Nirmala Naidoo to the annual conference of the Western Association of Broadcasters


Banff, Alberta
June 8, 2023

Nirmala Naidoo, Commissioner for Alberta and the Northwest Territories
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

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Thank you for that kind introduction.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge that we are meeting today on the traditional territory of Treaty 7 First Nations, including the Stoney and Siksika First Nations. I thank them and pay respect to their Elders.

It’s a pleasure for me to participate in the 87th annual conference of the Western Association of Broadcasters, and to be among people who are as passionate about this industry as I am.

The WAB has long been respected for its valuable and diverse contributions to the sector. I learned about the important role that associations such as the WAB play during the early part of my broadcasting career in Calgary. Today, as a CRTC Commissioner, I have a much deeper understanding of this role and a greater appreciation for industry groups such as the WAB.

I was motivated to join the CRTC to serve the greater good. I believe that Canadians deserve a fair, equitable, world-class communications system—a system that doesn’t discriminate and that serves all citizens. I expect that everyone in the room today shares this view.

I was born in South Africa under apartheid, a legal system that classified people by the colour of their skin and prescribed specific rights and freedoms to various groups. As a person of colour, for instance, I was not allowed to eat in certain restaurants or to swim at certain beaches. To maintain this system, the Government of South Africa and other supporters of apartheid used communication media as a tool to spread disinformation, promote hatred and to keep people of colour down. The career I enjoyed as a broadcaster in Canada would simply not have been possible under apartheid.

This reality has forever shaped my world view. It has given me a special appreciation for Canada and for an inclusive broadcasting system that accommodates and engages all citizens, regardless of background.

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 a wealth of exciting opportunities for producing, sharing and consuming content. Along with these opportunities, of course, come certain challenges. Canada’s regulatory regime aims to maximize these opportunities and to help broadcasters meet these challenges.

During our lifetimes, the pace of technological change has accelerated quickly. This is particularly true for communications technologies. Broadcasters have little choice but to adapt to this change. Our regulatory regime must also adapt to ensure that technological change doesn’t undermine the underlying principles of Canada’s communications system—principles such as fairness and accessibility.

As you know, the Government of Canada has begun to update the regulatory regime through two pieces of legislation. The first, Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, received Royal Assent in April. The legislation brings the Broadcasting Act into the 21st century by clarifying the CRTC’s jurisdiction regarding online streaming services and giving us new tools to achieve its public policy objectives.

These objectives include ensuring 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—Black, racialized and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. 

Now that Bill C-11 has been adopted by Parliament, we have published a three-phase regulatory plan for modernizing the broadcasting system. Our aim is to develop a flexible regulatory regime that accommodates and supports a variety of business models, and that contributes to Canadian and Indigenous content.

Public consultations are essential to all three phases. The first phase of our plan involves three public consultations. 

One set of consultations focuses on how contributions from traditional and online services can best support the Canadian broadcasting system. The CRTC has proposed a new framework designed to accommodate a variety of business models.

The framework proposes three categories of contributions. One category is a base contribution that all eligible broadcasters and streaming services would make to initiatives. These could include the Radio Starmaker Fund, as well as other funds. The next category is more flexible and recognizes that not everyone can contribute in the same way. It would require investments in specific types of programming. The final category involves contributions to intangible initiatives, such as those that help make Canadian content easier to find online.

We will also consider whether online streaming services should make initial contributions.

Another set of consultations aims to identify which online streaming services must register and which ones to exempt from registration. A key goal is to limit regulation to companies that can make a material contribution to the broadcasting system. The CRTC has proposed that online streaming services with annual revenues of less than $10 million not be required to register. Also not required to register would be individual Canadians and creators of user-generated content.

The third set of consultations will consider potential changes to our current exemption orders. A key consideration will be whether to impose basic conditions of service on certain streaming services.

In the fall, we will launch additional public consultations, including one focused on definitions of Canadian and Indigenous content. Another will focus on tools to develop, support and promote Canadian and Indigenous audiovisual content on all platforms.

I encourage WAB members to participate in our consultations and make your views known. My fellow Commissioners and I want to take them into account in our decision making. Have a look at the regulatory plan on our website so that you can prepare for the upcoming consultations and help us create the broadcasting system of the future.

I want to take this opportunity to remind you of our single point of contact for broadcasters, which can be reached at 1-866-781-1911. Our staff would be happy to help you navigate our many proceedings. Keep in mind that they may not be able to answer all your questions regarding open consultations.

And, of course, you can 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 from our Today’s Releases page to be notified of new proceedings and decisions.

Earlier, I mentioned that the CRTC is closely following two legislative projects. The second is Bill C-18, or the Online News Act. This Bill aims to facilitate compensation for news content accessed online. The CRTC would be responsible for implementing a regulatory framework under which compensation agreements would be negotiated between Canadian news businesses and the largest online platforms. It’s important to recognize that Bill C-18 would not authorize the CRTC to determine which news Canadians receive or how they receive it.

Of particular interest to many WAB members is that Bill C-18 recognizes the important role that small, independent broadcasters play in gathering news at the grassroots level.

The CRTC has long operated within a regulatory environment that values the importance of freedom of expression and journalistic independence. As a veteran journalist, this is extremely important to me. 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.

We will move expediently should Bill C-18 receive Royal Assent. The CRTC would hold the public consultations needed to gather views and develop the appropriate framework.

Adapting to technological change is nothing new to WAB members, of course. For more than eight decades, members have made the most of technologies old and new to connect with audiences. Across the West, entrepreneurs have achieved great success by using local radio—increasingly complemented by an online presence—to bring people together, define communities and provide listeners with credible, practical news and information. This service has been particularly valuable during events such as this year’s devastating wildfires.

Conferences such as this one foster the success of WAB members by providing opportunities to learn how to make the most of new and emerging trends and technologies. This morning’s presentation by Gordon Borrell is a prime example and reflects the resilience of WAB members. At last year’s conference, many of us were relieved just to gather again. This year, the focus is firmly on the future.

The CRTC’s consultative approach to regulation strengthens the entire communications industry. We do a lot of listening: to individual Canadians, as well as to industry groups. We also do a lot of research and analysis. This approach enables us to make licensing decisions and develop policies that serve the broad interests of Canadians.

Broad collaboration among broadcasters, audiences and regulators is essential to the success of our communications industry. I think it’s important to remember how exceptional this makes Canada. Collaboration promotes social cohesion, democracy and a Canadian identity. It also fosters a broadcasting sector that employs tens of thousands of Canadians.

By working together, I am confident that Canada’s broadcasting industry will continue to succeed.

Thank you.


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