Monique Lafontaine at an event of the Ontario Association of Broadcasters

Speech

November 7, 2019
Toronto, Ontario

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

Check against delivery

Good morning. We’re gathered today on the traditional territory of Treaty 13 First Nations. I would like to give thanks and pay respect to their Elders.

It’s a pleasure to be here today and I appreciate the opportunity to meet with you.

Given the rapid pace of change in the industry, I believe the theme of this year’s conference – Futureproofing Broadcasting – is spot-on. A key challenge facing broadcasters today is how to take advantage of ever-more sophisticated digital technologies.

Forging strong connections with audiences is at the core of broadcasting. How you establish, maintain and make the most of these connections will only continue to evolve as technologies shift.

Interestingly, according to data from the CRTC’s 2019 Communications Monitoring Report, which will be released in a few weeks, Canadian adults continue to spend significantly more time connecting with traditional broadcasters. On average, they spend 14.6 hours each week listening to radio stations, compared to 8.1 hours listening to online services. The gap is even wider with television content: 26.2 hours are spent each week watching traditional TV and 3.2 hours watching content online.

If we dig a bit deeper, however, we see that teens are relying less on traditional platforms for their content – as you well know. Canadians aged 12-17 years old spend 4.4 hours each week listening to the radio and 13.9 hours watching TV.

As we look to the future, the CRTC believes that Canada’s legislative and regulatory environment must evolve to keep pace with the changing landscape. This was the central message of our Harnessing Change report released last year.

In that report the CRTC recommends, in particular, that future policy approaches:

  • Be nimble, innovative and capable of adapting to changes in technology and consumers.
  • Recognize that all those who benefit from the Canadian broadcasting system should participate in an appropriate and equitable manner.
  • Focus on the production, promotion and discoverability of high-quality Canadian content, including news and information.

On the legislative front, we look forward to reading the final report and recommendations of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel. That report is expected to be released in early 2020.

With a view to modernizing broadcast regulations, the Commission is preparing for a proceeding that many of you are eagerly awaiting: a comprehensive review of our commercial radio policy. Stay tuned for more information on that coming soon.

As you await this proceeding, and as the CRTC Chair said in Banff last June, if you are looking for greater flexibility, we urge you to also contemplate solutions that will help with the achievement of key public policy objectives, such as supporting Canadian musical artists and providing a diversity of content on air.

A further proceeding that is under way to strengthen our broadcasting sector is the co-development of a new Indigenous Broadcasting Policy. That policy was created nearly thirty years ago and is in need of an update. Engagement sessions are now underway across Canada.

As we look to the future, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Commission’s Broadband Fund. The goal of this of this $750 million fund is to ensure that by 2021, 90% of Canadians have access to fixed broadband at download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 10 Mbps, as well as an unlimited data option. The remaining 10% should have similar access as soon as possible within the next decade.

In June of this year, we issued the first call for applications targeting the territories, as well as satellite-dependent communities. This fall, we will launch a second call open to all regions of the country.

Another way to futureproof broadcasting is for the industry to invest in its talent. The OAB’s inaugural Inspiring Women in Broadcasting Award is a positive and welcome step. I very much look forward to working with the award recipient as a mentor, and I commend the OAB for launching this important initiative.

The CRTC is also encouraging broadcasters to improve the representation of women in Canada’s film and television-production industry. With the support of a Steering Committee, the CRTC hosted the Women in Production Summit last year. During the Summit, the presidents of Canada’s largest broadcasters discussed ways they could ensure more opportunities for women in key creative roles.

In late September, the broadcasters fulfilled their commitment to develop action plans which are now available on the CRTC website. A next step is for the CRTC to engage with smaller and independent broadcasters in this area.

Finally, a further collaborative effort that promises to strengthen the industry while utilizing more sophisticated technologies is the Commission’s project now underway to introduce digital monitoring for radio broadcasters. This initiative will help build an authoritative database on Canadian music, and support a modernized and more effective approach to market analysis. The new system will also reduce the administrative and regulatory burden facing both broadcasters and the regulator. We appreciate the stakeholder involvement in this project.

Conclusion

All of the developments I’ve talked about today reflect the complex issues associated with communications in the modern era. Indeed, broadcasters and regulators face difficult challenges. Meeting these challenges – to ensure the futureproofing of our system – requires innovation, collaboration and investment in our work force.

The CRTC is keen to work with broadcasters and industry stakeholders I urge all of you and your industry associations to take an active role in all relevant CRTC proceedings and initiatives where possible.

By continuing to collaborate, I’m confident that we and our system will succeed.

Thank you.

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