Tag Archives: CRTC

Link: CRTC leaves Canadian television to fend for itself in Netflix age

From Kate Taylor of The Globe and Mail:

Link: CRTC leaves Canadian television to fend for itself in Netflix age
As the chair of Canada’s broadcast regulator rides off into the sunset, he has been tossing a few last coins at the many supplicants who follow him wherever he goes. Cantonese and Punjabi newscasts; measures to slow the loss of local TV; more opportunities for female directors, writers and producers; more flexibility for broadcasters – the benevolent Jean-Pierre Blais, outgoing chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), seems to have a little something for most. Continue reading.


Writers Guild of Canada: CRTC decision spells potential disaster

From a media release:

Yesterday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) dealt a major blow to Canadian screenwriters — and Canadian audiences. In its decision on licence renewals for Bell, Corus, and Rogers, the Commission rolled back the broadcasters’ minimum financial contributions to Canadian drama and other programing.

This despite the fact that the WGC’s modest proposal to the CRTC, reflecting well-researched data, asked only for the maintenance of the status quo in terms of broadcasters’ financial contributions towards “programs of national interest” (PNI). PNI includes drama, documentary, and some children’s programming, programing that is at the heart of Canadian on-screen entertainment. But the CRTC set PNI spending minimums for broadcasters at 5%, basically cutting them by up to 44% for certain groups.

“This could mean the devastation of Canadian domestic production,” says Maureen Parker, Executive Director of the WGC. “These cuts potentially amount to over a $200 million loss for PNI over a five-year licence term. Canadian screenwriters only work on domestic productions, not on American shows filming in Canada, and if there is not enough work for them they will simply leave. Once our talent pool is gone you can’t get it back.”

CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais, a Harper appointee who has allowed the CRTC to become greatly diminished, has also set us on a course that will make it more and more difficult for Canadians to view stories about ourselves. This, despite the fact that it is only our Canadianness that distinguishes us: Our compassion, our humour, our concern about issues such as cultural diversity, healthcare, and the environment. A Canadian culture that cannot speak to Canadianness through its own storytelling is not Canada. We should not accept it. Nor should the Liberal government.

The headline of the CRTC’s own press release announcing the decision is, “The CRTC supports the production of original content.” This can only be viewed as fake news. There is nothing meaningful about specifically original production in these decisions. The release goes on to claim that the CRTC “ensures on stable funding for Canadian production in all program categories, by focusing especially on dramas, documentaries, and musical and variety shows.” This is patently untrue, given the reduction of PNI requirements. And, since broadcaster spending on PNI also typically attracts investment from other sources like the Canada Media Fund, the potential total impact could be double or triple the $200 million drop in PNI investments themselves.

“If Canadian programming is expendable,” says Maureen Parker, “Why protect the big private broadcasters? What is the CRTC’s purpose if not to ensure that spending on the creation of Canadian drama, documentary, and children’s programming is at the very least maintained? It’s almost as though the very body intended to promote Canadian programming — the CRTC — is actively working to erode it.”


The Wonk Report: CRTC’s Group Licence Renewal Decision

Yesterday, the CRTC released its decision on renewing the group licences for the French and English broadcast groups. The English groups are Bell, Corus (which now owns Shaw) and Rogers. Their licences expire August 31, 2017, and are now renewed (for the most part) for another five-year term.

The major news in the media has been the decision to give OMNI mandatory carriage for three years and then require it to compete for that licence with anyone else who is interested, which to some is seen as giving them a head start. However, the bulk of the decisions relate to the group licence renewals. I can understand why they aren’t making headlines as there isn’t much there. The CRTC’s priority seems to have been standardizing the licences to be consistent with each other and with the TalkTV decision and not dealing with many of the issues that were raised at the hearing or in the submissions. Not dismissed, just not even mentioned. Not surprisingly, a few things were added that had not been discussed.

Bell and Corus had tried to have their group Canadian Programming Expenditure (“CPE”) reduced from 30% to lower levels based on arguments such as how hard it is to make money as a broadcaster in the days of competition from Netflix etc., etc.  As the CPE is based on previous year’s revenues that competition is built into the calculation so the CRTC did not buy it.  Group CPE is maintained at 30% of revenues.  That’s the good news.

Bell and Rogers were subject to a Program of National Interest, a.k.a. PNI, (drama, documentaries and award shows) CPE of 5% as was the old Shaw, while Corus had a higher PNI CPE (9%) due to the higher requirements of its children’s services.  Bell and Corus argued that it should be a standard 5% for all services while Rogers had asked for historical levels.  The production sector expressed concern that a standard 5% PNI would result in a net loss of production.  The Commission decided on a flat 5% PNI CPE but encouraged the broadcasters to see that as a floor and to do more than 5%.  We’ll see.

