CRTC report irresponsible: CAB

If the regulator's simultaneous rights policy were eliminated, Canadians could watch US shows on US networks.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters is up in arms about a recent report suggesting that restrictions should be placed on a network’s right to simultaneously broadcast American TV shows during prime time. ‘We believe the report’s far-reaching recommendations, if not properly applied, could fundamentally undermine the foundation of the Canadian broadcasting industry,’ says CAB president/CEO Glenn O’Farrell.

‘Simultaneous substitution is a mechanism of fundamental importance,’ he added. ‘To remove this mechanism would effectively expropriate rights holders. It is irresponsible to suggest such a recommendation without any rationale demonstrating an understanding of the economic underpinnings of the industry.’

Under current CRTC rules, when a Canadian net buys the rights to broadcast an American show, its over-the-air signal replaces that of the US network. The practice generates millions annually – but hurts Canadian content, which tends to get shuffled into marginal time slots, says a CRTC-commissioned report authored by communications lawyers Laurence Dunbar and Christian Leblanc and released last Thursday (see

Canada’s largest actors union, ACTRA, welcomes the report’s findings. ‘This is really the first glimmer of hope we’ve had in a long time; we are really quite pleased,’ says Stephen Waddell, ACTRA’s national executive director. ‘The broadcasters have made billions in revenue piggybacking on US product. It’s time for (them) to wean themselves from this regulatory benefit.’

Waddell says he is pleased the authors took a hard look at what passes for Canadian content on most networks, such as reality TV and entertainment news. ‘This report validates what we’ve been saying for five years. The CRTC’s 1999 Television Policy is a failure. Canadian TV drama is important.’

The CRTC will consider the report during a review of its broadcasting policy in January 2008.

From Playback Daily