Diversity study warns of two-tier TV

Quebec's film, TV and music industries have urgent recommendations for the CRTC.

If the CRTC doesn’t do something fast, Canada may soon have a ‘two-tier’ broadcasting system in which TV and radio content is monitored but online content isn’t, according to a report commissioned by Quebec’s film, TV and music industry.

Media concentration goes against the Broadcasting Act’s objectives to ensure different points of view because it spreads the same content across numerous platforms, says the report, which was presented to the CRTC’s diversity of voices hearings by groups including Quebec’s largest actors’ union, the Union des Artistes, the APFTQ producers association and the Société des auteurs de radio, télévision et cinéma.

If big media companies such as Quebecor had to apply for a comprehensive network licence to cover all their holdings, including online properties, it would be easier to monitor if they were adhering to the Broadcasting Act, says APFTQ spokeswoman Céline Pelletier. ‘That way, when renewal time came up, the CRTC would have a chance to see how they measure up across all platforms.’

The CRTC also has to take the plunge and start seriously monitoring the Internet, adds UDA spokeswoman Anne-Marie Des Roches: ‘The Internet is a broadcaster. It’s time for it to be regulated. It’s becoming more and more of an important player in providing content.’

Canadian media companies should also be forced to finance original Internet content, says Des Roches. ‘They are making money from the Internet and they should reinvest it back in the system.’ The report envisions some kind of fund whereby companies such as Telus, Quebecor and Rogers contribute a percentage of their profits to finance Canadian content, she adds.

Quebecor, which owns cable company Vidéotron, and Alberta-based Shaw Communications already object to contributing millions annually to the Canadian Television Fund, which was set up to finance Canadian content. The cable kings temporarily withdrew their support for the CTF last winter, and demanded that the CRTC undertake a comprehensive review of the fund. The federal regulator began a public review in June and was to release a report in September. Due to what it deemed the ‘complexity of the issues’ and a ‘high level of interest,’ the CRTC recently announced its study won’t be ready until December.

From Playback Daily