On May 15, 2008, the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) issued a public notice
indicating that it would be commencing a proceeding later this
year to examine broadcasting delivered and accessed over the
Internet and over mobile devices. This promises to be a
far-ranging proceeding, with a public hearing planned for early
2009. The Broadcasting Act includes a broad definition
of broadcasting, extending to video-on-demand as well as
streamed audiovisual services. Given this definition, it is
clear that much of the traffic on the Internet would now
qualify as "broadcasting" – perhaps over
50%. And the quantum of video traffic is rising. The
Act states that every element of the Canadian
broadcasting system is to "contribute to the creation and
presentation of Canadian programming." An issue that will
be highly controversial is whether Internet service providers
(ISPs) should so contribute, just as Canadian cable and
satellite distribution undertakings currently do.
In 1999, the CRTC issued an order exempting broadcasting
services delivered and accessed over the Internet from
regulation under the Broadcasting Act. However, given
the increase in the delivery of programming via the Internet,
and the potential impact of that delivery on the ad revenues of
traditional broadcasters, the Commission is now poised to
re-examine the exemption order.
In its public notice, the Commission sought input on the
issues and questions to be explored in the new media
proceeding. But it indicated that three questions would be
paramount. First, what is the scope of new media broadcasting?
Second, are incentives or regulatory measures required for the
creation and promotion of Canadian new media broadcasting
content? And third, are there barriers to accessing Canadian
content in the new media environment? The Commission also
sought comment on any other questions to be considered within
the scope of the proceeding.
The new media proceeding is just one of a number of critical
hearings that are taking place this year and next.
In April 2008, the Commission concluded a three-week public
hearing into its policies on cable programming services and
cable and satellite distributors. At issue were matters such as
"fee for carriage" (should cable companies have to
pay over-the-air broadcasters for carrying their local
signal?), must-carry and packaging rules (should rules
requiring distributors to carry most Canadian program services
be revoked or amended?), and content rules for those services
(should they continue to be subject to scheduling and
expenditure rules to support Canadian content?). The Commission
is expected to reach its determination on these issues over the
summer, with a decision to be issued later this year.
Next year, the Commission is expected to have public
hearings into the renewal of the licences for the over-the-air
television stations and networks, including CBC, CTV, CanWest
Global, Quebecor and Rogers (which recently acquired the
CITY-TV stations previously owned by CHUM). All these TV
licences were last renewed in 2000.
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