Monique Lafontaine to Ontario Association of Broadcasters Connection 2018 Conference and Awards

Speech

Toronto, Ontario
Thursday, November 8, 2018

Monique Lafontaine, Regional Commissioner for Ontario
Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission

Check against delivery

Good afternoon. Thank you very much for that kind introduction. I am honoured to be invited to speak to you today.

To begin, I would like to acknowledge that we gather on the traditional territory of Indigenous peoples. I would also like to acknowledge the important role that Indigenous broadcasting plays in our country. First Peoples Radio recently launched ELMNT-FM, new Indigenous radio stations in Ottawa and here in Toronto. I wish them the best of luck in serving their communities.

As many of you know, prior to my appointment at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), I spent much of my career working in broadcasting as a lawyer and media executive. I have worked for small and large players, Canadian and international companies, television, radio and distribution undertakings, digital media platforms, as well as content producers.

This breadth of experience has provided me with a deep understanding of the Canadian broadcasting system, the importance of all industry participants to our sector, and the critical role that the CRTC plays in serving the public interest.

Indeed, it is a privilege to serve as the CRTC Commissioner for the province of Ontario.

State of the Industry

It is also an honour to be at the Commission at this pivotal time. A time of tremendous change in the communications industries with the advent of new technologies, ever-growing international competitors, new program acquisition and advertising models, and a plethora of new ways for content providers to engage with Canadian audiences.

Within the context of this evolving media landscape, the radio industry, including ethnic radio, has remained resilient despite facing its share of challenges. Spending by local advertisers fell by 3.2% last year, while national advertisers marginally increased their spending. AM radio, which produces an important amount of local news and information, has seen its overall revenues decline in each of the past six years.

The industry has certainly had to find new sources of revenue and ways to cut costs, as well as evolve and innovate. I have also understood from you that one of the key reasons for radio’s staying power is its ability to connect with local audiences. By forging strong connections with the communities that they serve.

Television is also a changing industry. Last year, conventional TV revenues continued to shrink for the 6th year in a row. And, younger audiences, in particular, continued to migrate towards watching content online. I am sure that everyone in the room is keenly aware of this.

Yet, Canadians continue to have a strong interest in watching screen-based content. In 2017, Canadians 18 and over watched an average of 30.4 hours per week, across both traditional TV and Internet platforms.

The Future of TV and radio regulation

i. Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel

Given the vast changes taking place in broadcasting and the shifting ways in which audiences are engaging with content, it is important that the legislation keep pace.

To this end, the Canadian government has created the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel. This panel is comprised of seven distinguished communications experts and is separate from the CRTC. It will take a close look at the current legislative framework for broadcasting, telecommunications and radiocommunications.

I encourage all of you to participate in this review process, if you have not already done so, to voice your views, recommendations and concerns for the future.

ii. CRTC’s Harnessing Change Report – May 2018

The CRTC has also spent – and continues to spend – a considerable amount of time thinking about the future of broadcast regulation. Earlier this year, the Commission released a report entitled Harnessing Change at the request of government. The report presents a variety of potential initiatives that the Commission continues to evaluate and assess.

One of these is to modernize the regulatory approach to radio. Another is to examine ways to support television news production through increased access to subscription revenues. The CRTC will study these issues, as well as others, in due course. Once we have decided on the appropriate process, we will publish next steps or notices to inform you.

iii. Upcoming CRTC Matters

On the immediate horizon, there are a number of important CRTC events I would like to highlight:

  1. One, later this month, a public hearing will take place to consider applications for a new national multilingual, multiethnic television service.
  2. Two, later this fall, the CRTC will be convening a group of decision makers to discuss barriers to career advancement for women in the Canadian production industry.
  3. Three, the Commission will launch next year a first call for applications for the new $750-million Broadband Fund. The purpose of this new fund is to provide Canadians with access to broadband Internet services in underserved areas, across the country.
  4. Four, a review of the Indigenous broadcasting framework will take place to ensure this policy is effective and reflects the realities of radio stations serving Indigenous peoples.
  5. Five, the Commission will deliver a report to the government by February 28, 2019 on whether misleading or aggressive retail sales practices are used by large telecommunications services, including television service providers. The report follows the public hearing held last month in the National Capital Region.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the Commission is undertaking these activities - and many others – to ensure that Canadians have access to the best possible communications services, including a broad range of radio and television services.

While I cannot predict the future, I have tremendous confidence that Canadian broadcasters will succeed, as they always have: by harnessing the power of existing and emerging technologies to provide services that resonate and connect with audiences across Canada, and across the province of Ontario.

Thank you for this opportunity.

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