MAC CRTC Submissions

Submission CRTC 2009-614 Order in Council

Submission CRTC 2009-614 Order in Council

2 November 2009

Mr. Robert Morin
Secretary General
Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N2

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Dear Secretary General

Re: Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2009-614

Thank you for the opportunity for MEDIAC INC. to comment on the implications and advisability of implementing a compensation regime for the value of local television signals.

1. MEDIAC is a Canadian accessibility specialty firm providing research, analysis, standards development and marketing services in the communications, entertainment and cultural industries. Its Accessibility Lens products and services offer compliance reporting; inclusive public policy and regulatory analysis, development and reporting; and business strategy solutions.

MEDIAC's portfolio includes an international, national and regional expertise including accessible content multi-platform distribution, accessible media monitoring and accessible content creation as it relates to legislation, funding, engineering, research and development, project management and validation.

MEDIAC has offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal providing accessible solutions and services in both official languages.

2. OTA broadcasters are, for the most part, large corporations with diverse broadcasting interests. The CRTC's decisions to strengthen Canadian broadcasting companies will permit these companies' over-the-air components to recover and perform well, as the economy recovers.

3. But the rapidly changing shift from analog to digital, along with consideration around retooling Canada's broadcast infrastructure, presents a new opportunity for the CRTC to review the original intent behind its first cable policy in 1971 where it stated that companies that distribute content should pay for that content. In Policy Statement on Cable Television: Canadian Broadcasting, "A Single System", (Ottawa, 16 July 1971) the CRTC said that "broadcasting cannot survive by technology alone. The most perfect electromagnetic signal into every Canadian home is without value unless it bears a message." (p. 36). The CRTC therefore set the priority carriage requirements for cable systems' basic service, and said that cable systems should pay program suppliers: "one should pay for what he uses to operate his business", because "while cable television operators may argue they are really only selling an antenna service, sophisticated as it is, the subscribers are buying not antennas but programmes." (p. 20) It was the CRTC's view that "[s]trengthening of cable television, and its benefits to the public, is vital if this important element of broadcasting is to play its part in the 'single system'. The Commission will therefore encourage the development of cable television." (p. 31)

4. The CRTC did not enforce its view that cable should pay for content, because at the time TV stations earned more than three times as much as cable companies. To ensure cable's prosperity, the CRTC did not enforce its requirement that BDUs should pay local broadcasters anything.

5. The BDU industry is no longer in its infancy. It is a strong and prosperous industry that has cross-media ownership assets that include the great portion of the IP and Wireless industry. In fact, not including IP or Wireless services, in 2008 BDUs made $4.8 billion and TV stations made $2.1 billion.

6. BDUs now provide Canadians with access to the ebb and flow of virtually all content and accessible content. They are a strong and powerful force in the broadcasting system, and can bring substantial benefits to that system. The CRTC should serve Canadians' interests in ensuring that all broadcasters support a fairer more equitable compensation system which reflects the revenue and market share of today. But an important quid pro quo, is that ALL Canadians must be able to access the programming provided by our broadcasting system.

7. Therefore accessibility requirements should go hand-in-hand with the CRTC's review and decision.


8. In assessing and making changes to a compensation regime for the value of local television signals, the CRTC should consider how these changes could affect distribution of, the decrease or increase in, or the quality of accessible content. As such, an Accessibility Lens should be used to determine impact and opportunity. For example, in assessing and making changes to the current enforcement policy for the value of local television signals the, CRTC could:

  1. remind and enforce 100% compliance to its accessibility policy including compliance with an industry best practices guide for closed captioning and descriptive video.

  2. expand its accessibility policy toward a 100% described video broadcast day

  3. require the BDUs or the broadcasters to establish a fund that would underwrite accessible content production, 3rd party monitoring and compliance, standards and best practices development, reporting and review, and experimental research and development to improve the speed and quality of accessible production.

  4. create a policy to have its Social Policy division review its final decision, so that they may advise or seek advice on impact/opportunity for accessibility.

When reviewing and updating the Policy Statement on Cable Television: Canadian Broadcasting, "A Single System", to include the entire BDU and broadcaster compensation regime, the ultimate beneficiary should be the Canadian audience, including those requiring the additional accompaniment of accessible content. Therefore, while deliberating on compensation, the CRTC should ensure senior citizens, English- and French-as-a-second-language learners, illiterate, deaf, hard of hearing and vision impaired Canadian's get full access to Canadian broadcasting.

Thank you for allowing MEDIAC INC. to provide this written submission. MEDIAC Inc. would like to appear before the Commission at the December hearing to provide a more detailed plan for the provision of accessible content in Canadian broadcasting.

Sincerely yours,

Beverley Milligan
President and CEO