ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1997-105

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Public Notice

Ottawa, 1 August 1997
Public Notice CRTC 1997-105
An Agenda For Reviewing the Commission's Policies for Radio
1. Over the years, the Commission's policy framework for radio has reflected a number of principles based on broadcasting policy objectives as set out in section 3 of the Broadcasting Act (the Act). These principles can be summarized as follows:
· Radio programming should be predominantly Canadian;
· Radio should provide listeners with varied and comprehensive programming from a variety of sources including the CBC, private commercial stations and not-for-profit stations. The presence of different editorial voices should be encouraged and listeners should have a diversity of programming from which to choose;
· Programming should be of high standard and balanced on matters of public concern;
· Radio should provide service that is relevant to local communities;
· Programming should reflect Canada's linguistic duality; and
· Programming should reflect Canada's cultural diversity, including the needs and interests of aboriginal peoples.
2. The Commission's current policies for radio were developed in an era characterized by the limited availability of frequencies in the AM and FM bands. Furthermore, the technical characteristics of the two bands are significantly different in terms of quality of signal as well as coverage. In the evolving new environment, competition from both Canadian and foreign sources will increase as digital audio signals become increasingly available through various distribution technologies including the Internet and pay audio. Moreover, the technical disparity between stations presently operating in the AM and FM bands will increasingly disappear as stations convert to digital transmission with signals of a quality similar to that of compact discs.
3. Strong Canadian radio and recording industries are essential if citizens are to have access to a variety of Canadian services providing high quality Canadian music and other programming that reflects both their communities and their country in this more competitive environment.
4. It is not clear when the full impact of this new environment will be felt but it is important that the Commission and the industry prepare for change. The regulatory system must ensure that radio continues to make an important contribution toward fulfilling the goals set out in the Act while still having the flexibility to face increased competition. While the principles for radio outlined above will still be applicable to the new environment, the mechanisms currently used to achieve these goals may need to change.
5. The Commission considers that it is timely to review its approach to radio. This review will deal with commercial radio and with various types of not-for-profit radio, as well as with CBC radio in the context of the Corporation's next licence renewals for its radio networks. The remainder of this announcement highlights some of the major issues facing each sector and sets out a timetable for the review. The sectors are discussed in the order in which they will be reviewed.
6. Currently a number of regulatory mechanisms are in place to help ensure that commercial radio fulfils the guiding principles set out earlier in this document. These mechanisms address matters such as content requirements for Canadian and French-language musical selections, local programming, diversity of programming, ownership of broadcasting undertakings and criteria for determining whether a particular market is able to support an additional commercial radio station.
7. The Commission wishes to review each of these policies and regulatory mechanisms to determine whether they continue to be relevant and effective as the radio industry adapts to new technologies and opportunities. For those mechanisms that are considered to be no longer relevant and effective, the Commission is interested in considering suggestions for new approaches especially in view of the evolving broadcast environment. For those mechanisms that are considered to be still relevant and effective, the Commission is interested in receiving suggestions concerning how they could be improved.
8. Consequently, in Public Notice CRTC 1997-104 issued today, the Commission has indicated that it plans to review its policies for commercial radio. A public hearing related to this review will be held in the National Capital Region beginning on 1 December 1997.
9. The Commission recognizes the importance of native radio stations in addressing the specific cultural and linguistic needs of their communities. The current policy for this sector is set out in Public Notice CRTC 1990-89 dated 20 September 1990 and entitled Native Broadcasting Policy. The Commission notes the suggestion made by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, in its final report, that the CRTC "consider simplifying the application process" (vol. 3, p. 633) for these types of services. In response, the CRTC has decided to review the regulations, policies and processes applicable to these services with a view to identifying how these procedures could be streamlined or simplified. To this end, the CRTC will canvass a number of the major native communications societies. These consultations will take place over the summer of 1997 and the results will be announced in the fall of 1997. A public process to consider any changes to the current regulations, policies and procedures will be initiated at that time. The Commission expects that a final public notice will be published in the spring of 1998.
10. Community radio stations face many challenges related to their distinct characteristics which include diverse programming produced by volunteers, financing by fund-raising activities and public campaigns, and democratic management.
