The CRTC has issued a call for comments on the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ (CAB) application requesting regulatory relief for Canadian broadcasters amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Back in July, the CAB filed an application with the commission requesting immediate regulatory relief to address significant financial difficulties being experienced by most, if not all, Canadian broadcasters and the likelihood private broadcasters would fall short of certain conditions of licence.
The CAB proposal suggested that the commission deem broadcasting licensees to have met conditions of licence relating to spending for the 2019-20 broadcast year, ending Aug. 31, 2020. Under the CAB’s proposal, the commission would consider licensees to be in compliance regardless of actual expenditure levels and would be exempt from making up any shortfalls in subsequent broadcast years.
The association also proposed changes relating to local management agreements (LMA) between two or more licensees and the management and operation of two or more stations in the same or adjacent markets. Specifically, the CAB proposed suspending the pre-approval requirement for LMAs for radio stations for a period of 18 months, which would permit two differently-owned radio stations in a given market to be co-managed by one entity and allow for the co-sale of advertising between those stations.
A report commissioned by the CAB, and released last month, says as many as 50 private radio stations could go dark over the next four to six months and another 100 to 150 in the next 18 months without government intervention.
The federal government has already provided relief to the broadcasting sector by waiving Part 1 licence fees, with temporary relief for the audio and audiovisual sectors also included in Canadian Heritage’s $500-million COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations.
In its call for comments, the commission says any potential regulatory relief should ensure the viability of the Canadian broadcasting sector isn’t further harmed, that current news and information programming levels are maintained, and that potential relief is minimally administratively burdensome.
The deadline for interventions is Oct. 19.
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