The chairman of Canada’s broadcast regulator, Charles Dalfen, unveiled a sweeping terrestrial TV review Monday, the first full day of the Banff World Television Festival.
The news comes less than a day after Heritage Minister Bev Oda announced that the government had instructed the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to look into the impact of technology on broadcasting.
It is unclear whether the two reviews will overlap, though Dalfen said the CRTC would like to minimize duplication in submissions from interested parties.
Dalfen said that with recent changes such as the explosion of new technologies and multiple platforms, it’s better to address the issues as a whole before doing so individually. The results of the terrestrial TV review will be released next spring, before broadcast license renewal hearings take place.
“Our mandate is to advance the objectives laid out in the (Broadcasting) Act, and changing circumstances may well mean that advancing those objectives requires us to do things differently — even very differently,” said Dalfen.
Hot-button issues include reintroducing minimum expenditures for homegrown drama, how nontraditional advertising is to be regulated, allowing terrestrial broadcasters to charge viewers fees and mitigating the cost of converting to high-definition.
Broadcasters, producers and unions welcomed the review for different reasons.
Actors’ union ACTRA called it “a glimmer of hope” for Canadian TV drama production. “We welcome the CRTC’s acknowledgement that it has to look at fixing its 1999 TV policy mistake,” said ACTRA national executive director Steve Waddell, referring to the changes that removed minimum expenditure requirements of broadcasters.
“We have been seeking this review for a long time,” said David Goldstein, VP of regulatory and government affairs for Toronto-based broadcaster Chum. “The economics of conventional broadcasting are questionable now given new technologies. So we think it’s timely and it’s important.”
Dalfen, considered a strong advocate for Canadian drama, steps down at the end of the year.
More reviews are thought to be on the horizon.
The mandate of pubcaster the CBC will likely be brought up for examination, and the CRTC itself is said to be looking over its shoulder.
Dalfen also told delegates that the CRTC will launch a similar review of pay and specialty TV next year.