is a cost to everything, yet CBC does not seem to think that is true."

CBC Music currently offers 40 online radio stations, which have a library of songs in the millions both Canadian and international, as well as direct access to the music of almost 1,000 major and independent music companies.

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