CMPA petitions Heritage Minister to send back CBC licence renewal

The petition is in response to what several industry organizations see as a lack of support for Canadian independent productions.

The Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) has issued a petition to the Minister for Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez to set aside or call for a consideration of CBC’s licence renewal by the CRTC, with the backing of several industry organizations in tow.

The petition, submitted on Aug. 5, is the latest in a series of steps made by both the CMPA and the Quebec producers association AQPM to overturn the CRTC’s decision. Both parties filed separate calls to the Federal Court of Appeal last month.

AQPM and Friends of Canadian Broadcasting have also sent their own petitions to reconsider the licence renewal decision. In its initial filing to the court, AQPM argued that the Commission had exceeded its mandate by issuing precedent-setting regulatory frameworks that don’t align with existing policies.

The crux of the issue for the CMPA is the removal of a condition of licence that required CBC/Radio-Canada to work with independent producers. The decision, published in June, states that “it is not necessary to impose any exhibition or expenditure requirements on the CBC in regard to independent productions” as it was deemed that CBC was unlikely to reduce its collaborations with the indie sector. The new licence is scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 1.

The petition points out that the CRTC’s decision means that there are no baseline requirements to ensure the support of Canadian independent production, despite the fact that the removal of those requirements was not part of the public broadcaster’s licence renewal submissions, and goes against existing policies.

While the CRTC’s decision did include requirements to work with Indigenous, official language minority, or other equity-seeking producers, the petition argues that without any overarching independent production requirements, they lack enough accountability to be effective.

The petition also calls into question the reduction of exhibition requirements for children’s programming and feature films.

In its request, the CMPA asks for either the decision to be struck down and for CBC/Radio-Canada’s previous licence to be reinstated for another two years, or direct the CRTC to reconsider the decision and establish requirements for Canadian indie production.

A number of industry organizations have issued letters in support of the petition, including the Indigenous Screen Office, the Black Screen Office, the Documentary Organization of Canada, and regional offices such as FilmOntario, the Alberta Media Production Industries Association, On Screen Manitoba, and the Saskatchewan Media Production Industry Association.

“This is a decision from the CRTC that frankly came out of left field, and will negatively alter the Canadian media production landscape in a number of troubling ways,” said Reynolds Mastin, president and CEO of CMPA, in a statement.

Mastin adds that it “undermines federal broadcasting policy objectives” and will have a “precedent-setting negative impact” on the indie sector.

CBC/Radio-Canada told Playback Daily it has “no comment” regarding the petition. The Department of Canadian Heritage has not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

The petition harkens back to a similar appeal to Canadian Heritage five years ago, when an open letter was sent to then-Minister Melanie Joly to request she send back a 2017 decision from the CRTC to reduce the programs of national interest (PNI) requirements for major private broadcasters such as Bell Media, Corus Entertainment and Rogers Media.

Joly sent the decision back to the CRTC less than a month after the letter was issued, with Bell Media and Corus’ PNI requirements ultimately increased as a result.