Statement by Ian Scott, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the CRTC, regarding costs awards

Statement

In light of recent public comments, I would like to clarify how the CRTC manages costs awards, who is eligible to receive them, and our position on the reprehensible statements on social media by Mr. Laith Marouf. To be clear, the comments by Mr. Marouf are deplorable and such hurtful words, coming from a group applying for costs, would never be allowed to stand on the public record. 

The CRTC has never hired the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) or any of its consultants, nor does it fund this organization or any other public-interest group. Costs awards are a tool set up by the CRTC to encourage public participation in our processes, and to provide support for independent research and views. 

As a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal, the CRTC makes decisions based solely on the evidence and views gathered during our public consultations. Our consultations are open, transparent and respectful. We encourage broad participation. Any interested party can choose to participate and submit an intervention, but there is no guarantee that they will be eligible to recover some or the entirety of their costs.  Moreover, if any intervention contains hateful or inappropriate speech, it will be struck from the public record.

The Telecommunications Act includes a provision that allows for costs awards, while the existing Broadcasting Act does not. As a result, there are two mechanisms through which public-interest groups can apply to recover some of their costs: 1) applications for costs awards for telecommunications proceedings, which is a process overseen by the CRTC, or 2) applications made through the Broadcasting Participation Fund for broadcasting proceedings, which is administered by an independent Board of Directors and funded from the contributions of broadcasters.

For its part, the CRTC assesses applications for costs awards further to a set of criteria, set out in the CRTC Rules of Practice and Procedure. Among those, the first consideration is that the applicant represents a broad group rather than a private interest. A second consideration requires that applicants demonstrate that they have assisted the CRTC in developing a better understanding of the matters being considered.

The applications for costs are then subject to a further public process, following which the CRTC can approve the application in full or in part, or deny the application. It is important to note that costs are paid by the telecommunications companies that are parties to the proceeding in question. No public funds are used for this purpose.

Application for costs awards in relation to broadcasting proceedings are made to the Broadcast Participation Fund. It uses similar criteria, but operates entirely independently from the CRTC.

In light of the current situation, we have launched an internal review of our criteria for costs awards. Should we determine that changes are needed, we will then hold a public consultation to ensure that interested parties can share their views.

Finally, we note that Bill C-11, which is currently being studied by Parliament, proposes to give the CRTC the authority to require broadcasters and television service providers to support the participation of individuals and public-interest groups in broadcasting proceedings. Should Bill C-11 receive Royal Assent, we will hold a public consultation on this matter as part of our work to implement the new legislation.

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