New topics were incentives for Indigenous production and Official Language Minority Community (“OLMC”) production.  If these productions are broadcast, the broadcaster will receive a 50% credit on Indigenous production and a 25% credit on OLMC production, provided that both together are no more than 10% of group CPE (the 30% up above).  On the face of it, that seems like a good thing but there was no chance to discuss it or pick it apart at the hearing.  I wonder why there is a requirement that OLMC production has to be independently produced but not the Indigenous production.  What does APTN think of this proposal?  Does the current CRTC know that drama incentives did not work to increase drama production when it was tried and so it was specifically dropped?  Has anyone done the modelling to see how much extra production this could create and how that relates to the audience?  Given that it’s only an incentive and not a requirement will it even mean more Indigenous programming and OLMC programming or will it just mean Bell gets a bonus for 19-2 that it wasn’t expecting?

The other new topic is the CRTC holding an event on the role of women in production with an eye to increasing women in key production roles. They will also require broadcasters to report on the number of women in key roles in the programs that they commission.  While I applaud the added reporting, I do question why the broadcasters have to extend their existing Employment Equity reporting on women, visible minority, Indigenous and disabled employees to only women.

So what was left out?  The CMPA had a lengthy discussion about the definition of independent production which sought to prevent broadcasters from turning producers into service producers in all but name only (“Producer of Record” arrangements).  They asked for a return to evening exhibition requirements for discretionary (specialty) services as they are still a prime spot for programming.  They asked for a quota for non-PNI independent production as independent production is important in all programming.  They had proposals for how Corus could be required to stay in the kids business despite the removal of the genre protection policy and wanted TMN to continue with a commitment to Canadian feature films.  They asked for a definition of original programming with an eye to later requesting regulation.  ACTRA had asked for two hours of PNI in prime time.  The DGC had asked for an increase to PNI for features and long form documentaries.  The WGC asked that Bell Media’s prior contributions to BravoFACT and MuchFACT should be added to their PNI CPE and that a minimum amount of broadcaster CPE should be spent on development.  None of these issues were addressed in the decision.  That is an awful lot of effort on the part of stakeholders with very little return.

So the question is, what impact will this have on the producer or consumer?  There could now be a drop in PNI at Corus.  They will likely continue with their Producer of Record contracts and now other broadcasters may pursue that strategy.  There could be fewer original programs on all the broadcasters.  We could also see fewer children’s programs on Corus, the only one of the groups airing children’s programming.  We could see more indigenous and OLMC programming.  Possibly.

As with any CRTC decision, it will take time to see the impact of this decision.  However, there is a very real risk that the decision is not likely to make any improvements in spending on Canadian programming and may actually allow the broadcasters to spend less on independently produced drama, documentaries and children’s programming.


The CRTC’s Differential Pricing Decision – for us content people

Over here on the content side of things most of us are not familiar with phrases such as ‘zero rating’ and ‘differential pricing practices’ so might tune out of a CRTC decision titled “Framework for Assessing the Differential Pricing Practices of Internet Service Providers” but we shouldn’t.  Net neutrality is an increasingly important concept for content creators and consumers.

Let’s go through a few definitions first.

Net neutrality is the principle that all data on the Internet should be treated the same.  It costs the same to the user, it is regulated (or not) the same and it is delivered the same (i.e. no throttling of certain kinds of data).  So the video or the game that you create is not treated any differently from email or music or apps etc.

Differential pricing is the practice of offering the same content or services to consumers at different prices.  Examples are:

Zero rating:  the practice of not charging consumers for certain kinds of data.  That could be sports or all video or gaming.  That data would then not be counted towards the consumers data cap and would make that service more competitive.

Sponsored data:  an application provider arranges with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to discount the data associated with its app.

The CRTC’s decision is to disallow these differential pricing practices (and any others that arise, based on a framework that has been developed to assess the practices) in order to maintain net neutrality.

In practical terms this means that immediately Vidéotron’s Unlimited Music Service, which excluded the data used by that music streaming service from certain mobile plans, was offside.  What it means for content creators is that ISPs cannot distinguish themselves on the basis of what content they have to offer – no exclusive access or zero-rated access to Netflix, or CraveTV or gaming.  They can compete on price and speed and size of the data caps but not content.  Look at this quote from the decision:

“The Commission considers that any short-term benefits of differential pricing practices would be greatly outweighed by the negative long-term impacts on consumer choice if ISPs were to act as gatekeepers of content through their use of such practices.”

Gatekeepers.  Does that sound familiar?  This is why the decision should be of interest to content creators, particularly those who are moving away from broadcasters as gatekeepers to offer their content directly to consumers.  The Differential Pricing Practices decision means that you will not be moving from broadcaster to ISP as gatekeeper.  For digital content creators it means that the ISP cannot insert itself between you and your audience.






Link: Fuss over American Super Bowl ads ignores reality of Internet TV

From Kate Taylor of The Globe and Mail:

Link: Fuss over American Super Bowl ads ignores reality of Internet TV
But the broadcasting system that the CRTC oversees wasn’t actually established to enrich Canadian television consortiums or American producers and rights holders; nor even to get Canadians’ cheap and easy access to U.S. content. It was established to get them access to quality Canadian content and the real problem with the Super Bowl fuss is that it distracts from discussions about how Canadian programming is to be funded in the future and how Canadians will find it. Continue reading.