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CBC/Radio-Canada seeking to broadcast more mandated programming on digital services

CBC/Radio Canada is asking Canada's telecommunications regulator to allow it to decrease the number of hours certain programming must be broadcast on television, and permit more of that content to be shown on digital services.

Network would increase total of mandated content

CBC/Radio-Canada is asking Canada's telecommunications regulator to allow the network to decrease the number of hours certain programming must be broadcast on television, and permit more of that content to be on digital services. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

CBC/Radio-Canada is asking Canada's telecommunications regulator to allow the network to decrease the number of hours certain programming must be broadcast on television, and permit more of that content to be shown on digital services.

"Without this flexibility to serve audiences 'where they are,' we risk not reaching them at all, nor properly serving them," according to the CBC/Radio-Canada's supplementary brief for their CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) licence renewal application.

With audiences increasingly moving away from television and moving toward digital devices, CBC/Radio-Canada wants more flexibility to put more of its content on its OTT (Over The Top) services CBC Gem and ICI Tou.tv.

The CRTC forces CBC/Radio-Canada to show, on television, certain types of programming — local and kids programming, and programs of national interest, which include drama, comedy and documentaries. As well, it must broadcast minimum of levels of that programming.

"To date, no consideration has been given to what we might be doing in the digital realm," the supplementary brief states.

On Monday, the CRTC launched CBC/Radio-Canada's licence renewal application. The licences are set to expire Aug. 31, 2020.

As part of the licence renewal, the network is proposing that it would increase its overall hours of mandated programming, but be allowed to broadcast less of that on television and more through digital devices.

For example, CBC Toronto has an obligation to air up to 14 hours a week of local programming on television. CBC is proposing 12 hours a week on television, but would commit to 14.5 hours a week overall.

"Canadians have embraced digital and so have we as their public broadcaster," CBC/Radio-Canada President and CEO Catherine Tait said in a news release. "Our proposals are a bridge to a new regulatory approach that will acknowledge this reality, and strengthen our unique role in the broadcasting system to serve all Canadians."

The request follows CBC/Radio-Canada's release back in May of its three-year strategic plan titled Your Stories, Taken to Heart, focusing on creating "audience centric, audience-driven, tailored content."

As part of the licence renewal process, the CRTC is launching a public consultation "to hear the opinions of Canadians so that they are reflected in CBC/Radio-Canada's programming," Ian Scott, chairperson and CEO of the CRTC, said in a statement.

The regulatory body will be hosting a Facebook consultation until Dec. 9 as part of its review and will hold a public hearing in Gatineau, Que., beginning on May 25, 2020.