Regulatory, Telecom & Media News – CRTC data confirms commercial radio, conventional TV hit hardest by pandemic

CRTCCRTC data shows commercial radio and private conventional television were hit hardest by the pandemic impact on advertising as Canadian broadcast revenues declined overall by 6.6% in 2020. Statistical and financial data from annual returns provided by commercial broadcasters and the CBC for the broadcast year ended Aug. 31, 2020, reveal that commercial radio revenues plummeted 20.9% and private conventional television 14.3%. Operating margins for AM/FM radio were halved, falling from 20.3% in 2019 to 9.9%. AM/FM local time sales were down 25.35% in the English market and 21.42% in French markets, compared to 2019 (24.76% overall). Among those hardest hit were Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Red Deer, Halifax and Kelowna where local time sales were down more than 30%. Overall, conventional television fared better than radio with local time sales down 16.81% to $240,833,225. Operating margins were down 16.4%. TV stations on the Prairies experienced the sharpest decline (-20.2%), while stations in the Atlantic region fared the best with declines of just -6.4%. Read more here.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) and a coalition of media outlets seeking unimpeded access to ongoing old growth logging protests at Fairy Creek, near Port Renfrew, BC, have won their court challenge opposing the RCMP’s use of media exclusion zones. The B.C. Superior Court decision grants the group’s application to modify an injunction order granted to logging company Teal Jones in April and directs RCMP not to interfere with media access absent a bona fide operational reason for doing so. In the decision, Justice Thompson agreed with the coalition’s stance that use of geographically extensive exclusion zones, and associated access checkpoints, haven’t been reasonably justified. In addition to the CAJ and Ricochet Media, the coalition leading the court challenge included Capital Daily in Victoria, The Narwhal, Canada’s National Observer, APTN News, The Discourse, Indiginews and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). Read more here.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is calling for a halt to the detainment of journalists covering the removal of Toronto homeless encampments after Canadian Press photojournalist Chris Young was handcuffed and issued a trespass notice Tuesday morning. Young was in Alexandra Park to cover a City of Toronto eviction of about 30 people who were living in the park as well as multiple arrests. On June 22, Toronto Police handcuffed and detained photojournalist Ian Willms and confiscated his camera equipment as he was attempting to cover encampment evictions at Trinity Bellwoods Park. 

The World Broadcasting Unions (WBU), the coordinating body for broadcasting unions around the globe, is calling for concerted efforts to combat threats and violence against journalists and other media professionals, saying journalist safety has deteriorated over recent years and the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the situation in many countries. WBU says broadcast journalists and production crews are confronted with increasing hostility and violence when simply doing their jobs with women journalists particularly targeted. It’s calling on authorities to put into practice international principles and measures to protect journalists like the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists, and the African version of the platform launched this year by UNESCO

Virgin Mobile Canada has officially rebranded to Virgin Plus, a new name and identity that the company says reflects its evolving service offerings beyond mobility. That includes internet and app-based TV services for members in Ontario and Quebec. 

Rogers Q2 financial reporting shows Media revenue growth of 84% in the quarter, reflecting recovery of television advertising associated with the return of live professional sports programming and higher advertising and Toronto Blue Jays revenue. Media adjusted EBITDA decreased by 114% or $40 million, primarily due to higher sports programming and production costs and Blue Jays player payroll, with significant limitations on game day revenues. Total revenue increased by 14% in the quarter. Wireless service revenue increased by 2%, mainly as a result of a larger postpaid subscriber base, and higher roaming revenue as global travel restrictions eased, offset by lower overage revenue, primarily as a result of the continued adoption of our Rogers Infinite unlimited data plans. Cable revenue increased by 5% in the quarter as a result of promotional activity, service pricing changes in late 2020, and increases in the Internet and Ignite TV subscriber bases.

Cogeco Communications has announced financial results for the third quarter ended May 31. Revenue increased by 3.7% to reach $649.3 million. On a constant currency basis, revenue increased by 9.3%, mainly due to an increase in Canadian broadband services revenue by 10.2% as a result of the DERYtelecom acquisition completed in Dec. 2020, sustained demand for residential high-speed Internet since the beginning of the pandemic and rate increases for certain services. American broadband services revenue increased by 7.2%. Revenue in media activities increased by 23.6% following the easing of public health restrictions, while last year’s third quarter radio advertising revenue was directly impacted by COVID-19 related lockdown measures.