Claire Anderson to the annual Conference of the British Columbia Association of Broadcasters
Richmond, British Columbia
May 4, 2023
Claire Anderson, Commissioner for British Columbia and Yukon
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Check against delivery
Thank you, Rob [Germain, BCAB President],for the kind introduction.
It’s a pleasure to gather on the traditional unceded territory of the Musqueam First Nation. I acknowledge the many Indigenous communities located in Western Canada, and pay respect to these Nations and their Elders.
I’m delighted to participate in the British Columbia Association of Broadcaster’s first in-person conference since the pandemic. And it’s a privilege for me to be among broadcasters with a passion for serving Canadians.
During the pandemic, several BCAB members experienced sudden and significant shifts in audience numbers. With fewer people commuting to work, many radio stations saw listenership decline precipitously, for example. CHEK TV News experienced the other extreme, as its programming attracted approximately 70% more viewers at one point. Since then, audience numbers for nearly all BCAB members have returned to more normal levels. The ups and downs of the last few years demonstrate the importance of connecting with local communities.
While BCAB members continue to do their best to secure audiences, the Commission recognizes that the industry faces significant challenges. This year’s BCAB conference will enable members to learn more about current and emerging media trends, along with effective strategies and best practices for future success. I congratulate conference organizers for assembling such an excellent and timely program.
The pace of technological change continues to accelerate, and the broadcasting industry has little choice but to adapt. Regulators such as the CRTC must also adapt.
The CRTC’s objective is to ensure that we have an accessible, world-class communications system that keeps pace with evolving technologies and meets the needs and interests of all Canadians. The digital age has created exciting new opportunities when it comes to producing, sharing and consuming content.
As you know, legislation now before Parliament proposes to update the Broadcasting Act. I’ll share what little I can say about Bill C-11 in a few moments, but will first update you on a few CRTC initiatives.
Last fall, the CRTC updated its commercial radio policy with two objectives in mind: to ensure the policy continues to support Canadian artists and to provide the industry with more flexibility to help it remain competitive.
Canada has a well-established track record of producing artists in all genres of music who not only gain loyal fan bases at home, but who are acclaimed on the global scene. Much of this begins with the support they receive from radio stations here in Canada. To support our artists, we upheld the long-standing requirements for Canadian content on the radio. We also set new expectations that commercial stations will play at least 5% of songs from emerging Canadian artists and include Indigenous music in their playlists.
Follow-up proceedings are planned to review our approach to Canadian content development, as well as to gather information on the different funds and initiatives that help support and promote Indigenous music. We are also planning for the next phase of our process to co-develop a new Indigenous broadcasting policy with Indigenous peoples. Stay tuned for more details on these proceedings.
In terms of granting more flexibility, we intend to move towards new criteria to determine if a song is Canadian, and broaden the eligible songs that stations can play to meet their Canadian content requirements. We have also made an important change to our ownership policy: under certain conditions, you will be allowed to operate an additional FM station in the same market.
Another ongoing CRTC initiative involves developing an open music database for radio. The project will facilitate digital reporting by radio broadcasters, making life a little easier for everyone.
We recognize the vital work done by local radio stations to support local communities and promote Canadian and Indigenous musicians, as well as emerging artists. When we updated the commercial radio policy, we acknowledged that Parliament was studying new legislation that proposed to update the Broadcasting Act and provide new tools to address some of the issues affecting radio stations, especially as you compete directly with streaming platforms.
That’s why we announced in the policy that any future proceeding we launch would work seamlessly both under the current Broadcasting Act and in the environment of a modernized Act.
Speaking of which, the Online Streaming Act, also known as Bill C-11, received Royal Assent last week. The legislation aims to ensure that online streaming services make meaningful contributions to Canadian and Indigenous content. It also seeks to ensure a greater diversity of content, particularly content produced by and accessible to racialized and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.
The CRTC supports these goals and believes that traditional broadcasters and streaming services should both contribute equitably to Canadian content and to Canada’s broadcasting system. At the same time, we recognize the differences between traditional broadcasting and streaming services. Canadians deserve a flexible regulatory regime that accommodates and supports a variety of business models, and contributes to Canadian content.
I know there are concerns about how this legislation could impact digital creators. Let me reassure you that the CRTC has no intention to regulate creators of user-generated content and their content.
You’re probably wondering what happens now that Parliament has adopted the legislation. We look forward to getting started on our work. We will soon share our plan and launch the first public consultations. I encourage you to participate and help us create the broadcasting system of the future.
We are also closely following Bill C-18, the Online News Act, which aims to establish a framework for digital platforms and news businesses to enter into agreements regarding news content that is made available online. Under this Bill, the CRTC would implement the regulatory framework under which compensation agreements would be negotiated between Canadian news businesses and the largest online platforms. An important distinction to keep in mind is that Bill C-18 would not ask the CRTC to determine what news Canadians receive or how they receive it.
We are ready to get to work if Bill C-18 receives Royal Assent. The CRTC is used to operating within a regulatory environment that values the importance of freedom of expression and journalistic independence. We also have a track record of supporting the production of local news through conditions of licence and the Independent Local News Fund, to ensure Canadians have access to information about their communities and the world around them. And we are regularly called upon to assist members of the industry resolve disputes through mediation and arbitration. This experience will serve us well in designing the regulatory framework under Bill C-18, along with the input of the public and interested parties.
As you can see, there are several important public proceedings on the horizon. In particular, the proceedings related to Bill C-11 will help shape the broadcasting system for the 21st century. The participation of Canadians, the industry and other interested parties in our consultations is of paramount importance. The views collected on our public records inform Commission decisions, so it’s critical that a broad range of stakeholders participate. The CRTC very much appreciates the input of BCAB members and we encourage you to share your views.
I also encourage you to follow us on social media or check our website regularly for news on ongoing or upcoming proceedings. You can even sign up to our RSS feed to receive our news releases and be notified of new proceedings and decisions.
In the broadcasting industry, the ability to connect with audiences is essential to success. Regardless of how technologies evolve, connecting with audiences remains imperative. I am confident that BCAB members will continue to find new ways to attract and retain audiences, and I look forward to learning more about your plans.
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