ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1998-8

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Public Notice

  Ottawa, 6 February 1998
  Public Notice CRTC 1998-8




  1.  This report is submitted to the Government of Canada pursuant to a request to the CRTC from His Excellency the Governor General in Council (Order in Council P.C. 1997-592 dated 15 April 1997; the Order). The Order requested the Commission to seek comments from the public and report on the views and concerns expressed on whether the establishment of one or more additional Canadian national English-language, French-language or bilingual television networks would serve the objectives of the broadcasting policy for Canada set out in the Broadcasting Act and the priorities identified in the Order.
  2.  The priorities identified in the Order are to:
  • increase the quality and quantity of Canadian programming available to Canadians on television;
  • contribute to a regional and national programming presence in the Canadian broadcasting system;
  • ensure that all programming undertakings, whether as parts of networks or as parts of station ownership groups, provide equitable support for Canadian programming;
  • enhance Canada's capacity to produce and distribute domestic television programs;
  • maintain and increase the broadcast presence of distinct Canadian programs; and
  • encourage the availability of Canadian creative production in the international marketplace.
  3.  In response to the Government's request, the Commission conducted a public process to provide the opportunity for interested parties to file written comments and to make oral presentations (see Public Notice CRTC 1997-48 dated 25 April 1997, as amended by Public Notice CRTC 1997-48-1 dated 12 June 1997). This included a two-stage written process, which permitted interested parties to comment on the submissions filed during the first round. The Commission received written comments from 21 parties.
  4.  From 5 to 7 November 1997, the Commission held an oral public hearing in the National Capital Region during which interested parties were invited to elaborate on their written comments. A total of 19 parties participated in this oral phase of the public hearing. At the conclusion of the oral phase, parties were invited to submit brief, final written comments addressing any of the issues raised during the public hearing; submissions were received from 10 parties.
  5.  The participants in this public process included representatives of several major broadcasting and production companies and their industry associations. Most of the comments addressed the issues relating to the potential for, and definition of, additional English- or French-language networks, and the role of Canada's large, multi-station ownership groups in meeting the objectives of the Broadcasting Act and the priorities set out in the Order. Large multi-station groups are generally considered as those whose stations fall under common ownership or control, and have a collective potential reach that includes a majority of the nation's viewers in the relevant language. In contrast, the definition of network contained in the Broadcasting Act contains reference to neither ownership nor reach. A network is defined as including "...any operation where control over all or any part of the programs or program schedules of one or more broadcasting undertakings is delegated to another undertaking or person". The CBC and CTV are currently the only national conventional television networks.
  6.  Finally, comments were received with respect to the concept of a national multilingual television network, the distribution of the programming of the existing aboriginal network, Television Northern Canada (TVNC), and the use of descriptive video services (DVS) to assist people who are blind or have low vision.


  English-language Networks
  7.  None of the comments received from broadcasters favoured the licensing of a new, national, English-language network. As CHUM Limited noted, "...there is little or no evidence to support the suggestion that our system could accommodate the introduction of one or two generalist television networks. Furthermore, we believe that the public interest is not well served by continuing to license additional conventional networks...". CanWest Global Communications Corp. (Global) stated that there is "...probably no room currently for a new national network as we understand them." Speaking on behalf of most private television broadcasters, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) stated that the existing model of traditional networks has been superseded by specialty services and the development of large broadcaster groups who now purchase national rights.
  8.  Parties representing program producers and creators favoured increasing the Canadian content requirements for large ownership groups, and stated that the designation of such groups as "networks" would be one method of achieving this objective. Under questioning, these parties indicated that their objectives could be met if the large ownership groups that now exist were required to contribute to national drama and entertainment programming.
  9.  At the public hearing, the concept of a new licensing regime for large multi-station ownership groups was discussed. There was considerable support among broadcasters for the concept of a single licence for those groups whose potential reach, through the ownership of local stations in different regions of the country, is virtually national in scope. This would include Global, Baton Broadcasting Incorporated and WIC Western International Communications Ltd.
  French-language Networks
  10.  The Commission received written submissions from three Francophone parties, all of whom made oral presentations at the public hearing.
  11.  There was a consensus among the parties that the licensing of a new, French-language, national network would not be a viable option as there is currently insufficient potential advertising revenue in the Francophone market for an additional conventional television service. It was noted that the licensing of a new network could fragment existing audiences and advertising revenues and could seriously damage the incumbent private and public networks.
  12.  There was support from all parties for the distribution of existing French-language networks throughout Canada. A number of parties stated that, should this occur, the needs and interests of Francophone communities outside Quebec must receive greater reflection in the network programming.
  13.  At the public hearing, Télé-Métropole inc. indicated that it intended to file an application for national distribution. Télé-Métropole inc. maintained, however, that any additional obligations required in relation to national distribution should take into account the particular characteristics of the French-language broadcasting environment.
  A Bilingual Network
  14.  None of the comments received by the Commission supported the concept of a national, bilingual network. There was consensus that such a service would neither be financially viable nor address the needs of either language group. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadiennes expressed concern that such a network could encourage the assimilation of French-language communities outside Quebec.
  A National Multilingual Network
  15.  Rogers Broadcasting Limited (Rogers), licensee of the multilingual television station CFMT-TV Toronto, proposed that the Commission call for applications for a national multilingual network with programming that would be primarily ethnic and would be delivered through a system of locally-based affiliates.
  Television Northern Canada
  16.  TVNC noted that it is currently a licensed, not-for-profit, television network serving Aboriginal peoples in the North. TVNC proposed that the Commission ensure that its service is carried by cable and other distribution undertakings in southern Canada, thereby becoming a national service reflecting the needs and interests of all Aboriginal Canadians, regardless of where they reside.
  Descriptive Video Services
  17.  The National Broadcast Reading Service Incorporated (NBRS) noted that DVS provides additional audio information for blind people and those with low vision, and asked the Commission to encourage broadcasters to make commitments for the gradual introduction of descriptive video programming, particularly in prime time.


