Commission Letter adressed to Percy E. Downe, Senator (The Senate of Canada)

Ottawa, 21 December 2020

BY EMAIL:                         

The Honourable Percy E. Downe, Senator
The Senate of Canada
Room 702, Victoria Building
140 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A4

Re: Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2019-379 – Submission filed by Senator Downe

Senator Downe,

This is in response to your letter sent to the Commission dated 13 November 2020 regarding the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Société Radio-Canada (CBC/SRC) licence renewal process announced in Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2019-379 (the Notice), in which you request:

Further, you requested that your submission be added to the record of the CBC/SRC licence renewal proceeding.

Previous correspondence

On 25 November 2019, the Commission launched its process relating to the renewal of CBC/SRC’s licences and set a date of 13 February 2020 for the submission of interventions related to the matters raised in the Notice. On 28 January 2020, the Commission extended the date for the filing of interventions to 20 February 2020 (NOC 2019-379 and 2019-379-1).

Due to the initial shutdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the CBC announced on 18 March 2020 that it would temporarily cease airing local TV newscasts across the country. It indicated that it was replacing local dinner-hour and late-night newscasts with the national CBC News Network until further notice due to a staffing shortage with employees out sick and isolating or working from home. However, the CBC noted that this measure would not affect CBC North local programs, radio, and its digital services.

On 19 March 2020, you sent a letter addressed to Commission Chairman Ian Scott, amongst others, expressing concerns about the CBC’s decision to cancel local dinner time newscasts across Canada. A reply was sent indicating that the Commission was carefully monitoring the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic across the entire Canadian broadcasting system, including the CBC, and examining how broadcasters were adapting their operations to cope with the exceptional circumstances. The letter also indicated that the CBC’s performance would be assessed at its upcoming licence renewal, including its obligations during the pandemic.

On 26 March and 8 April 2020, you sent additional letters to the Commission, questioning whether the Commission could prevent cancellations of local programming without notice, if the CBC was in violation of its local programming condition of licence, and if so, if the Commission intended to intervene to ensure that the CBC meets this condition.

The Chairman replied to both letters, reiterating that the Commission was monitoring the situation and that it would consider the CBC/SRC’s performance with respect to its conditions of licence at the time of its renewal hearing.

Commission’s analysis and decision

The CBC local newscasts have been reinstated since the end of March and as indicated in our previous correspondence, the CBC’s performance with respect to its conditions of licence will be assessed in the context of the ongoing licence renewal proceeding. The Commission may choose to question the CBC/SRC further at the oral phase of the public hearing.

Given that intervenors were not able to send comments regarding this issue during the consultation phases, parties to the proceeding that will appear at the oral phase of the public hearing will be able to make representations with respect to this issue while all parties to the proceeding will be permitted to file comments as a part of their final written submissions. The CBC/SRC will be permitted the opportunity to reply.

In regards to adding your correspondence to the public record, although you wrote on three occasions between March and April expressing concerns about the cancellation of local newscasts, the Commission notes that you did not request that these previous letters be added to the public record. While your concerns are likely to be addressed at the next steps of the proceeding, the Commission has determined that your latest correspondence will not be added to the record of the proceeding at this late date. 

Furthermore, given that the Commission is in the midst of a public process dealing with the performance of the CBC/SRC with respect to the totality of its conditions of licence, it would be inappropriate to prejudge any decision that may be made as a result of the consideration of the evidence that has been and will be placed on the record of that proceeding. As such, the Commission cannot respond further to your specific requests at this time. 


Original signed by

Claude Doucet
Secretary General

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