HOUSE OF COMMONS
HERITAGE COMMITTEE RELEASES STUDY ON THE STATE OF THE CANADIAN BROADCASTING SYSTEM
For Immediate Release:
Ottawa, Wednesday, June 11, 2003 – Clifford Lincoln, M.P. (Lac-Saint-Louis) and Chair of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, presented today, in the House of Commons, the Standing Committee’s comprehensive report on the state of the Canadian broadcasting system. The report, entitled Our Cultural Sovereignty: The Second Century of Canadian Broadcasting, proposes new initiatives and measures that would strengthen all aspects of the Canadian broadcasting system.
The report represents a new departure in Canadian broadcasting and contains new ideas and what the Committee views as a bold new vision for the future of the system.
First, the report includes a number of recommendations that deal with the way in which broadcasting in Canada is governed and administered. Among other things, it proposes fundamental reforms both to the structure and composition of the CRTC. It also calls for the government to consider a single communications act to be administered by a single department of communications. This new act would replace the three existing acts—the Telecommunications Act, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act—and deal with the conflict and inefficiencies created by having two departments—Industry and Canadian Heritage—sharing jurisdiction over broadcasting. Further, the Committee calls for a revamping of support programs for Canadian broadcasting to make them more efficient and effective. Finally, the Committee calls for the creation of new institutions—a broadcasting monitor to report annually to Parliament on the health of the broadcasting system—and a local initiatives fund to promote community and local broadcasting—a fund that would give a voice and power to local communities.
The report was guided by a number of deep concerns. While there are many successes in Canada’s broadcasting sector—and Canadians should take great pride in the creators who have brought so much to Canadians and indeed to the world—the Committee sees storm clouds on the horizon. Thus, the report strongly supports a more stable, efficient and effective Canadian Television Fund. Also, the Committee recognizes the important role of private broadcasters and their legitimate aspirations to achieve financial stability. In this regard, the Committee concurs that Part II licence fees may pose a problem of equity and fairness and should be reviewed. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned about the future of public broadcasting and advocates a replenishing and a refocusing of the CBC. Finally, the Committee is concerned about the costs of the digital transition and the need to harness resources and talents so that Canada emerges as a leader in the new digital age that is now upon us.
The Committee believes that broadcasting is an essential preserve of the Canadian culture and imagination. Thus, it is opposed to increasing the level of foreign ownership in the industry. In essence, the Committee holds the view that once Canadians give up control over what amounts to our cultural sovereignty, we can never get it back. “We believe that Canadians lack neither the will, nor the capital, nor the imagination to make Canadian broadcasting a world leader in the twenty-first century. We have an optimistic vision and a faith that Canadians can do the job,” said Mr. Lincoln.
The Committee also took a strong position on the question of cross-media ownership, believing that Canadian democracy is enhanced when there is a diversity of voices and when Canadians have a wide variety of sources to choose from. The Committee fears that too much power is falling into too few hands. It has thus asked the government to announce a clear policy on cross-media ownership within a year. Until that time, the report calls for a moratorium on the awarding of new broadcast licenses in situations where a cross-media ownership situation exists.
Over a two-year period, the Committee met and heard from broadcasting industry stakeholders as well as from individuals from across the country. The Committee was much inspired by the entrepreneurs, creators, journalists and public servants it met who have given so much of their lives to the broadcasting system. Committee members appreciate the generosity and enthusiasm with which these stakeholders shared their experiences, views and concerns as the Committee traveled around the country. But Committee members were also impressed by the deep interest of so many ordinary citizens who came out to attend and participate in Committee hearings, both in and outside Ottawa, sharing their thoughts and feelings about the future of Canadian broadcasting with us. Based on this experience, it is the Committee’s conviction that the Canadian public wants a more transparent, democratic and vibrant broadcasting system—one that reflects local communities as well as the world around them.
Over 200 briefs were submitted and more than 350 witnesses addressed the Committee. The Committee’s focus was not just how to preserve our broadcasting system, but how we must strengthen and enhance it, so as to ensure its long-term stability and future.
The Committee sees this report as a challenge to Canadians and asks them to weigh the new ideas and initiatives contained in it. The Committee hopes the report will encourage Canadians to think about the kind of broadcasting future that they wish to see, and subsequently join in fighting for the ideals that have guided this report.
The report makes 97 recommendations. Key recommendations are appended to this press release.
This news release and an electronic version of the Committee’s report are available online at: [www.parl.gc.ca/InfoCom/committee.asp].
