Canadian Heritage Min. Pablo Rodriguez and the federal cabinet have referred the CRTC’s June CBC/Radio-Canada licence renewal decision back to the commission for re-evaluation.
The decision is based on the receipt of 16 petitions from groups including the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), ACTRA, l’Association québécoise de la production médiatique (AQPM), the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC), the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO), the Black Screen Office (BSO), the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC), public broadcaster watchdog FRIENDS, and others, requesting that the decision be set aside or referred back.
According to an Order in Council, cabinet “is satisfied that the decision derogates from the attainment of the objectives of the broadcasting policy.”
The order states that her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Canadian Heritage, “is of the opinion that it is material to the reconsideration and hearing that the Commission consider how to ensure that, as the national public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation continues to make a significant contribution to the creation, presentation, and dissemination of local news, children’s programming, original French-language programming, and programming produced by independent producers.”
Concerns about the longterm impact of the licence renewal from the chorus of industry associations were wide-ranging. FRIENDS and CAB have ongoing apprehension around Tandem, CBC’s controversial branded content initiative. FRIENDS’ petition also suggested the licence renewal didn’t go far enough to protect local journalism and Canadian programming through its failure to impose baseline expenditure requirements.
The CMPA was among the groups that specifically took issue with removal of a licence condition requiring the public broadcaster to work with independent media producers in the development and creation of Canadian programming.
“We applaud the Minister and cabinet for referring this decision back to the CRTC and reaffirming the vital role that independent producers play in Canada’s broadcasting system, as enshrined in the Broadcasting Act,” said Reynolds Mastin, President and CEO, CMPA, in a statement. “Indie producers are small and medium-sized business owners, based in cities and towns across Canada, who develop content that reflects the different perspectives and experiences of Canadians; today’s decision will ensure these diverse stories continue to reach audiences from coast to coast to coast.”
“Thank you to the Government for standing up for Canadian performers, writers, directors, composers, producers and other creators by referring back this decision for reconsideration,” added ACTRA National President Eleanor Noble, in a release. “The health of our domestic audiovisual production sector can be attributed to the rules the CRTC has historically put in place to prioritize the creation of Canadian stories by and for Canadians. We are pleased the Government understood our concerns and has taken this important step to protect Canadian content.”
“The decision in its current form undermines both the mandate of the CBC and the Canadian broadcasting policy as set out in the Broadcasting Act,” said Noble. “Every step must continue to be taken to ensure long-standing policy principles and protections are in place to secure high levels of Canadian programming.”
Commitment unchanged: CBC
In response, the public broadcaster said it shares “the government’s view that regulation needs to be adaptable in order to respond to the realities of the evolving broadcasting landscape.”
“As we said during our licence renewal, that evolution does not change our commitment to offering quality Canadian programming, including local news, children’s programming in both official languages, original French-language programming and our significant partnerships with Canadian independent producers,” CBC told Broadcast Dialogue in an emailed statement. “We will participate in the CRTC’s process to reconsider the decision.”
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