ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1989-53

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Public Notice

Ottawa, 26 May 1989
Public Notice CRTC 1989-53
Review of Northern Native Broadcasting: Call for Comments
Related Documents: "The 1980s: A Decade of Diversity" (Report of the Committee on Extension of Service to Northern and Remote Communities, July 1980); "Northern Native Broadcasting" Public Notice CRTC 1985-274 dated 19 December 1985; "Current Realities, Future Challenges" Decision CRTC 87-140 dated 23 February 1987; and "CRTC Action Committee on Northern Native Broadcasting" Public Notice CRTC 1986-75 dated 27 March 1986.
In Public Notice CRTC l985-274, the Commission set out a policy framework designed to improve the quality and quantity of access by northern native broadcasters to the Canadian broadcasting system. Release of this notice was the latest of a number of CRTC and government initiatives designed to foster the development of broadcasting services by and for Canada's native people residing in the North. In 1980 the CRTC established the Committee on Extension of Service to Northern and Remote Communities which included representatives from provincial governments and northern native associations. After holding extensive public hearings throughout the North and considering over 400 submissions, the Committee issued its report (The Therrien Report) in July 1980. In addition to making wide- ranging recommendations, the report stressed the importance of initiating special measures to ensure that the distinct linguistic and cultural needs of northern native populations are adequately met.
Subsequent to the release of The Therrien Report, the Commission issued a network licence to Canadian Satellite Communications Inc. (CANCOM) for a multi-channel radio and television network operation to deliver a broad range of southern programming services to remote and underserved locations (Decision CRTC 81-252). Concurrently, the Commission awarded licences to the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) and to the Council of Yukon Indians and Dene Nation to serve the particular programming needs of their communities (Decisions CRTC 81-255 and 81-256).
In 1982 the federal Department of Communications undertook an extensive study on northern native broadcasting, consulting with native communications societies and various government departments and agencies.
In March l983 the government announced its Northern Broadcasting Policy, which included provision for a funding mechanism, the Northern Native Broadcast Access Program (NNBAP), to assist northern native communications societies to produce
programming for radio (up to 20 hours per week) and television (up to 5 hours per week). The NNBAP is administered by the Department of the Secretary of State.
For the purpose of the NNBAP, the North was divided into thirteen regions, primarily on the basis of common language, culture, and provincial boundaries. The definition of the Canadian North is based on the commonly accepted Hamelin line with slight modifications to include traditionally accepted boundaries.
Thirteen native communications societies, one representing each region, currently receive funding.
In late 1984 representations were made to the Commission that many of the native communications societies were experiencing difficulty in gaining access to northern distribution systems. As a result, on l4 December 1984 the Commission announced the formation of a Northern Native Broadcasting Committee whose mandate was to identify broadcasting-related problems experienced by the NNBAP groups (Public Notice CRTC 1984-310).
On 27 March 1985 the Commission issued a call for comments respecting northern native broadcasting (Public Notice CRTC 1985-67) in which it requested the views of interested parties on a number of distribution issues.
A general consensus in the submissions received in response to this call was that the Commission should fully explore the issues, concerns and potential solutions through the public hearing process. Accordingly, on 2 August 1985, the Commission announced that it would conduct a series of public hearings to establish a policy framework for northern native broadcasting. Hearings weresubsequently held in the fall of 1985, in Whitehorse, Yukon; Thompson, Manitoba; Kuujjuaq/Fort Chimo, Quebec; and in the National Capital Region.
In the course of these hearings, the Commission heard representations from all thirteen native communications societies funded through the NNBAP, the CBC, private broadcasters including CANCOM, the Governments of Ontario and Manitoba, and other interested parties. In Public Notice CRTC 1985-274, which was released subsequent to the series of hearings, the Commission stated that it had benefitted extensively from its in- depth discussions with the native broadcasters and from visits to several studios and production centres. The Commission went on to state that it was impressed with the quality of information, current affairs and entertainment programs being produced and that it was evident these programs were addressing the specific linguistic, regional and cultural needs of their audiences.
The Commission noted, however, that most of the native broadcasting groups were not satisfied with the scheduling of their programs.
The Commission expressed concern about the quality of access time, and stressed that it was not enough to permit access to the airwaves if programs were not accessible to intended audiences at convenient times. The Commission announced that it was establishing an Action Committee to implement the principles of fair access, with representatives from native communication societies, private and educational broadcasters, the CBC, the CRTC and the co-ordinators of the NNBAP (see Public Notice CRTC 1986-75).
