Opening remarks for CBC/SRC public hearing
January 11, 2021
Ian Scott, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, CRTC
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
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Good morning and welcome to this virtual public hearing. I would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year!
Before we start, I want to acknowledge that I am currently chairing this hearing from the CRTC’s headquarters, which is on traditional unceded Algonquin territory. I would like to thank the Algonquin people and pay respect to their Elders. Commissioners and Commission staff are working remotely at the moment.
As the Commission announced in November 2020, this public hearing will be hosted virtually. It was originally supposed to be held in May of 2020, but was delayed until now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the current circumstances, and like everyone else, the Commission is making adjustments so we can continue to support the broadcasting and telecommunications industries upon which Canadians are relying. We appreciate your support as we conduct a virtual public hearing under challenging circumstances, and your patience with the occasional technical glitch that will no doubt arise.
Over the next few weeks, the Commission will examine the television and radio licence renewal applications filed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Société Radio-Canada.
Canada’s national public broadcaster plays an important role in the lives of Canadians, and has since its creation in November 1936. Beyond its mission to ensure its programming is made available and accessible to all Canadians, the CBC/Radio-Canada must provide predominantly and distinctly Canadian programming that informs, enlightens and entertains us. Furthermore, it must reflect Canada’s various geographic, cultural and linguistic realities and identities in both official languages.
This proceeding started in the fall of 2019 when we invited Canadians to share their views on Canada’s national public broadcaster. We asked Canadians to tell us whether CBC/Radio-Canada’s programming is reflective and representative of who we are as a diverse collective, a democratic society and ultimately a country. We also asked about how CBC/Radio-Canada supported Canadian creators and producers. Lastly, we asked Canadians to tell us how they consume CBC/Radio-Canada content on various platforms, given changes in the models for the distribution of content.
The Commission received over 20,000 interventions from Canadians, as well as from a variety of interested parties. I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank all those who took the time to participate in this public consultation. Your views are important to us. They’re on the public record and will be taken into consideration by the Commission in our decision-making.
We know the ways in which Canadians consume content is changing. Even though the CBC/Radio-Canada continues to provide programming on conventional mediums such as radio and television services, it has also been seeking to reach Canadians by offering programming on multiple online services and platforms for some time now.
To date, the Commission’s approach to ensuring that CBC/Radio-Canada meets its mandate has focused on only a part of its activities, that is to say its television and radio services. We know that Canadians are consuming more and more content through online services and that we must take a broader view of the CBC/Radio-Canada’s activities, while continuing to work with the tools we have. Furthermore, in its renewal applications, the CBC/Radio Canada is asking the Commission for considerable flexibility in order to meet its mandate and to respond to these technological and market changes.
As a result, we will explore how the Commission may provide the CBC/Radio-Canada with more flexibility where appropriate, while ensuring that Canada’s national public broadcaster continues to fulfil its mandate across all its services and platforms.
This hearing will examine the CBC/Radio-Canada’s past performance and future commitments with a view to ensuring that its programming:
- is relevant and meets the needs and interests of Canadians, including diversity groups in both official languages
- is of high quality and supports Canadian producers and content creators
- is accessible and discoverable across Canada and abroad, and
- contributes to Canada’s democratic life.
While increased flexibility may be appropriate, the Commission must fulfill its mandate under the Broadcasting Act, and have the ability to measure the CBC/Radio-Canada’s success in meeting the needs of Canadians. The Commission and the CBC/Radio-Canada must be able to report those results in a transparent fashion. We will be looking at ways to modernize the tools we use to achieve this.
As many of you may be well aware, the government has tabled Bill C-10 which addresses the ever-changing digital broadcasting environment, provides for a more flexible approach to regulation and modernizes the CRTC’s enforcement powers. While we welcome the new legislation, this bill is currently being studied by Parliament and we are closely following the work of Parliamentarians with interest. Should there be any change in legislation during the proceeding, the Commission will inform all interested parties of how it could affect the proceeding and whether changes in procedure are warranted.
And finally, the Commission notes that is has received, in the last week, a number of requests to add additional information to the record of the proceeding from the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) and from persons concerned with the CBC's temporary suspension of local newscasts in Prince Edward Island. The Commission anticipates that it may receive further requests to add new information to the record of this proceeding during the course of this hearing. The Commission intends to take those requests currently received and any others received during the course of this hearing under advisement and will rule on them at a future point in time.
Before we start, I would like to take a moment to thank Commission staff for their efforts in putting this public hearing together. To ensure a seamless hearing, they have been hard at work, behind the scenes, adapting to the new reality of organizing “virtual hearings.” We are grateful for all that they do.
And now, allow me to make a few introductions.
The hearing panel consists of:
- Claire Anderson, Commissioner for British Columbia and the Yukon
- Alicia Barin, Commissioner for Québec
- Monique Lafontaine, Commissioner for Ontario
- Caroline Simard, Vice-Chairperson, Broadcasting
- and myself, Ian Scott, Chair of the CRTC. I will be presiding over this hearing.
The Commission team assisting us includes:
- Céline Legault and Manon Auger, Hearing Managers
- Jean-Sébastien Gagnon and James Wilson, Legal Counsel, and
- Jade Roy, Hearing Secretary.
I would now invite our Hearing Secretary, Ms. Roy, to explain the procedure we will be following during this public hearing.
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