11. In order to ensure that community stations provide alternative programming, licensees must complete a very detailed Promise of Performance which covers matters that commercial radio stations are not required to address. These stations, however, often have limited human and financial resources available to them. In particular, community stations rely heavily on volunteers to produce programming.
12. In the past, community stations have benefited from funding from government sources but such funding has been reduced in recent years, and many community stations have found it increasingly difficult to raise private funding.
13. These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that many community stations that operate outside of Quebec have been licensed to provide local programming relevant to minority francophone communities. This programming serves an important role in ensuring the continuing ability of these communities to maintain their language and culture. The requirements for stations serving the majority language in a community may not be relevant to these stations.
14. In light of these concerns, the Commission is interested in developing a more streamlined regulatory approach to community radio that will reflect the particular characteristics of these stations while ensuring that they provide alternative programming of relevance to their communities.
15. The Commission also plans to consider any additional innovative methods that might be proposed to increase the financial resources available to community stations.
16. The Commission will hold consultations in the fall of 1997. In the spring of 1998, the Commission will issue a public notice calling for comments. It is expected that a final policy will be published in the fall of 1998.
17. As with community stations, campus radio stations currently complete a very detailed Promise of Performance that includes matters which commercial stations are not required to address. The Commission is interested in exploring ways of streamlining the regulation of campus stations while still ensuring that they provide alternative programming to the communities they serve.
18. Some campus stations have also approached the Commission about the possibility of allowing additional advertising to be broadcast.
19. The Commission proposes to begin a consultative process with campus broadcasters in various parts of Canada in the spring of 1998. Following this consultation, a proposed campus radio policy will be issued for public comment. It is expected that a revised policy for campus radio will be issued in the spring of 1999.
20. The licences of the four CBC radio networks expire in the year 2000. Issues related to CBC radio will be considered in the context of a licence renewal hearing to be held in 1999.
21. In Public Notice CRTC 1995-184, A Policy to Govern the Introduction of Digital Radio, dated 29 October 1995, the Commission set out a two-stage approach for the introduction of digital radio broadcasting in Canada. Under this policy, digital radio undertakings will be licensed on a transitional basis in the short term. A public process to consider all aspects of digital radio broadcasting will be held at a later date.
22. The Commission indicated in Public Notice CRTC 1995-184 that it expected to complete the second phase of the policy process and establish a long-term licensing framework for digital radio within three years. It should be noted, however, that the first phase of the transitional digital radio policy was intended, in part, to allow interested parties to collect data and gather operational experience that would be useful in resolving the long-term regulatory issues associated with digital radio. In Public Notice 1995-95, Call for Comments on a Proposed Approach to the Introduction of Digital Radio, dated 14 June 1995, the Commission clearly indicated that it did not foresee the second phase policy process beginning "until sufficient information is available to consider fully all of the questions that may arise."
23. Applications for transitional digital radio licences are expected shortly, but no transitional digital radio station is currently licensed. The Commission therefore considers it unlikely that sufficient information will be available to complete by October 1998, a policy process that includes a full review of all the issues that a full transition to digital radio may raise. Therefore, the Commission expects to delay the commencement of the second-stage policy process beyond the date that was originally anticipated.
24. If transitional digital radio services begin operations in 1997, the Commission expects that a broad public policy process could begin in late 1998 or early 1999, leading to the release of a final policy by late 1999. These dates will, of course, require adjustment if transitional digital radio stations do not begin operation in 1997.
25. The Commission's policy concerning ethnic broadcasting was adopted in 1985. Since then, the multicultural demographics of Canadian society have changed significantly and the needs and expectations of ethnic communities with respect to broadcasting have evolved. Currently, single-language ethnic radio stations are not allowed; instead, ethnic stations are required to broadcast in a number of languages and serve a variety of ethnic groups. Some parties consider that a more flexible policy should be developed.
26. The Commission considers that the policy for ethnic radio should not be considered alone but rather in the context of a review of all elements of the policy for ethnic broadcasting. The Commission will announce a timetable for such a review at a later date.
Laura M. Talbot-Allan
Secretary General
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