Commission may rethink license renewals » Media in Canada

Commission may rethink license renewals

With concerns raised over the poor financial outlook for smaller TV markets, the regulator is hinting at an adjustment of renewal conditions for over-the-air broadcasters like CTV, Canwest, Rogers and TVA.

The CRTC has signaled it will not be business as usual at its upcoming license renewal hearings, suggesting on Friday that the focus of the proceedings may change in light of the turbulent economy.

The regulator is hinting it might adjust the conditions of license for over-the-air broadcasters including CTV, Canwest, Rogers and TVA – many of which have raised concern over the poor financial outlook for smaller TV markets. The regulator says it will conduct a review of the issues and will announce its decision on Feb. 16. The license renewal hearings for commercial broadcasters are set for April. Pubcasters CBC and RDS follow in September.

‘[The switch to] digital and the economic climate is a big problem for OTA stations and it has to be taken into consideration,’ says CRTC spokesperson Peggy Nebout.

Ian Morrison, industry watcher and spokesperson for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, says the move is a gesture from the regulator that the renewal hearings ‘won’t be like any other hearing.’

‘[Broadcasters are] jockeying around trying to reduce their obligations such as the amount of time spent on local news in each of the markets, or amount of hours spent on drama programming,’ he explains, adding that the expensive move to digital is also top of mind for broadcasters. The deadline to switch from analog to digital is August 2011.

Morrison speculates that the CRTC may also consider reducing the length of the current seven-year license because of uncertainties about the economy and the troubles surrounding Canwest.

‘The CRTC may be amenable to making life a little bit easier for Canwest…maybe it’s buying them some time with a banker or a finance situation,’ he offers.

From Playback Daily