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LANG Committee Report

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Government Response to the First Report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages

CONTEXT

The moratorium on advertising from March 15 to June 1, 2004 had a negative impact on the Canadian advertising and media industry, including official-language minority media throughout the country. The Standing Committee on Official Languages has considered the situation and the demands of associations representing the official-language minority media and has produced a report that makes two recommendations to the Government of Canada for resolving the situation. This document responds to these two recommendations.

RECOMMENDATION 1

The Standing Committee on Official Languages recommends that the Government of Canada immediately set aside a minimum of 5.4% of its media buys for the official-language minority media, a figure which corresponds to the relative weight of the minority francophone and anglophone communities in Canada.

RESPONSE

The Government of Canada believes that the objectives, which the Committee has pursued in making its recommendation, are being met through a range of measures that have already been taken since the report was first tabled and, therefore, would advise that a minimum set-aside is unneccessary.

Recent statistics on advertising spending between June 1, 2004 and February 10, 2005 show that 6.56% of the daily and weekly print investments and 7.65% of radio advertising were directed to official-language minority media. As well, according to the follow-up report of the Commissioner of Official Languages on the use of the official-language minority press, issued on January 20, 2005, the number of complaints that her office received on government advertising in official-language minority media decreased by 42% from 1998-99 to 2002 03.

The primary purpose of government advertising is to inform all Canadians about the services provided by government programs. This must be done in the most efficient and cost-effective way, in a rigorously honest and transparent financial framework, while respecting the requirements of the Official Languages Act. This perspective includes the English-speaking minorities in Quebec and the French-speaking minorities outside Quebec.

The Government reiterates its commitment to the Official Languages Act. The Government further recognizes the importance of the official-language minority media in reaching the minority population. To ensure transparency, PWGSC will implement new information management systems to reflect recent reforms to government advertising, to enable monitoring, tracking and public reporting on spending on advertising in the official language minority media.

As part of implementing the new Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, which was approved in November 2004, PWGSC will ensure that media plans presented to PWGSC comply with the Official Languages Act and with this policy.

In addition, PWGSC will hold training sessions for government employees involved in advertising purchasing on the Government’s language related obligations for advertising in official-language minority media. PWGSC will consult the Treasury Board Secretariat, Justice Canada, the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada and the associations representing the official-language minority media to help develop and present these sessions.

RECOMMENDATION 2

The Committee asks that PWGSC comply fully with the Official Languages Act and other requirements set out in the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada. Furthermore, the Committee asks PWGSC to account for its purchases of space and time in official-language minority media. Annual reports produced by PWGSC as part of its obligations under section 41 of the Official Languages Act must provide information on this issue.

RESPONSE

PWGSC will continue to comply with the Official Languages Act and all the requirements of the Communications Policy. Under the Policy, departments and agencies continue to be held responsible for all spending on, and management and implementation of, advertising-related activities, from planning to production, including media placement and evaluation. PWGSC awards contracts to agencies responsible for media planning and contracts to the Agency of Record responsible for the Government’s media buys.

The new contract concluded with the Agency of Record in May 2004 has a clause stipulating that media buys must comply with the Official Languages Act. It also stipulates that the Agency must keep up-to-date lists of Canadian French and English media and of the regions that they serve. With the systems recently put in place to meet these requirements, the Agency of Record can provide the Government with the information it needs to publish the results concerning space or time bought in official-language minority media. PWGSC will report publicly on its media buys in its annual reports on advertising, which will address all advertising activities undertaken by federal institutions, and in its annual reports on the implementation of Section 41 of the Official Languages Act.

PWGSC will continue to consult with representatives of the minority language media to address concerns. PWGSC will also continue to play a leading role on behalf of the Government by organizing meetings between departments and agencies and official-language minority associations.