Sunday, September 24, 2023

Regulatory, Telecom & Media News – Federal budget includes new funding for Universal Broadband Fund, Telefilm, CBC

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Min. Chrystia Freeland delivering Budget 2021 in the House of Commons on Monday, April 19. (CPAC)

The Liberal Government’s first budget in more than two years includes a roadmap for introducing the Digital Services Tax (DST); $21 million in emergency operational funding for CBC/Radio-Canada; and Telefilm funding to update its programs to reflect the increasing digitization of the audio-visual industry. Set to take effect Jan. 1, 2022, the interim DST would tax revenue from certain digital services “reliant on the engagement, data and content contributions of Canadian users” at a rate of three per cent. It would apply to social media services, online advertising, and the sale or licensing of user data with a focus on large corporations. Monday’s budget also proposes an additional investment of $1B over six years to the Universal Broadband Fund, starting in 2021-22, to support more rapid rollout of projects and $300 million over two years for Canadian Heritage to establish a Recovery Fund for the Arts, Culture, Heritage and Sport Sectors. Read more here.

Rogers Communications has released its Q1 results for the quarter ended March 31. Total revenue increased by 2% this quarter, largely driven by a 5% increase in Cable service revenue. Wireless service revenue decreased by 6% in the quarter, mainly as a result of lower roaming revenue due to continued global travel restrictions and lower overage revenue as a result of the continued adoption of unlimited data plans. Cable revenue increased by 5% as a result of promotional activity, service pricing changes, and increases in Internet and Ignite TV subscribers. Media revenue increased by 7%, primarily as a result of higher sports and Today’s Shopping Choice revenue, partially offset by softness in the radio advertising market. Media adjusted EBITDA was negative, but improved by $26 million in the quarter. 

CRTCThe CRTC is mandating limited MVNO access for regional networks. Incumbent telecom companies will be required to sell access to their mobile networks to some regional service providers, but only those that have some level of spectrum and committed to building out their own networks — and only for a mandate of seven years. Those regional providers will have the flexibility to resell their wholesale access to mobile virtual network operators, enabling further competition in the marketplace. The CRTC is also requiring national wireless carriers to implement seamless roaming to help prevent dropped calls and data sessions when customers move from one network to another. Lastly, the commission is mandating that Bell, Rogers, Telus and SaskTel offer and promote low-cost and occasional use plans for seniors and low-income earners, to be in place by July 14.  

The CRTC has upheld, in part, Videotron’s complaint against Bell over blocked access to its support structures finding that the company did give itself undue preference. The commission found that Bell, in its handling of pole access permit applications, used its position as owner of the network to give itself a competitive advantage when deploying its own FTTH network on the very structures with irregularities that caused Videotron’s applications for permits to be denied. The CRTC has directed Bell to complete, at its own cost, the make-ready work required under applications for access permits. Videotron is awaiting a court ruling on the lawsuit for damages it filed in the same matter in September 2020.

The Michener Awards Foundation has announced the finalists for the 2020 Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. This year’s finalists are: APTN, CBC News, The Globe and Mail, The Montreal Gazette, La Presse, and the Winnipeg Free Press. The foundation has also announced the recipients of the 2021 Michener-L.Richard O’Hagan Educational Fellowship and the Michener-Deacon Investigative Fellowship. The educational fellowship goes to Allison Baker and Viviane Fairbank for their fact-checking project “In Defence of Truth” with their goal to create a book-length version of The Walrus Fact-Checking Guide. The project also aims to create free and accessible curriculum for fact-checking education, hosted digitally by Carleton University. The investigative fellowship goes to Ethan Cox and Erin Seatter, who will lead a Ricochet team investigation into police misconduct in Canada and public accountability around policing. Each fellowship is worth $40,000, plus $5,000 for expenses.

The Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) has announced the shortlists for the CJF Jackman Award for Excellence in Journalism, honouring news organizations that embody exemplary journalism and have a profound positive impact on the communities they serve. The five finalists in the large media category are: CTV News Calgary for The Spread of Racism; The Globe and Mail for its series investigating why Ottawa was unable to respond effectively to the COVID-19 crisis despite Canada’s investment in pandemic preparedness after the SARS outbreak; Montreal Gazette for exposing Dorval nursing home; Toronto Star/Investigative Journalism Bureau (Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto) for Generation Distress, a cross-border collaboration for its series on the mental health crisis; and Winnipeg Free Press for A Stain on Our Game, an investigative series on disgraced junior hockey coach Graham James. Finalists in the small media category include: Canadaland for its reporting on the WE organization; The Narwhal for reporting based on freedom-of-information requests about the beleaguered Site C dam; Open Canada for Protected, exploring policies and politics around Syrian refugee sponsorship and settlement; The Tyee for an investigation into RCMP web spying program, Project Wide Awake; and Waterloo Region Record, for its use of access-to-information requests to disclose details about Canada’s last suspected Nazi war criminal, who lives in the Waterloo Region. Winners will be announced at the virtual CJF Awards ceremony June 9. 

Pattison Media’s Prairie division is making two $2,000 scholarships available in 2021 to students accepted into a recognized broadcast or digital media education program at a post-secondary educational institution in Alberta, Saskatchewan or Manitoba. Preference will be given to members of groups currently underrepresented in the broadcast and digital media industries, including, persons with disabilities, Indigenous or members of visible minorities, and women. Learn more, here.

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