Tag Archives: CRTC

Heritage Committee on Local TV

This morning I listened to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (#CHPC).  It was their first meeting on a study on ‘The Media and Local Communities’ which is also their first study.  I tuned in because it’s the first real meeting for this committee in this Parliament and I wanted to hear them interact with senior staff at Heritage and the CRTC (and then last minute additions from Industry – I mean Innovation, Science and Economic Development – and the Competition Bureau).  I’m not that interested in local tv but I’m glad I did tune in.

I was talking to my local MP, Julie Dabrusin, on the weekend since she sits on the Heritage Committee and I realized when I spoke to her about the local tv study that her interests in it were broader than my interpretation of the terms of reference of the study.  The minutes describe it as:

“… how Canadians, and especially local communities, are informed about local and regional experiences through news, broadcasting, digital and print media; the unintended consequences of news media concentration and the erosion of local news reporting and the impact of new media”

In listening to the meeting though I was struck by how wide ranging the questions were. Heritage started off by giving a very rapid ‘Canadian media policy 101’ talk with what sounded like (the feed was audio-only) a lot of slides.  A few of the MPs sounded overwhelmed.  It should be remembered that I believe Pierre Nantel (NDP) and Hedy Fry (Lib) are the only MPs there with previous experience on the committee.   So some of the questions continued on the 101 theme (‘how is Canadian media funded’ – I think I heard Helen Kennedy’s sigh before she started counting the ways) while others went off on to topics like diversity, funding for digital media, local news, newspaper consolidation, Broadcasting Act objectives, the Bell-Astral merger and the inability for anyone to make any money on digital platforms (that was a Conservative MP statement without any evidence).

The CRTC could not really say much because their local tv proceeding is outstanding and there are rules about not discussing a pending proceeding.  They did chat a bit about why LPIF wasn’t renewed, which honestly could have been the topic of a whole meeting as it had been a whole hearing.  They made a pitch that they are lowering barriers to innovation and encouraging broadcasters to evolve to multiplatform businesses, though without specifics.  Innovation, Science and Economic Development made some odd statements about how millennials don’t care about funding for digital media, just access and making money from their content.  Umm, just because you can make content for peanuts doesn’t mean you want to.   The Competition Bureau said they didn’t care about whether diversity of voices was impacted by consolidation, only if there was a negative economic impact.

There were some good questions but my favourites unfortunately were thrown in at the end when there wasn’t time for answers so we won’t hear them publicly.  Julie Dabrusin asked if the CRTC planned to update the 8 year old Diversity study (I swear I didn’t plant that question) and Hedy Fry asked who was in a position to regulate digital platforms for accuracy.  I suspect Scott Hutton of the CRTC was pretty happy there was no time to answer that last one!  The answers should be incorporated in their report so I’ll be looking for them.

Things could obviously change over the minimum 10 meetings that will be devoted to this study but based on today the Committee will be asking all sorts of questions about the media landscape and I’ll try to pay attention when I can.  It’s good to hear what the MPs are interested in and what topics they need help on (i.e. yes, there are businesses making money with content on digital platforms).

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Heritage Committee Report on the Canadian Feature Film Industry

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage recently released its report on its study on the Canadian Feature Film Industry. Over the spring a number of feature film stakeholders had appeared before the Committee or sent in submissions and this report is the result.
First a little context. Standing Committee reviews can be useful to study a sector within their jurisdiction, raise issues and make recommendations to the government. There is no obligation for the government to act on these recommendations or to even comment on them. These are the dying days of this Parliament and it is unlikely that the government will even notice this Report. However, it can also educate and inform Department of Canadian Heritage staff and help them to develop policies that could be implemented in the future.   As well, given that we are leading up to an election, this kind of a study could inform party platforms or future government proposals.

I recommend reading this report for a couple of reasons. If you are new to Canadian feature film policy it is a fairly accurate (not always the case) overview of the current state of the industry.   A wide selection of stakeholders appeared before the Committee and many topical issues and proposed solutions were presented. If this is your field then it is also interesting to see which issues the Committee as a whole, and the Opposition parties in supplementary proposals, felt worth recommending.

I found a couple of the recommendations of particular interest. A few of their recommendations went beyond government to other bodies, which technically speaking are outside the Committee and the government’s jurisdiction. In Recommendation 5 and 6 the Committee recommended that the CRTC include feature films as a separate category within PNI and that it review its PNI policy to specifically support feature film. As the CRTC is an arm’s length body this recommendation is like the Canadian government making a recommendation to the U.S. State Department on foreign policy. Further, there is a policy development process at the CRTC that is a great deal more rigorous than a Parliamentary Committee review. We might not like the current result of the process but the government cannot step in and make specific changes (there is a policy direction process but that’s more general).