  English-language Networks
  18.  The private television system in Canada began with the licensing of independently-owned stations based in local markets. Networks developed as an important means for these stations to gain access to national news, sports and entertainment programs that would otherwise be too costly for individual stations to produce or acquire. The network model was based upon individual station affiliates delegating control over parts of their schedules to a network licensee. This model reflects the definition of network contained in the Broadcasting Act.
  19.  Over the past two decades, ownership consolidations and the licensing of new local stations have resulted in the development of strong, multi-station ownership groups with a presence in most Canadian provinces and major markets. These groups have come to possess the resources required to produce high-quality programming or to acquire national rights for the distribution of such programming on a national scale. As a result, their importance and effectiveness as tools for achieving the programming objectives of the Broadcasting Act have increased relative to the national networks.
  20.  The Commission notes that, for any new network to be truly national, new local stations affiliated to the network would have to be licensed. This would be the case whether the new network was created from an existing station group or was licensed to a new entity. The Commission agrees with the comments of broadcasters and others at the public hearing that there are few, if any, markets in Canada that could sustain the licensing of new local stations without seriously impinging on the ability of existing licensees to fulfil their obligations under the Broadcasting Act.
  21.  Moreover, the Commission notes the number of large multi-station groups already present in Canada, and the fact that other such groups may emerge. The Commission is satisfied that these groups have the capacity to provide support for Canadian programming at a level comparable to the level that could be attained through the establishment of an additional network.
  22.  The Commission concludes that, at this time, it would not serve the objectives of the broadcasting policy for Canada, or the priorities set out in the Order, to call for applications for additional, English-language, national networks.
  23.  The Commission considers that the objectives of the Broadcasting Act and the priorities set out in the Order will be best served by a broadcasting system characterized by:
  • strong conventional television licensees having the capacity to deliver increasing amounts of attractive Canadian programs to viewers throughout the country;
  • a high level of cooperation between broadcasters and the independent production sector, with a view to producing attractive Canadian programs that reflect Canadian values and stories and that have potential for international sales; and
  • federal and provincial government policies that support the production, promotion and distribution of Canadian television programs in a diversity of formats.
  24.  At the 5 November 1997 public hearing, the Commission explored with broadcasters and other parties the concept of a licensing regime that would allow large multi-station ownership groups to apply for a group licence. Such a licence, while not necessarily a network licence, could allow for administrative efficiencies through the regulation of a group of stations under a single licence authority, including the regulation of each station's programming commitments at the local level, as well as the commitments to national programming that the licensee would make on behalf of all of the group's stations. There was support from all parties for further exploration of this licensing approach.
  25.  The Commission acknowledges that a new licensing approach will not, in itself, lead to the creation of additional resources that can be directed to new Canadian programming. Nevertheless, the Commission is encouraged by the statements made by broadcasters that it is only through providing attractive Canadian programming that they will succeed in the future broadcasting environment.
  26.  The Commission recognizes that broadcasters provide a successful and important local service to Canadians. While regulatory policy should continue to support local programming, certain categories of Canadian programming, particularly drama, remain underrepresented in the prime time schedules of private, English-language broadcasters.
  27.  The creation and promotion of successful Canadian drama programming is a complex process involving a variety of players, including independent producers, broadcasters, governments, public and private funding agencies and the regulator. The increase in the quality and quantity of this type of programming over the past decade is a testament to the success of this process. Nevertheless, more must be done to ensure that distinctively-Canadian programming is broadcast, and is of a quality that enables it to compete effectively with foreign programming.
  28.  With this in mind, the Commission announced in its Vision Strategy that it will hold a public process in the late summer of 1998 to review a wide range of issues relating to its policies and regulations that concern the production, promotion and exhibition of Canadian programs. As part of this process, the Commission expects to be presented with concrete proposals from broadcasters, producers and other interested parties regarding the most effective regulatory framework for ensuring that all participants make the maximum contribution to the objectives of the Broadcasting Act, and that investment in Canadian programs becomes an increasingly attractive business opportunity for broadcasters and producers alike. The determinations that emerge from this process will carry through to the Commission's subsequent decisions concerning applications for the licence renewal of the CBC and CTV networks and of the television programming undertakings owned by the multi-station groups.
