The CRTC’s review of its television policies to facilitate the transition to an increasingly on-demand environment
The television system is undergoing a fundamental shift brought on by broadband Internet and wireless networks. Increasingly, Canadians seek greater control over the programs they watch and access content on an even wider array of devices, sometimes bypassing the traditional curators of content, such as broadcasters and distributors.
In response to this changing environment, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) launched Let's Talk TV: A conversation with Canadians in 2013, a consultation about the future of the television system and how it can adapt to evolving technologies and new consumption habits. The two-year process, involving three phases and innovative engagement methods, produced a record 13,000 interventions from Canadians, industry, and interested stakeholders. Subsequent decisions and three new policies were released in early 2015 to ensure that Canadians are at the center of a diverse, affordable, responsive and forward-looking television system.
The detailed implications of these new policies are starting to be known but have yet to fully unfold at this stage. This will be a topic of interest for Canada’s next periodic report.
Based on the assumption that Canadians will continue to migrate from scheduled television and packaged programming services to an on-demand and tailored television environment, the CRTC has adopted measures designed to facilitate that transition. These measures are meant to provide incentives for all players in the broadcasting system to find new and innovative approaches to support the creation of compelling and diverse programming.
The measures are based on four themes:
A. Making Canadian programming widely available and visible
To increase country-wide access to Canadian programming on Canadian-operated online platforms, the CRTC created a new hybrid video-on-demand (VOD) service category, which is exempted from the requirement to hold a broadcasting license. This will remove barriers for Canadian companies and allow them to compete in an on-demand environment.
In order to ensure that the contents of programming packages align with the needs and interests of Canadians, an industry working group is developing new tools, such as an audience measurement system.
The CRTC hosted a summit on the discoverability of Canadian television programs in early 2016.
B. An emphasis on quality rather than quantity
To support the production of high-quality programming, the CRTC is shifting from a regulatory approach based on exhibition quotas (the number of hours of Canadian programming broadcast) to one based on expenditures (the amount of money spent on Canadian programming).
C. Regulatory support for specific types of programming which are of interest, but only where market failure is demonstrated
The CRTC is eliminating the genre exclusivity policy, which limited programming services to offering only certain types of programming and precluded others from offering the same. In doing so, the CRTC allows new services to enter the marketplace, programming flexibility, and greater domestic competition. This ensures that programming diversity is governed by market forces to the greatest extent possible, as services will be able to respond to consumers and adopt creative strategies.
However, the CRTC maintained support mechanisms for the types of programs considered to be of national interest (documentaries and dramas), and strengthened its criteria for national news services.
D. A simplified and streamlined licensing process
The CRTC is instituting measures to reduce regulatory burden by exempting a greater number of programming services from the requirement to hold a broadcasting license.
A concerted effort by all players in the broadcasting system, including the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), is currently under way to find new and innovative approaches to support the creation of compelling and diverse Canadian programming. The measures outlined by the CRTC to address the ongoing television system’s transition to an increasingly on-demand environment are designed to focus on the creation and distribution of quality Canadian content which will appeal to a worldwide audience. Increased flexibility will enable broadcasters to adapt to the shifting digital environment and to improve the promotion and discoverability of Canadian programming in an on-demand digital world.