The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has announced that it now requires Bell, Rogers and Corus to increase the amount of funding the companies put into creating original Canadian content.
The telecom watchdog has imposed conditions of license upon these companies to ensure they continually support Canada in the creative sector.
Specifically, the companies are required to make an annual investment of a portion of the previous year’s revenue into the creation of original Canadian content. As part of the most recent change, the CRTC states that Bell must invest 7.5 percent of previous years’ revenues (up from five percent), while Corus must invest 8.5 percent of its previous years’ revenues (up from five percent).
Rogers’ investment requirements will remain at five percent, says the CRTC.
The CRTC says the changes were made in response to the government’s Order-in-Council, which asked that the telecom regulator in May 2017 to reconsider its decisions “regarding large television groups by imposing conditions of license on them to ensure the continued support of the Canadian creative sector.”
As part of the Order-in-Council’s request, the CRTC has also changed French-language market investment requirements. Starting 2019-2020, 75 percent of each group’s overall Canadian programming expenditures will be required to go towards original French-language programs. This is a significant increase over the 50 percent requirement in the 2018-2019 period.
Finally, Bell, Rogers and Corus will be required to allocate an average of $5.5 million per year in the support of both English and French musical programs.
“These measures will help our creators produce quality original content that meets Canadians’ expectations while adapting to the constantly evolving television environment,” said Ian Scott, Chairperson and CEO of the CRTC, in a press statemen sent to MobileSyrup.
“We will continue to require that these large groups contribute to the expansion of original Canadian programming according to their respective financial capabilities, so that they may play an essential role in the Canadian economy.”
In response, David Clement, North American affairs manager for Consumer Choice Center, released a statement blasting the CRTC over its latest decisions.
“The CRTC’s reversal is a significant blow to consumer choice. Canadians deserve to decide the content they want to consume, not be told by government what they have to watch,” said Clement.
“Simply put, Canadian content should be able to stand on its own two feet, without a mandate from government. If there is consumer demand for Canadian content, then companies will respond accordingly. The reversal on loosening Canadian content rules ultimately means that the government is telling consumers what they want to watch, and forcing companies to act on that false assumption.”
Clement even went so far as to question the CRTC’s role in the Canadian telecom industry over the changes. “Adding more red tape and more regulation to an already bloated industry won’t help consumers, and is incredibly paternalistic,” said Clement. “This consistent paternalistic meddling raises questions as to whether or not the CRTC should even exist as a telecom regulator.”