Jean-Pierre Blais’ term as CRTC chair was marked by dramatic changes in how policies were developed and in the substance of the policies themselves. As I wrote on his departure, Blais placed the Internet at the centre of the communications systems and worked to gradually revamp broadcast safeguards in an effort to make the Canadian system more globally competitive. With the appointment of new chair Ian Scott and vice-chair of broadcasting Caroline Simard, the established stakeholders will unsurprisingly test the new leadership to see if a change in approach is on the way. Yesterday, Bell took a major step in that direction as it asked the CRTC to rescind its order banning simultaneous substitution from the Super Bowl broadcast in Canada.
Bell had already filed a legal action, asked the government to intervene in the case, and ramped up lobbying pressure from the U.S., but the government rightly declined to overturn the decision with the case still before the courts. I’ve written extensively about the issue, making the case for why the CRTC got it right (if anything, it did not go far enough as simultaneous substitution has become less relevant as more subscribers cut the cable cord). After the Super Bowl broadcast, I argued that the viewership data largely vindicated the CRTC. Indeed, Bell’s data confirms that it massively over-estimated the impact of the simsub loss. In advance of the broadcast, it forecast a $40 million loss. It now claims an $11 million advertising loss, a fraction of its earlier estimate.