Vicky Eatrides to the Banff World Media Festival
“Going Fast and Far Together: Our Journey to Create the Broadcasting System of the Future”
June 12, 2023
Vicky Eatrides, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
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Before I begin my remarks, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Treaty 7 First Nations, including the Stoney and Siksika First Nations. I thank them and pay tribute to their Elders.
I am so pleased to be with you today, alongside some of my fellow Commissioners and other CRTC colleagues. Banff is a place like no other. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that the Rockies are breathtaking.
In the spirit of the Festival, let me start by pitching a new project we’re working on at the CRTC. It’s fresh. It’s exciting. It’s inclusive. Most importantly, it affects all Canadians.
Let me set the scene. The project we’re pitching is about connections. About how people connect with each other through music, television and film. About how the culture we share is built on and strengthened by the stories we tell and how it deepens and becomes richer as more perspectives are introduced.
Our project is centered around a broadcasting system that is strong and healthy, and that features a multitude of voices creating original content for broadcast on radio, TV and streaming services. That system includes healthy, vibrant local news media that reflect the communities they serve. It invites Canadians to connect with the great content that’s made right here at home and elsewhere.
The project we’re pitching is about how we build that broadcasting system of the future together. It’s a story about a journey, and about how a group of partners – the CRTC, Canadians, and the thousands of people and companies that work in this sector – will draw on each other’s strengths to realize a shared goal.
So, what do you think? Who’s ready to give this the green light?
Okay, maybe it’s too early to say whether this will make for compelling on-screen content. So, let’s continue to work on that screenplay.
Whether or not it will make for good content, I want to speak with you today about the journey we’re about to start. Because, from a legislative point of view, this project I pitched, it has very much received the green light to proceed. All of us in this room today – including regulators, traditional media players, and online streaming services – as well as Canadians from coast to coast to coast – are about to start down a road that takes us from the Broadcasting Act of today to a renewed and modernized broadcasting system of the future.
As we embark on this journey, I’m reminded of the proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Well, our plan is to go fast and far together. We’ll go fast because the results of our journey affect us all. We’ll go far by working together and drawing on each other’s strengths and expertise, and always including opportunities for engagement. We need to get this right. Because Canadians are depending on us.
Our journey starts with the state of the system today. I’ll begin there, with the role that the CRTC will play now that Parliament has adopted the Online Streaming Act. I also want to talk about the road ahead of us, and the stops we’ll pass along our journey as we bring that vibrant, dynamic and inclusive system I described to life. I’ll conclude by highlighting a few of the key issues we’ll be looking at along the way, including the need for a new and more flexible contribution framework.
So first, let’s talk about the role of the CRTC now that the Online Streaming Act is law.
Toward a modernized broadcasting system
Since taking on the role of Chairperson and CEO of the CRTC five months ago, I have had the opportunity to meet with a wide range of broadcasting stakeholders: private and public broadcasters, content producers, music associations, radio stations, specialty TV services, foreign streaming services, and unions and guilds.
I’ve met with people across the country – from Whitehorse to Toronto to Montreal to Halifax – and here in Alberta, in Calgary and Airdrie. I am struck by how important it is to understand the specific opportunities and challenges each face. A small radio station in the Prairies, for example, may need the CRTC to understand how important they are to their local community. An independent producer in central Canada faces different challenges, like selling content to international audiences. Each is unique in its role and its context.
One of the many things I’ve taken away from these meetings is that we all – broadcasters, creators, producers and regulators – have an important part to play in helping us on our journey to building the broadcasting system of the future. Some will contribute by producing great local news broadcasts. Others will create compelling television content. Others will promote music or support emerging artists. And others will contribute in ways that none of us has imagined yet.
Across its more than fifty years of activity, the CRTC has played an important role in developing this system. We have helped ensure that Canadian and Indigenous stories are told. We have also helped ensure support for our musicians on the radio, for our talent on the screen, and for the people and companies across our dynamic production sector.
Our role going forward is to help build the modernized broadcasting system of the future. It is to take the legislative mandate Parliament gave us just over six weeks ago and work with our partners to build the regulatory framework that underpins this new system.
The Online Streaming Act lays the groundwork for that change. It responds to the changing ways we consume content – via online services and traditional media – and gives us the responsibility to build a more inclusive system that responds to the particular challenges and opportunities facing all stakeholders.
Of course, we can’t talk about the Online Streaming Act without mentioning the government’s proposed policy direction that provides further guidance to the CRTC under the new legislation. The Minister of Canadian Heritage spoke about that earlier this morning. And as we have said since launching our public consultations, we will adjust our approach, if needed once that policy direction is finalized.