This Committee would approach distribution alternatives on a case-by-case basis as required, with a view to resolving conflicts in the best interests of all parties. The Commission stated its intention to adopt a flexible implementation process relying, in the first instance, on consultation and goodwill rather than the imposition of conditions of licence or generally-applicable regulations. It was prepared, however, to impose a more stringent approach if this were to prove necessary.
Other matters addressed in Public Notice CRTC 1985-274 included the roles to be played in the delivery of programming for native audiences by private broadcasters, CANCOM and the CBC. Throughout the l985 public hearings, the native broadcasters stressed the importance of the CBC's role in the delivery of native-produced programs. The Commission recognized that there was no single solution to accommodate the diverse circumstances of the various regions: a combination of public, private and community-owned stations would be required to reach all of the targeted communities.
The Commission encouraged the CBC to formulate a long-range plan that would allow increased integration of quality native-produced programming in its radio and television schedules, and agreed with the CBC that the Northern Service "could become significantly more meaningful to all residents of the North if it had the benefit of a fully dedicated satellite transponder". The Commission noted that most native broadcasters felt that a dedicated satellite transponder would allow for a "blended Northern Service", whereby predominantly native communities could benefit from both the CBC Northern Service and native-produced programs.
With this in mind, the Commission stated that it was essential that funds be reserved to secure such a transponder. The Commission notes that in June l988 the government committed $l0 million over four years for an independent satellite- delivered programming distribution system to increase the availability of programs created with the assistance of the NNBAP, as well as programs originating from the CBC Northern Service and from provincial and territorial governments designed specifically for northern audiences.
The Commission recognizes that the development of native broadcasting has played and will continue to play an integral role in meeting the unique cultural and linguistic needs of Canada's native people. The Commission has been supportive of native broadcasting endeavours for many years and, in this respect, has adopted a flexible approach to the regulation of native broadcasting services which is intended to streamline the application process and encourage the evolution and expansion of this important component of the Canadian broadcasting system. Eleven of the NNBAP societies are licensed to operate FM radio stations and all thirteen hold radio and/or television network licences. Currently, most native broadcasters are required to complete a less detailed application form intended for cable television undertakings and low power radio and television undertakings serving small communities.
According to a recent CRTC-commissioned study of native broadcasting undertaken by Greg Smith and Associates (the Study), the thirteennative communications societies now provide regional radio and television services to approximately 260,000 native people in the North. Together, these societies employ 328 people, and produce an average of 250.5 hours of radio and 11.25 hours of television each week in more than thirty of Canada's 53 native languages. In all, the NNBAP societies serve approximately 400 communities, of which 289 receive radio services and 169 receive television services.
Distribution of the societies' programming is facilitated by the CBC, CANCOM, TVOntario, private radio stations, community radio stations and cable. The proportion of native languages used in the programs is increasing, with most societies producing well in excess of 50% native-language programming.
The Commission recognizes that, despite the rapid growth of northern native broadcasting services in recent years, problems still exist, particularly with respect to the distribution of such services. At the same time, the development and expansion of these services has given rise to new issues which need to be resolved if, in the future, native broadcasting in the North is to continue to flourish. For these reasons, the Commission has determined that it is appropriate at this time to undertake a review of its regulatory approach to northern native broadcasting. In doing so, the Commission intends to concentrate on the role to be played by the thirteen native networks in the North, and on the programming offered by those northern native radio stations which may compete in a few cases with existing conventional stations.
Definition of a Native Station
In Public Notice CRTC l985-194 dated 26 August 1985, entitled "The Review of Community Radio", the Commission defined a "community radio station" in terms of its ownership, programming and the market it serves.
Similarly, in Public Notice CRTC 1985-139 dated 4 July 1985, entitled "A Broadcasting Policy Reflecting Canada's Linguistic and Cultural Diversity", the Commission, among other things, defined what it would consider to be an "ethnic station" and what would constitute "ethnic programs". These definitions were subsequently incorporated into the Commission's radio and television regulations. Despite the fact that native broadcasting undertakings now far outnumber ethnic stations, however, no formal definitions yet exist as to what constitutes a native station or network or a native program. One method by which the Commission could determine the role to be played by native broadcasters within the Canadian broadcasting system may be to establish a precise regulatory framework for native broadcasting, as it did for community radio and ethnic broadcasting in 1985. This could be accomplished by creating a separate category of "native broadcasting undertaking" (which would include radio and television stations and networks) and by defining "native program".