Members of the Committee: Clifford Lincoln, Chair, Member for Lac-Saint-Louis; Jim Abbott, Member for Kootenay—Columbia; Carole-Marie Allard, Member for Laval-Est; Paul Bonwick, Member for Simcoe--Grey; Sarmite Bulte, Member for Parkdale--High Park; Liza Frulla, Member for Verdun, St-Henri, St-Paul, Pointe St-Charles; Christiane Gagnon, Member for Québec; John Harvard, Member for Charleswood St. James—Assiniboia; Wendy Lill, Member for Dartmouth; Dennis Mills, Member for Toronto—Danforth; Alex Shepherd, Member for Durham; Chuck Strahl, Member for Fraser Valley.
Clifford Lincoln, M.P. for Lac-Saint-Louis
Clerk of the Committee
Room 640, 180 Wellington Street
Room 130, Confederation Building
House of Commons
Tel: (613) 947-6729
Fax: (613) 947-9670
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LIST OF KEY RECOMMENDATIONS
· That a comprehensive and integrated Canadian programming policy and strategy that has clear goals and cultural objectives be developed. This policy should help simplify the funding process and should place a strong emphasis on measures and incentives to ensure that Canadian audiences view Canadian programming. (rec. 5.1)
· That mandate reviews of the Canadian Television Fund and Telefilm Canada be conducted to ensure a clear separation and identification of responsibilities. (rec. 5.7)
· That the Canadian Television Fund be recognized by the government as an essential component of the Canadian broadcasting system. This recognition must include increased and stable long-term funding. The CRTC should be directed to oblige licensees, with the exception of small cable operators, to contribute to the CTF. (rec. 5.10)
· That the CRTC be directed to review its 1999 priority programming television policy. (rec. 5.13)
· That the CBC be provided with increased and stable multi-year funding (3 to 5 years) so that it may adequately fulfill its mandate. (rec. 6.1)
· That the CBC deliver a strategic plan to Parliament detailing resource requirements for the delivery of local, regional, Canadian programming and new media initiatives. (rec. 6.3)
· That the Broadcasting Act be amended to recognize not-for profit broadcasters as an integral part of the Canadian broadcasting system. (rec. 7.8)
· That the Canadian content system for music for radio (MAPL) be reviewed to ensure that the system fosters the development of new artists. (rec. 8.1)
· That the appropriate government departments review the rationale and fairness of Part II licence fees currently charged to broadcasters and distributors, with a view to their elimination if found to be discriminatory. (rec. 8.4)
· That the feasibility of imposing a requirement that Canadian broadcasters show a percentage of Canadian-made advertisements be studied. (rec 8.7)
· That the government develop a community, local and regional broadcasting policy in consultation with key broadcasting industry stakeholders. (rec. 9.2)
· That the government investigate the feasibility of creating new digital channels for the distribution of the best of Canada’s community, local and regional programming. (rec. 9.5)
· That the Department of Canadian Heritage create a Local Broadcasting Initiative Program (LBIP) to assist in the provision of radio and television programming at the community, local and regional levels. (rec. 9.8)
· That the Northern Native Broadcasting Access Program be preserved and that its funding be increased and made stable. (rec. 10.3)
· That the government issue a clear and unequivocal policy concerning cross-media ownership. (rec. 11.3)
· That existing foreign ownership limits for broadcasting and telecommunications be maintained at current levels. (rec. 11.5)
· That the responsible government departments and agencies develop a comprehensive plan for the transition from analog to digital technologies. (rec. 12.1)
· That a training program for closed captioning and descriptive video services be developed and funded by the federal government. (rec. 15.2)
· That the CRTC permit distributors to offer a wider range of international programming services. (rec. 16.1)
· That increased funding for efforts to enhance diversity in Canadian broadcasting be made available to the Canadian Television Fund and the CBC (rec. 17.3)
· That new guidelines be developed for the nomination of CRTC commissioners as well as board members of the CBC. (rec. 18.1)
· That a department of communications, responsible for broadcasting, telecommunications and the cultural industries be created. (rec. 19.1)
· That the government consider the need for a comprehensive communications Act that would integrate the existing Broadcasting Act, Telecommunications Act and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Act. (rec. 19.2)
· That the government develop a detailed and comprehensive policy statement for Canada’s broadcasting system. (rec. 19.3)
· That a mandate review of the CRTC be conducted with a view to establishing clear limits on its powers to supervise and regulate the Canadian broadcasting system. (rec. 19.5)
· That the CRTC’s regulatory supervision of the CBC be limited to the approval of new licence applications. (rec. 19.9)
· That the CBC be invited to come forward with a plan outlining its needs for additional radio and television licences. (rec. 19.10)
· That representatives from relevant government departments and agencies form a broadcasting reporting and measurement committee to develop a public accountability framework and measurement system for the Canadian broadcasting system. (rec. 19.16)
· That a Canadian broadcasting monitor incorporated into the Office of the Auditor General be created to report annually on how well the objectives of the Broadcasting Act are being met. (rec. 19.17)