Recommendation 10 is a recommendation asking the CBC to enhance its support of Canadian feature films, including on digital platforms but without a recommendation to increase the CBC’s budget to enable it to do so (which is in the government’s jurisdiction). The NDP expressed in their supplement the belief that the CBC should have sufficient resources to fulfill its mandate without a specific recommendation about what was needed to do that.

There were a couple of very specific recommendations related to the tax credits which could make a huge difference to feature film producers. For years the CMPA has been lobbying to eliminate the ‘grind’, where tax credits are reduced by the amount of assistance received from other levels of government (e.g. provincial tax credits). The Committee did not go so far as to recommend its elimination but that the problem should be studied. The Liberals in their supplement also supported the recommendation from witnesses that 75 – 85% of tax credit payments should be moved up to reduce the interim financing costs. This would be a great measure that would not cost the government anything but would create significant budget savings. I would only add that it should not be limited to feature film tax credits.

The final recommendation that interests me comes from both the NDP and Liberal supplements and was ignored by the main recommendations. Both parties recommended that OTT services should provide data to Heritage (or Heritage and the CRTC in the case of the Liberals) on consumer habits, Canadian films available, revenues and costs in order to assist policy development.  So this is a recommendation that the government MAKE Netflix and Google do what the CRTC was unable to make them do during the CRTC hearing. Nice thought but given that they deny that the CRTC has jurisdiction, I doubt that they would agree that the Canadian government has jurisdiction. I think it’s a lovely idea and yes it is data that the policy makers absolutely need to have for accurate policy development but it isn’t terribly realistic.

Where Are They Now (wonk version)?

[As originally posted to TV, Eh?]

So a few weeks ago I tweeted that I had gotten lost on Google for a couple of hours because it had been suggested to me that ‘someone’ should report on where former CRTC Commissioners are now.   It’s like a wonky version of Zap2It’s ‘Degrassi: TNG Season 1 Cast – Where Are They Now?’ post. So here’s my Zap2It/Buzzfeed style update on more recent former CRTC Commissioners. As you can see, some leveraged their CRTC experience to move on to interesting new positions, some went back to what they had been doing before and many are consultants (a very honourable profession in my opinion). Some are consulting more than others. The further back you get the harder it is to find info online so I called it quits at Charles Dalfen. [Note – if anyone, including a former Commissioner, would like to update their listing, please feel free to contact me and I will edit.]

UPDATE:

Tom Pentefountas (2011 – 2015)

Pentefountas left five months before the end of his term to join Stingray Digital as Senior Vice-President of Sales, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia, working out of their London, UK office.  

Louise Poirier (2008 – 2013)

Poirier continues as Chair of the Gatineau Sport Development Board (Conseil de Dévelopment du Sport de Gatineau) http://www.sportgatineau.ca She had been a Gatineau city councilor before the Commission.

Suzanne Lamarre (2008 – 2013)

Prior to the Commission Lamarre had a long career at the CBC as an engineer and a lawyer. She has now shifted to the consulting world as a Strategy and Regulatory Affairs Advisor. According to her LinkedIn page she is keeping very busy advising and teaching telecommunications and broadcasting regulation.

Timothy Denton (2008 – 2013)

Prior to his stint at the Commission, Denton was a consultant and executive focused on all things Internet and he has returned to that focus as Chair of the Internet Society of Canada and Principal of The Windermere Group (telecomm, broadcasting and internet law and policy consulting practice). He is also blogging at www.tmdenton.com

Marc Patrone (2008 – 2013)

Prior to the Commission, Patrone had a long career as a reporter at CTV Atlantic. He returned to the news first at Sun News Network as director of news for Western Operations until it folded and now freelance, writing articles and posting videos for Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media blog and YouTube channel.

Len Katz (2007 – 2012)

Katz appears to be fully retired after he left the Commission due to health issues after a short term as interim Chair of the Commission and four years as Vice-Chair of Telecommunications.

Michel Morin (2007- 2012)

Morin was a journalist and news executive with Radio-Canada prior to the Commission. He has returned to the news as a Journalist for TVA Nouvelles.

Konrad von Finckenstein (2007 – 2012)

After a distinguished career as a Federal Court Judge and before that Chair of the Competition Bureau, von Finckenstein spent a term as the Chair of the Commission. He is now an independent arbitrator for commercial disputes at JAMS, a global provider of commercial arbitrators and a Senior Fellow at the independent think tank C.D. Howe Institute.

Helen Ray Del Val (2005 – 2008)

Ray Del Val was a commercial and telecommunications lawyer prior to her three year term as the BC Regional Commissioner. She is now Chair of BC’s Financial Institutions Commission and of the Community Care and Assisted Living Appeal Board.