As pointed out in the Study, an ongoing subject of debate has been the extent to which language of broadcast defines native broadcasting. In Public Notice CRTC 1985-274, the Commission noted that, at the 1985 public hearings into native broadcasting, "testimony was given to the fact that culture and language are intrinsically bound". According to the Study, however, while native broadcasters strive to produce as much native-language programming as possible, they define themselves by factors other than language alone. These factors may include the target audience for their programming and the ownership and control of the undertaking. In respect of this latter factor, the Commission notes that it does not license individual Indian Bands or Band Councils; rather, it encourages native groups to establish an independent "communications society" or similar legal entity for the purpose of holding a broadcasting licence. Promise of Performance
As part of their applications, private radio and television broadcasters are required to complete a detailed promise of performance in which they set out proposed hours and language of programming, time to be devoted to various program categories such as news, music and community access, policies and plans concerning program production and advertising, and commitments respecting the presentation, promotion and development of Canadian talent.
In the past, the Commission has generally not required native broadcasters to submit a promise of performance with their applications. Instead, programming plans are outlined in a written brief accompanying the application. The Commission considers that this approach has allowed native broadcasters maximum flexibility and ensured that the application process remains relatively simple.
However, given the growth in size of the regional networks, the increasing levels of production by native broadcasters and the heightened potential for conflict with commercial broadcasters in certain northern communities, the Commission considers that it may now be necessary to adopt more precise methods of monitoring individual performance. One possible approach that has been suggested would be to require the regional native networks, and perhaps the larger stations, to complete a promise of performance tailored to the unique circumstances facing native broadcasters and designed to promote the distinct linguistic and cultural goals of native broadcasting. Included in such a promise of performance could be details on the proportion of native-language programming proposed as well as plans and policies respecting advertising, native- language music and the development of native talent.
At the same time, the Commission recognizes that many native broadcasters consider that there currently is only a limited supply of recorded native-language music that is suitable for air play. With this in mind, the Commission is interested in exploring ways to increase the production of quality native-language recordings.
Complaints from Commercial Broadcasters
The Commission has received complaints from commercial radio broadcasters operating in northern communities about what they perceive as unfair competition from native broadcasters. These commercial broadcasters complain that the government-funded native communications societies are taking away a major part of their audiences by broadcasting a substantial amount of programming in English and by playing English-language popular music. This competition, they state, is having a negative impact on their advertising revenues.
In response, the native broadcasters argue that, given the multiplicity of distinct native languages and the fact that English is the language spoken in the homes of three-quarters of all the native people in Canada, they must, for the time being, broadcast in English to reach their target native audience. They also argue that native audiences enjoy English-language popular and country music and that, as noted previously, there is little native-language music available for them.
For its part, the Commission wishes to ensure that the native stations both contribute to the diversity of programming available in the North and produce distinctive programming that meets the linguistic and cultural goals of native broadcasting while not unfairly competing with private commercial broadcasters serving the same area. One possible method of accomplishing this may be to require those native stations that operate in the same market as commercial undertakings to complete a specially-designed promise of performance. Another possible method may be to limit the amount of non-native music on native stations. Also, the establishment of appropriate definitions associated with native broadcasting may help to clarify the individual roles of competing stations and promote complementarity and diversity.
Advertising and Sponsorships
In most cases, native broadcasters did not envisage the sale of advertising in their original applications. As a result, in licensing these broadcasters, the Commission did not consider it necessary to address the matter of advertising or program sponsorships.
In 1987 funding for the NNBAP was frozen at an annual level of $13.2 million. On the basis that this fixed figure is insufficient to meet growing expensesassociated with increased production and, in certain cases, expansion into television, a number of the native broadcasting societies have recently expressed interest in selling advertising or program sponsorships as a means of
diversifying and augmenting funding. Advertising is also viewed as a service to audiences, especially in locations where there is no other source of such consumer information.