  29.  Finally, in the Commission's view, future growth in the exhibition of distinctively Canadian entertainment programming will depend upon there being an increasing co-operative relationship between broadcasters and independent producers. While the business strategies of these two sectors are not always the same, they share the common objective of attracting the maximum number of viewers, both at home and abroad, to Canadian television programs. At the 5 November 1997 public hearing, representatives of both sectors made commitments to begin a dialogue in order to develop partnerships in areas of mutual concern. These may include scheduling and promotion of Canadian programs and joint investment and distribution agreements. The Commission encourages and supports this dialogue.
  French-language Networks
  30.  The Commission notes that none of the comments received during the public process supported the creation of a new, French-language, national network. The Commission agrees with the comments made at the public hearing that the licensing of an additional, conventional, French-language network would have a serious negative impact on the ability of existing licensees in French-language markets to fulfil their obligations under the Broadcasting Act.
  31.  The Commission concludes that, at this time, it would not serve the objectives of the broadcasting policy for Canada, or the priorities set out in the Order, to call for applications for additional, French-language, national networks.
  32.  With respect to the national distribution of existing French-language networks, the Commission agrees, in principle, that increased access to existing French-language services throughout Canada will contribute to the promotion of Canada's linguistic duality and cultural diversity, as well as to fulfilment of the objectives of the Broadcasting Act and of the priorities set out in the Order.
  33.  In this regard, the Commission notes the plans announced by Télé-Métropole inc. to apply for the national distribution of its existing network service. The Commission recognizes the importance of Télé-Métropole inc.'s contribution to the Canadian broadcasting system and, in particular, to the exhibition and promotion of high-quality Canadian programs.
  34.  In reviewing any such application by Télé-Métropole inc., the Commission will consider, among other factors, the applicant's plans for reflecting the needs and interests of Francophone communities outside Quebec and its proposed carriage arrangements. In conducting its evaluation, the Commission will also take into account the particular characteristics of the French-language market.
  Bilingual Networks
  35.  Considering the lack of support for the concept of a bilingual, national network, the Commission concludes that it would not serve the objectives of the broadcasting policy for Canada, or the priorities set out in the Order, to call for applications for a bilingual, national network.
  A National Multilingual Network
  36.  The Commission notes the proposal made by Rogers that the Commission call for applications for a national multilingual television network. In its Vision Strategy, the Commission has indicated that, in 1998, it intends to begin a review of the policy set out in Public Notice CRTC 1985-139 entitled A Broadcasting Policy Reflecting Canada's Linguistic and Cultural Diversity. While this review will include matters relevant to licensees of ethnic radio stations, the Commission considers that it would also be appropriate to review its policies with respect to ethnic television at the same time. The Commission concludes that any consideration of applications proposing a national multilingual television network should await the results of this policy review.
  Television Northern Canada
  37.  The Commission recognizes that TVNC is a unique and significant undertaking serving the public interest and the objectives of the Broadcasting Act, especially those objectives that relate to the special place of Aboriginal peoples within Canadian society. Such a service should be widely available throughout Canada in order to serve the diverse needs of the various Aboriginal communities, as well as other Canadians. The Commission will consider any application by TVNC designed to achieve these objectives.
  38.  The Commission expects any application by TVNC to demonstrate how it will adapt its programming service to reflect the diversity of the needs and interests of Aboriginal peoples throughout Canada.
  Descriptive Video Services
  39.  The Commission notes the proposals made by NBRS that the Commission encourage broadcasters to introduce descriptive video services as a means to make the broadcasting system more accessible to Canadians who are blind or who have low vision. While recognizing that there may be significant technological and financial implications for broadcasters, the Commission supports, in principle, the development and gradual implementation of DVS. In this regard, the Commission notes and supports the cooperative efforts by the NBRS and the CAB to explore the issues and to find solutions to any problems that may be identified.
  Laura M. Talbot-Allan
Secretary General
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