Michel Arpin (2005 – 2010)

After a lengthy career primarily in radio broadcasting, Arpin was the Commission’s Vice-Chair Broadcasting for five years. After his term he spent one year as a lecturer at Université de Montréal and is now consulting.

Elizabeth Duncan (2005 – 2014)

Duncan served two terms as Commissioner after a career in regional cable. She appears to now be retired.

Rita Cugini (2005 – 2012)

Cugini also served two terms on the Commission. She currently is active as a strategic planning and media consultant with clients like APTN, Blue Ant, the Competition Bureau and the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Tourism. In 2013, along with Trina McQueen, Cugini conducted an independent review of the game Pipe Trouble commissioned by TVO, to see if it complied with TVO’s Programming Standards.

Richard French (2005 – 2007)

After two years as Vice-Chair Telecommunications, French left the CRTC and now holds the CN Paul M. Tellier Chair on Business and Public Policy at University of Ottawa.

Joan Pennefather (1998 – 2007)

After two terms with the CRTC, Pennefather is now a mediator with the Mediation Centre of Southern Ontario and a senior associate with the Institute on Governance.   She also sits on a number of boards.

Stuart Langford (1998-2007)

Langford spent two terms at the CRTC but seems to have fallen off the map at least as far as Google is concerned. Prior to the CRTC he practiced law, worked as a political staffer and wrote crime novels.

Andrée Noel (1998-2007)

Prior to her nine years with the CRTC, Noel was an executive with a telecommunications company and a publishing company. Noel is now a broadcast and telecommunications consultant and the National Chair of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.

Charles Dalfen (2002-2006)

After his term as Chair of the CRTC, Dalfen was counsel at Tory’s, the firm he practiced with prior to his term at the CRTC. Dalfen died May 26, 2009 from a heart attack.

Thank you to Bram Abramson for being way better than a hive mind and directing me to the Privy Council Office page that aggregates Commissioner appointments.

My 15 Minutes of Fame

So apparently there aren’t a lot of independent policy types out there willing to talk to media about their opinions.  I’ve never done TV before (well, one little CHCH lunch time news interview back when I was producing a youth research website – barely counts) but I had two appearances this past week to talk about the CRTC and Talk TV.  I was on TVO’s The Agenda with John Doyle (yes, our difference of opinion about the Golden Age of TV in Canada came up but we also agreed on a few other things such as how much a shame it was that CBC had cancelled “Strange Empire”) and then interviewed for a piece on The National on the evolution of the CRTC.   I got to explain the DMEO in the National piece – without using acronyms!

My fingers are crossed that somehow these appearances lead to paying work but either way it was more fun than I thought it would be.

Talk TV – Pick and Pay

I know, you’re saying ‘what, another post on pick and pay’?  I just want to direct you to my post on the topic over at TV, Eh? where I outline the many variables that I believe will have to play out before we really know the impact of the CRTC’s pick and pay decision.

I also have one other point that didn’t fit into the post but has been bothering me ever since.   In the CRTC’s decision on pick and pay it confirms that the current process for authorizing non-Canadian services will be maintained.  In other words, non-Canadian services will only be authorized if they do not compete with a Canadian pay or specialty service.  Remember – the previous week the Talk TV decision on content got rid of genre protection and nature of service descriptions.  So how exactly will it be determined if a service is competing when the Canadian service has no set definition?  What happens if the Canadian service decides to morph into something else? And then back again?

So, if the History Channel decides to completely abandon history programming and focus on pawn shops and outlaw bikers does that mean the U.S. History channel will be able to be authorized in Canada?  But what if History changes its mind and decides to go back to history programming?  This is my confusion.  It would be great if at some point the CRTC could explain how exactly this is going to work.

Talk TV – Content Decision

In case you missed it, I wrote three blog posts about last week’s Talk TV decision over on TV, Eh?.  The first is an overview of issues while the second drilled down into the new Hybrid VOD licence and the third focused on the potential impact on the independent production sector.  There have been quite a few other good overviews of the decision.  I recommend the Globe and Mail’s Kate Taylor, Cartt (subscription) and Carleton Professor Dwayne Winseck.

With the pick and pay part of Talk TV expected Thursday March 19th, you can expect more blogging and a lot more chatter on the twitterverse.

Talk TV – Building and Repairing Bridges

There were three Talk TV decisions released today on OTA television, simsub and mobile broadcasting.  I blogged about it for TV, Eh? over here.  They are mostly consumer-facing decisions but I am a little concerned about the impact that the no simsub for the Superbowl decision will have on future Bell Media revenues, and therefore its expenditures on Canadian programming.  However, as the infographic shows, we have a lot more decisions to come so it’s hard to say what the impact will really be till we’ve seen them all.

Update:  For a very thorough review of the issues and potential negative impact of the Superbowl Simsub decision, please read Michael Hennessy here.