Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) invited Canadians to participate in a review of its policy on the licensing of Canadian national news television services. It also invited comments on the distribution conditions for these services and for foreign news services.
“The diversity of voices is an essential component of our society, particularly as they relate to news and information in the Canadian broadcasting system” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. “Television news channels provide an important public service by ensuring that Canadians are exposed to different opinions and perspectives on matters that concern all citizens. We are concerned that, under the existing rules, Canadian news services are not being given a pride of place in our broadcasting system.”
During the CRTC’s public hearing that began on April 23, 2013, Canadians presented evidence suggesting that the policy on specialty Canadian national news services should be reviewed. The CRTC will focus specifically on the challenges that face new players in this sector, particularly in terms of their distribution. These challenges are not unique to any given service, but rather an indication of a wider and more systemic issue regarding the distribution of Canadian national news services under equitable and commercially reasonable conditions.
The CRTC invites Canadians to comment on a proposed regulatory framework that includes the following:
- distributors must offer all Canadian national news services (not necessarily on basic service)
- distributors must place Canadian news services in close proximity in their channel lineup
- national news services must be available in a package and on a stand-alone basis
- national news services should be offered in the most appropriate packages according to their content.
Those who wish to participate in the CRTC’s proceeding are invited to submit their comments by September 9, 2013. Comments may be submitted by completing the online form, by writing to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0N2, or by fax at 819-994-0218.
About Canadian television news services
Despite the significant technological changes currently underway, Canadians still overwhelmingly access news affecting their country and their community through the Canadian broadcasting system. Nearly 12 million households subscribe to a cable or satellite television service. Canadians collectively watched more than 138 million hours of news programming in 2011-2012, 45% of which was on specialty news services.
Currently, non-Canadian news services are, for the most part, distributed in popular packages and have significant access to Canadian viewers. On average, non-Canadian news services receive wholesale fees from cable and satellite companies of $0.73 per subscriber per month, while Canadian news services receive monthly wholesale fees of $0.36 per subscriber, which are half the fees paid to non-Canadian services.
The CRTC is an independent public authority that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada.