The federal broadcast regulator has ruled in favour of the CBC in a challenge by a private broadcaster against the launch of internet portal CBC Music.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission ruled that the CBC does not have an undue preference and does not disadvantage other new media players in launching the free internet service.

CBC Music, launched Feb. 13, provides access to 40 web radio stations, a selection of on-demand music, web-based streams of the CBC’s over-the-air radio services and other audio content such as live concerts.

Stingray Digital Group Inc., a broadcaster that operates pay audio programming service Galaxie and online music service Stingray-music.com, had argued the public broadcaster has an unfair advantage because it has access to government funding. It also claimed CBC has an advantage because its copyright licence fees are set at preferential rates.

"CBC’s streaming channels are not differentiated in any meaningful way from the streaming channels that SDG provides, or that other private enterprises, such as Astral or Archambault, are also starting to provide," SDG argued in its submission, claiming its business would be hurt by CBC Music.

Commercial competitive licence agreements

CBC argued its private licence agreements were entered into on commercially competitive terms and that it pays SOCAN fees and other copyright tariffs that are approved by the Copyright Board as "fair and equitable."

The public broadcaster also pointed to the proliferation of free internet music services, such as Iceberg Radio, Slacker, Jango and Wolfgang’s Vault, that are available in Canada. The plan for CBC Music is to have the service support itself with advertising, CBC said in its submission.

CBC Music is unique in its promotion of Canadian content, with many of its web streams playing  100 per cent Canadian music and its concerts 90 per cent Canadian, CBC told the CRTC.

Many Canadian artists spoke in favour of CBC Music before the CRTC. About 30,000 Canadian artists have created pages linked to the CBC Music site to promote their music.

SOCAN, musicians intervene

SOCAN also intervened, saying the allegation that CBC receives a preferential copyright rate is incorrect.

In its ruling, the CRTC said "SDG has not demonstrated that the CBC has given anyone, including itself, a preference, or that it has subjected anyone to a disadvantage."  

Chris Boyce, CBC executive director of radio and audio, welcomed the decision.

"This decision ensures that we’ll continue to be able to program CBC Music in the way that we think makes the most sense for Canadian musicians and music fans without any regulatory restrictions," he said in a statement.

"Today's decision also continues the CRTC's practice of encouraging innovation in the delivery of programming over digital platforms."