Jean-Pierre Blais new CRTC head

Jean-Pierre Blais has been appointed chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Prime Minister's Office announced on Friday.
Blais' appointment comes amid rapid changes in online broadcasting technology. (IT in Canada)

Jean-Pierre Blais has been appointed chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Prime Minister's Office announced on Friday.

The appointment takes effect June 18 and is for five years.

Blais "brings a strong legal background and a comprehensive understanding of the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors and the role of the CRTC," Stephen Harper said in a release.

Blais, a veteran civil public servant who has held senior positions at the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the CRTC, replaces Konrad von Finckenstein.

The CRTC regulates the broadcasting and telecommunications industry.

Blais takes over the regulator at a time of rapid change in the industry, in particular the explosion of broadcasting online.    New Internet frontiers for broadcasting have created challenges for the CRTC because it doesn't regulate the web.   

Upon leaving his post in January, von Finckenstein suggested the new environment requires a new form of regulation.

"Whether you talk, whether you send video, whether you send a fax, an email ... it's just bits that are being sent over the same wire," he said in an interview.   

"That has completely changed our traditional definition of broadcasting and telecom. It's now essentially the same thing."    Von Finckenstein called for a single law that would cover both sectors and a single regulator for broadcasting, telecom and even wireless spectrum -- an area currently managed by Industry Canada.   

"It's time to review this legislation, it's 20 years old," he said. "We want a system that carries bits, carries them efficiently and gives Canadians as much access as possible."   

Von Finckenstein and the Conservatives butted heads several times during his tenure on issues such as how Internet companies bill their subscribers and foreign ownership of telecom companies.   

Just after he left, the Tories announced they were lifting foreign-investment limits on small telecom firms.   

But Blais' recent positions at Treasury Board and Canadian Heritage suggest he's likely to have a far more cordial relationship with the government.   

Decisions he's facing include whether to create a national set of standards for wireless telephone contracts.   

The regulator is also reviewing whether to allow CBC to run ads on some of its French-language radio channels as the broadcaster grapples with a major budget shortfall.

With files from The Canadian Press