Caroline J. Simard to the annual conference of the Ontario Association of Broadcasters
November 9, 2017
Dr. Caroline J. Simard, Vice-Chairperson, Broadcasting
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
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Thank you for that kind introduction. I’d like to acknowledge that we are meeting on the traditional territory of Indigenous peoples. I thank them and pay respect to their Elders.
It’s a pleasure for me to participate in Connection 2017 on behalf of the CRTC.
Did that five seconds of silence feel long to you? Five seconds is not a long time, but five seconds of silence on the radio can be a disaster. The reason is simple: because it cuts the connection with listeners. And as everyone in this room knows, maintaining a strong audience connection is the key to success in broadcasting.
That’s a lesson I learned the hard way. Many years ago, I auditioned for an on-air job at a radio station. I have always had a passion for both communications and law, and at the time I was still trying to figure out my career path.
So, I auditioned for a station that was far from my hometown. I didn’t know much about the people who lived there and wasn’t even sure about how to pronounce the names of nearby villages. Worst of all, though, was my accent – listeners could tell that I wasn’t from their region. Accents change from one part of Quebec to another, just as they do in many other parts of Canada.
Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. But, I learned about the importance of connecting with the audience. Successful broadcasters nurture this connection. Their audiences often feel a kind of personal link to on-air personalities, to stations and to programs.
After abandoning my dreams of becoming a deejay, I went on to study this aspect of broadcasting. In fact, my doctoral thesis looked at how technological forces and convergence affect this connection.
Audiences crave a personal connection. And technology alone – no matter how powerful or innovative – cannot create that kind of connection. Successful broadcasters use whatever technology can best create a strong relationship with the audience. The rapid evolution of communications technologies in recent years makes it incredibly difficult for broadcasters to decide which technology is best.
And it’s not only the technologies that evolve, but also the way that people use technologies. Technological change drives social change. Satellites, streaming, podcasts, mobile broadband – all of these impact the way people consume and share media. Regardless of whether they access content through a car radio, a cellphone or a computer, audiences are all looking for the same thing: a personal connection.
The CRTC understands the crucial importance of connecting with audiences. We also know that broadcasters must maintain successful business models.
Nearly 50 years ago, Canada created the CRTC as a way to serve the public interest. And while it might sound obvious, it’s worth saying that one of the best ways to serve the public interest is to have a strong Canadian broadcasting industry.
The CRTC’s job is complex and challenging, especially in an era of rapid technological and social change. We must work within Canada’s legal and regulatory framework, and honour its international obligations, when considering the interests of all Canadians, from individuals to private and public broadcasters.
Part of the rationale to regulate broadcasting in this country is based on the idea that the airwaves are public property – that they belong to all of us.
Many countries face the same challenge. In fact, there are more than 100 regulatory bodies for communications around the world. During my time with the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency, I learned more about how regulatory agencies share best practices with one another. The CRTC actively collaborates with regulators in other countries. This collaboration is increasingly important in an interconnected world that is constantly evolving.
Change is nothing new to broadcasters, of course. The invention of radio helped to create the industry in the first place. And the industry has successfully met the challenges presented by a long list of new technologies. I’m confident that the men and women here today will find ways to meet current and emerging challenges by building on what you do best: connecting with people.
Building a sense of personal, one-on-one connection with individual listeners has always been the cornerstone of radio’s success. Creating this connection has enabled radio to overcome an ongoing series of new technologies, such as LPs, tapes and MP3 players.
Today, radio faces new challengers, such as streaming services and podcasts. To succeed, I believe that radio stations must make the most of the intimacy they create with audiences and the connections they forge with the community. Applications such as iHeartRadio and Radio Player Canada are technologies that broadcasters may use to connect with audiences.
Accessing current data and informed analysis are also valuable ways to overcome the challenges posed by technological and social change. This conference will certainly help, in part by providing you with opportunities to learn more about audience trends and emerging technologies.
This morning’s presentation from Jeff Vidler of Audience Insights, for example, featured valuable intelligence about people 25 to 54 years of age – a group that is vital to broadcasters. This afternoon’s “Radio Matters” session will also provide important insights into how some broadcasters continue to exploit what many of us still consider the most intimate of all media.
Another valuable resource is the 2017 edition of the CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Report. Just yesterday, we published the broadcasting data from the report. It shows some of the changes in how television and radio audiences access content.
During the last five years, the amount of time the average viewer spent watching traditional television fell by one hour per week. During the same period, though, the amount of time that Canadians spent watching television shows online increased by more than two hours.
Similarly, the amount of time Canadians spent listening to traditional radio fell by more than two hours over the last five years. And the percentage of Canadians that stream personalized music services has doubled from 13% to 27% in the last five years.
Most analysts expect these trends to continue, for both television and radio. Broadcasters must find ways to make the most of their digital platforms.
Canadians have access to more and more media options from anywhere, at any time and through a growing range of devices. The shift in the ways that audiences access programming is certainly of key importance. Last month, the Government of Canada requested that the CRTC produce a report on future content-distribution models. Consultations will feature prominently in the report. It’s crucial that broadcasters share their views and I encourage you to participate. The deadline for the first phase of comments is December 1.
Consultations are essential to the CRTC, because they enable us to listen to views of all stakeholders. Last month, we held a public hearing on the licence renewals for a number of cable companies, and we recently launched a proceeding to renew the licences of the TV services that benefit from mandatory-distribution orders.
Later this month, the CRTC will hold a hearing in Toronto to consider applications to operate new radio stations in Grimsby/Beamsville and Georgina.
And we will also soon begin the process of reconsidering the licence renewals of large TV ownership groups, as per Cabinet’s request. Stay tuned for the announcement for more details.
Technology will continue to evolve, as it has throughout the history of broadcasting. The industry will continue to adapt, by leveraging and incorporating whatever new technologies enable them to build and maintain connections with audiences. And success, as always, will come to broadcasters that build the strongest audience connections. I urge you to continue to innovate and to connect with individual Canadians.
I know that you are all waiting to learn about this year’s award winners. I won’t keep you in suspense any longer, but I extend my congratulations to those who are being honoured today.
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