While, at present, there are no specific limitations placed on native broadcasters that would restrict their advertising activity, the Commission is aware of concerns expressed by certain private broadcasters respecting the potential competition for limited advertising revenues which the native broadcasters could represent in the North. The Commission also notes that the CBC currently stipulates in its distribution agreements with native broadcasters that advertising will not be permitted. The CBC indicated at the time of its last television network renewal hearing, however, that it is prepared to review this policy with respect to television, and for radio in certain circumstances (Decision CRTC 87-140).
According to the Study, five of the eleven native communications societies producing radio programming and five of the seven societies producing television programming described their present distribution arrangements as unsatisfactory. Reasons include unfavourable time slots, lack of adequate air time, pre-emptions and cancellations and lack of a dedicated northern satellite transponder. In Decision CRTC 87-140, the Commission stated that, although CANCOM and TVOntario provide distribution for some of the native networks, "it is the CBC that can most readily meet most of the radio and television distribution requirements of the native broadcasting societies, due to its extensive infrastructure of land lines, satellite channels, receiver terminals and local transmitters." The Commission further stated that:
 Until such time as a separate distribution system is established for the North, the Commission is of the view that the CBC should co-operate with the native broadcasting societies by facilitating the distribution of programs produced by native groups and by establishing meaningful consultation mechanisms to ensure that the scheduling of these programs meets the requirements of northern residents.
For the most part, however, the societies encountering distribution problems are those that are dependent on the CBC, which has to find room on its existing schedules on a region-by-region basis. Moreover, a new situation that has emerged recently is the effect of the CBC's "Canadianization" of its schedule on native access. The CBC's current policy is to allow native access programs to be substituted only for foreign programs in the target communities. Native roadcasters have expressed concern hat the CBC is unwilling to consider Canadianizing" its schedule with heir programs. Despite having limited distribution funds available, the Department of the Secretary of State has managed to provide partial solutions to the distribution problems being experienced by native broadcasters by funding community radio transmitters which carry regional native programming. These facilities, which are ultimately based on satellite delivery, are being phased in over a number of years. Until these alternative arrangements are fully implemented, however, only a portion of the intended audience will have access to native programming, and native broadcasters will continue to be dependent on CBC facilities.
As part of the government's Broadcasting Policy, "Canadian Voices, Canadian Choices" released 23 June 1988, a commitment was made to fund a dedicated northern transponder based on the Television Northern Canada (TVNC)model. Such a facility had been supported by the 1980 Therrien Report and by the CRTC in Public Notice CRTC 1985-274 and the March 1988 CBC radio network renewals (Decision CRTC 88-181). The Commission considers that, since both available access time and geography currently pose significant barriers, a dedicated northern transponder would go a long way toward clearing existing radio and television distribution bottlenecks.
To assist in the development of its policies in regard to native broadcasting, and in light of the foregoing, the Commission invites public comment on the following issues.
1. Should the Commission establish a more precise regulatory framework for native broadcasting as it has for community radio and ethnic broadcasting?
2. What is an appropriate definition of a "native broadcasting undertaking"? Of a "native program"? Of "native music"?
3. Should native broadcasters be required to file a promise of performance with their applications? If so, to which broadcasters should this requirement apply (e.g. networks only, individual stations)? What should be included in the promise of performance? For native FM undertakings, should substantial compliance with such a promise of performance be imposed by condition of licence, as is the case with conventional FM undertakings?
4. What measures could the Commission and/or broadcasters adopt to encourage the funding and recording of music by native artists for broadcast by native broadcasters and others? For example, could a funding mechanism for native-language recordings or other music by native artists be designed which would complement the funding available through FACTOR and the Canada Council? If so, who would administer it and what access criteria would be employed?
5. What regulatory mechanisms can be used by the Commission to assist in resolving conflicts between native broadcasters and private commercial broadcasters serving the same location? Should the Commission, for example, limit the amount of non-native music on native stations?
6. Under what circumstances, if any, should the CRTC place restrictions on the amount or kind of advertising by native broadcasters? What impact would advertising by native broadcasters have on commercial broadcasters serving the same market?
7. Should the CBC permit native broadcasters using its distribution facilities to sell advertising in their programming?
8. To what extent do distribution problems for northern native broadcasters still exist? How can they be resolved in the interests of native broadcasting and of the Canadian broadcasting system as a whole.
The Commission is seeking public comment on the foregoing and related issues. Comments should be sent to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario KlA ON2 on or before 15 September 1989.
Fernand Bélisle
Secretary General

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