Peak Time Is Prime Time for Canadian Programs

Article excerpt

FRANCOISE BERTRAND

Chairperson, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

There is no need to regulate the content on the Internet and other new media, the CRTC chair asserts. There is already a strong Canadian presence in the new material, while other laws and software filters guard against offensive material. But regulation of broadcast media continues, seeking to ensure that Canadians have access to a variety of high-quality Canadian programs during peak viewing times. Focused intervention will also seek to ensure investment in Canadian programs in the face of competition from low-cost U.S. programs. Speech to the Banff Television Festival, Banff, Alberta June 14, 1999.

It is truly delightful to wake up in Banff this morning. That's not to say I don't love my day job in Ottawa, but if you have been keeping track of our work plan, you will know that we have had a very busy time lately. My colleague Joan Pennefather and the Commission staff who are here can certainly testify to that!

A month ago we released the results of our survey on Canada's new media industry and shortly after announced the licensing of four new French-language specialty services. Following that, we spent three weeks reviewing all of CBC's radio, television and specialty licences - taking a look at the whole picture for Canada's national public broadcaster.

And if that wasn't enough, just last Friday we unveiled the new TV policy that will guide television broadcasters, and have a significant effect on Canadian television producers, in the future.

But before I elaborate on these policies and decisions, let's take a deep breath of this energizing mountain air and consider the Banff Television Festival.

Twenty years old and counting! Some of you were here at the beginning - like Vision TV's Fil Fraser and the Festival's Senior Vice President Jerry Ezekial and so many others who have been faithful Board members or participants in the intervening decades. People - who contrary to beliefs popular at the time - had faith in an idea and brought that idea to life. The idea that television could have its very own festival and Canada's premier national park was just the place to hold it.

The Banff Rockie Awards have indeed become the Olympics of television awards with close to one thousand programs and more than forty countries competing for the honours. In addition, the growth and prominence of the Festival is testimony to the maturation of Canada's own television industry - both domestically and internationally. My congratulations to Banff Television Festival President Pat Ferns and his hard working Board and staff for mounting yet another fabulous event this year. Before I talk about the new television policy we released Friday, a word about the Internet.

No regulation of new media

As a team, the Commission recently came to a newsworthy position on new media. In deciding not to regulate, we became one of the first regulators globally to clarify its stand on the Internet.

The Canadian new media industry is vibrant, highly-competitive and successful without regulation. By not regulating this booming sector, the Commission hopes to support the continued exponential growth of new media services in Canada.

We based our approach on a critical evaluation of whether the content on the `net is broadcasting -- as defined by the Broadcasting Act. We found that alphanumeric programming, and Internet material that is predominantly customizable by the user are, by definition, not broadcasting. Other kinds of Internet material - that would in fact fall within the definition of broadcasting - will be exempt from regulation.

We have many reasons for issuing exemption orders for this material. From the public record, new media appear to complement rather than substitute for traditional broadcasting. In addition, there's substantial Canadian presence on the Internet today - some 5%. …