In the meantime, we’re getting to work. Because there’s no time to waste. While we have seen an influx of investment in our creative sector, including investments from domestic broadcasters and foreign productions, not every part of the broadcasting system is reaping equivalent benefits.
So, we’re starting our journey toward that modernized framework. There’s a long road ahead, and we need to move fast together.
From here to there: our plan
If that future system I’ve been describing is our destination, then the very real, very pertinent question we must ask is, “how are we going to get there?”
Well, we have a plan.
Within days of Bill C-11 receiving Royal Assent, the CRTC published a regulatory plan that set out our approach in three phases.
The first phase could be described as preparing for the changes to come. In particular, we intend to explore how streaming services can contribute to the Broadcasting Act’s public policy objectives. We will delve deeper into policy issues during the second phase, and will devote the third phase to implementing our decisions.
We have chosen to structure the process this way because we can’t take regulatory frameworks that have been in place for years and simply apply them to our new reality. Square pegs don’t fit in round holes. We also can’t change these frameworks overnight.
The Canadian journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell once said, “the visionary starts with a clean sheet of paper, and re-imagines the world.”
That’s where we all are today. We have a blank sheet of paper before us, and it’s inviting us not to re-shape a world, but to create a system that touches the lives of every one of the almost 40 million of us who lives in this country. To re-imagine our broadcasting system, we need to involve a greater diversity of players who can add depth and breadth to foundational conversations.
This will come together in the third phase as the broadcasting system of the future begins to take shape and the role everyone will play becomes clearer.
As I mentioned earlier, our approach on this journey is to move fast, but also to move together. In other words, to ensure we have broad engagement and robust public records. We are looking for ideas that benefit not only one part of the system, but the system as a whole.
Our plan will evolve as we hear from people and work in partnership on the different issues. We will update it as we move forward to keep everyone informed.
We can go fast alone, but we can only go far when we work together.
Building a new contribution framework
This brings me to the key issues we will look at as we develop our framework.
When we initiated the first phase of our plan last month, we launched three consultations. These will help us define the issues for discussion. The first asks which streaming services need to register with the CRTC. The second considers whether those should have basic conditions of service.
The third, and I would like to focus on this for a moment, starts the conversation about a new contribution framework.
I said earlier that the goal we’re working toward with this new broadcasting system is to give Canadian creators even more opportunities to tell their stories. And by this, we mean all creators, including those who may not have been as visible in the past. Specifically, we’re thinking about underrepresented and underserved groups.
Traditional and online broadcasters can contribute in meaningful ways to help support our domestic production industries. To ensure stories are told.
Our proposal consists of three categories of support.
The first is a base contribution level that would be common to everyone. This contribution would be directed to funds such as the Canada Media Fund, the Radio Starmaker Fund or certified independent funds.
The second would be a flexible financial requirement to invest in different types of programming, such as news programming, or training and development. This would take into consideration that not everyone will be able to contribute in the same way.
The third category would be intangible contributions, such as initiatives to help make Canadian and Indigenous content easier to find.
Does this approach work? Will each broadcaster be able to contribute in a way that will achieve the public policy objectives? We want to know what everyone thinks.
The time is right to innovate and to explore new models. That clean sheet Malcom Gladwell spoke about -- it’s calling out for transformative new ideas. How can producers work with broadcasters to create content that attracts audiences in Canada and abroad?
Tell us. We want those brilliant ideas down on paper. We’re accepting comments on this approach and are planning to hold a public hearing in November.
Meanwhile, we will continue our work this fall by holding preliminary engagement sessions on the definitions of Canadian content. These sessions will help us test concepts and prepare the questions for a full public consultation that will follow. We need to be sure we’re asking the right questions.
So, to conclude, together, we have a huge task ahead of us, and a unique opportunity. We’re blazing a trail on this journey of ours.
As we all work together toward building the broadcasting system of the future, our goal is to create an inclusive and flexible framework that provides opportunities to create, share and promote content. This new system will be greater than the sum of its parts. It will draw on the strengths of all participants to support Canadian and Indigenous content. It will foster a strong, independent production sector that reflects Canada’s diversity and gives opportunities to new voices. And it will be abundant with Canadian-made content.
But as I’ve said, this isn’t a journey any of us can go on alone. There’s a long road ahead of us. We can go far and fast only when we work together. Everyone needs to pitch in.
And speaking of pitches, I look forward to returning next year to pitch a more advanced screenplay about our journey toward the broadcasting system of the future.
In the meantime, let’s get to work. There are stories to be told and clean sheets of paper to be filled.
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