CRTC ready to consider new fees for conventional TV

Canada's federal broadcast regulator has decided it will consider the issue of a subscriber fee to fund the operations of conventional over-the-air broadcasters.

Commission will hold a public hearing next February on Canadian Television Fund

Canada's federal broadcast regulator has decided it will consider the issue of a subscriber fee to fund the operations of conventional over-the-air broadcasters.

The decision to consider such a fee, to be paid by cable and satellite firms to carry the signals of conventional broadcasters, is a reversal of a position the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission took in May.

In announcing the change to a convention of Canadian broadcasters in Ottawa Monday, CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein said the fee-for-carriageissue would be raised as part of a general review of broadcast distribution next April.

The change was the CRTC's response to many submissions filed in preparation for that review, he said in his speech.

"One of the things we've noted is a repeated call for the introduction of a subscriber fee for the carriage of local conventional TV stations," he said.

"The OTA (over the air) sector has been a mainstay of the Canadian broadcasting system, but there is no mistaking the fact that it now faces significant challenges. Consequently, we have adjusted our approach to the upcoming review."

Both public broadcaster CBC and CanWest, owner of Global, had requested the CRTC consider a subscriber fee from cable and other broadcast distributors to help cover their expenses.

However, cable and satellite firms have objected to it, sayingCanadians would end up with higher cable and satellite fees as a result.

"One of our challenges will be to ensure that OTA television is properly funded," von Finckenstein said in his speech.

Canadian Television Fund under review

He also announced that the controversy over the Canadian Television Fund will be thrown open in public hearings next February.

The CTF, which funds the production of Canadian programming, wasplunged into turmoil earlier this yearwhen two of Canada's largest cable firmsannounced they no longer wanted to support it.

A task force held a private hearing and delivered a report in June that said the CTF played a vital role, but that it should be more "market-oriented."

But in a public process in July, the CRTC heard responses to that report that were "far from unanimous," von Finckenstein said.

"As part of our commitment to transparency, we believe that these differences cannot and should not be resolved without all interested parties having an opportunity to address them publicly," he said.

An open public hearing is needed to reconsider those recommendations, he said.

Von Finckenstein also announced the CRTC would have a definition of "emerging Canadian artist" by next February, for radio broadcasters adopting new Canadian content regulations that insist on more chances to hear newer artists.

He also enlarged on the CRTC's decision to reconsider whether to regulate new media.

The federal regulator is looking at content and access issues that have been raisedabout new technologies, he said.

"Since we are the regulators of broadcasting, our main focus is on commercial television delivered over the internet and through mobile devices. We are only interested in content that is professionally produced," he said.

That would eliminate user-generated content such as amateur video and social networks as areasof the internetwhere there might beCRTC regulation.


  • Canwest owns Global Television, not CTV as originally reported in this story.
    Nov 05, 2007 3:35 PM ET