CRTC Should Force Broadcasters To "Compete Just Like Any Other Sector"
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Tuesday April 23, 2013
Last month, Jean-Pierre Blais, the chair of the Canadian
Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, delivered a
much-discussed speech at the Canadian Media Production Association's
annual conference. The CMPA is Canada's leading organization for the
production of Canadian film and television programming and Blais'
message was intended to both congratulate and challenge the industry.
On the congratulatory side, Blais noted the Canadian film and television
production had a record year in 2012, growing by over $500 million over
the prior year, by far the highest total and fastest growth in over a
decade. Canadian television production led the way, increasing 21.3 per
cent in 2011/12, for a ten-year high of just under $2.6 billion. Most of
the increase was due to English-language programming, with fiction
production growing by over 41 per cent.
Yet there was a second comment that garnered less attention, but that may ultimately prove more important. After encouraging the industry to become more innovative and entrepreneurial, Blais warned "you will need to compete, just like any other sector."
For example, most of the funding for the record amount of
Canadian English-language television programming came from
taxpayers and broadcasters, not the original producers of the
content. According to Profile
2012, an annual report on the state of the industry, only
ten per cent came from private funding such as production
companies and private investors. Canadian distributors covered 18
per cent of the total costs, with foreign distributors kicking in
an additional nine per cent.
The notion of competing in the market should take centre stage
this week as the CRTC conducts its hearing on whether Canadians
who subscribe to cable and satellite television packages should be
required to pay for channels such as Sun News Network and
Starlight, a proposed all-Canadian movie channel. The regulatory
process has been likened to winning the lottery, since channels
selected for mandatory carriage are guaranteed millions in revenue
regardless of whether Canadians watch or even want the channel.
That shift in approach would represent a significant change in Canadian broadcast policy, effectively establishing a framework that requires the industry to compete for subscribers. As CRTC Chair Blais would say, just like any other sector.
Tuesday April 23, 2013