The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today introduced new policies to prepare the Canadian broadcasting industry for the transition to a fully digital environment. In developing these policies, the Commission has simplified its regulation in order to foster a more coherent and well-calibrated broadcasting system.
“Following a comprehensive review, we have streamlined a number of rules and eliminated those that were no longer necessary,” said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. “These measures will contribute to a more dynamic broadcasting system, which will be in a better position to respond to the opportunities and challenges presented by new media. They will also make it easier for viewers to choose the programs they want.”
“The desire for better local programming in Canada’s smaller markets was clearly made evident during this proceeding,” added Mr. von Finckenstein. “We have taken concrete steps to make sure that viewers in these markets continue to benefit from a diversity of local programming.”
The CRTC has developed forward-looking policies that will give the broadcasting system added flexibility while retaining the necessary regulations to achieve the objectives of the Broadcasting Act. The majority of the changes will come into effect on August 31, 2011. This date coincides with the end of analog over-the-air broadcasting in Canada and will give the industry time to adapt.
Broadcasting distribution companies, pay and specialty services, and conventional television broadcasters will be affected by the Commission’s new policies. The principal changes are described below.
Broadcasting distribution companies
In reviewing the rules that affect broadcasting distribution companies, such as cable and satellite providers, the Commission has decided to:
- exempt from its licensing requirements broadcasting distribution companies with fewer than 20,000 subscribers
- harmonize as much as possible the rules between satellite and terrestrial distribution companies
- eliminate most rules governing how channels are packaged
- modify its approach to dispute resolution for complaints that involve allegations of undue preference or undue disadvantage
- require broadcasting distribution companies to continue offering a basic service package after the transition to digital, and
- initiate proceedings to explore how new forms of digital and interactive advertising could benefit the broadcasting system as a whole.
Pay and specialty services
In reviewing the rules that affect pay and specialty services, the Commission has decided to:
- allow direct competition between Canadian services in mainstream sports and national news
- maintain exclusivity across other genres while allowing for greater flexibility in the types of programming pay and specialty services may broadcast
- introduce a mechanism to introduce competition in other genres in the future, and
- maintain access rights for Canadian pay and specialty services in a digital environment.
Conventional television broadcasters
In reviewing the rules that affect conventional television broadcasters, the Commission has decided to:
- deny the request for a subscriber fee for the carriage of local conventional television stations, and
- allow conventional broadcasters to negotiate payments for the retransmission of their signals to other provinces (known as distant signals).
The CRTC will also support local programming by increasing to 6 per cent, up from 5 per cent, the contribution broadcasting distribution companies must make to Canadian programming. This increase will amount to approximately $60 million and will be allocated to a new Local Programming Improvement Fund.
The increased contribution represents a monthly average of $0.50 per subscriber. Given the health of the broadcasting distribution industry and the new revenue streams provided by the policies announced today, the CRTC does not expect companies to pass this cost along to their subscribers.
- Broadcasting Public Notice 2008-100 (Regulatory frameworks for broadcasting distribution undertakings and discretionary programming services) [.htm] [.pdf]
- Broadcasting Public Notice 2008-101 (Call for comments on a proposed regulatory framework for video-on-demand undertakings) [.htm] [.pdf]
- Broadcasting Public Notice 2008-102 (Call for comments on a proposed framework for the sale of commercial advertising in the local availabilities of non-Canadian services) [.htm] [.pdf]
- Broadcasting Public Notice 2008-103 (Call for comments on proposed conditions of licence for competitive mainstream sports and national news specialty services) [.htm] [.pdf]
The CRTC is an independent public authority that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada.