Ottawa launches review of new broadcasting technologies

Federal Heritage Minister Bev Oda has asked the CRTC to conduct a review of new broadcasting technologies.

Federal Heritage Minister Bev Oda has asked the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission to determine what impact rapidly changing technology will have on the future of broadcasting.

The minister told the Banff Television Festival that the Canadian broadcast industry needs to be modernized.

"Other nations began to build the policy network for the digital world decades ago. Unfortunately, Canada did not," Oda said as she opened the festival Sunday, which attracts industry figures from around the world.

In her speech Oda said it's becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between television, radio and the internet, and better understanding of changing audience habits is vital.

"Canadians, especially young Canadians, are increasingly moving away from traditional media sources and exploring options like iPods and the Sling box," she said, referring to the popular portable media player from Apple Computers and the TV streaming device that allows users with broadband internet access to watch their home TV's programming from anywhere in the world.

With technological changes happening so quickly, Oda said it'stime for the government to act because "the consequences of doing nothing is taking the risk of being left behind. Simply put, the status quo is not good enough."

The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is committed to retaining the CBC, but she stressed that it will have to change.

"The public broadcaster does not exist in isolation," she said, adding that any decisions on the CBC's future will also affectprivate broadcasters, independent producers and creators.

CBC president Robert Rabinovitch said he sees the CRTC study as the first step toward a full review of the public broadcaster and its role.

"I'm not disappointed, it's a logical way of approaching the subject," he told the Canadian Press. "Let's get a better understanding of the technology and where we're going, then we can do a review of our systems within it."

Rabinovitch said he expected to hear formally Monday that the CRTC is delaying the CBC's renewal licence for a year while the study is done and the government digests that information. But he dismissed suggestions that the CBC needs to modernize, noting the public broadcaster is up to 27 different platforms.

"We are significant leaders in the internet," he said, adding thatCBC.ca is a decade old.

Oda wants theCRTC to deliver its findings by Dec. 14. Those insights will help the government set its broadcast policy for the 21st century, the minister said.

Geoff Hart, a TV producer based in London, Ont., said he is not impressed with the decision for a review, sincehe said similar information has already been gathered in the U.S.

"By the time you figure out the information that's currently available, the information will have changed, so by December, you're going to be basically behind the draw," Hart told CBC News.

People in the industry are already dealing with the changing technologies, Hart added, saying that he would have preferred to hear the minister outline the funding her government is prepared to offer the industry.