Speech: Caroline J. Simard to the annual conference of the Western Association of Broadcasters
June 7, 2018
Caroline J. Simard Vice-Chairperson, Broadcasting
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
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I acknowledge that we are meeting on the traditional territory of Treaty 7 First Nations and I pay respect to their Elders.
It’s a pleasure for me to be here, and to meet with people who are as passionate about this industry as I am.
I would like to introduce two of my colleagues who are with us today: Mr. Ian Scott, Chairperson and CEO of the CRTC, and Dr. Linda Vennard, Commissioner for Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
We are here with Joe Aguiar, the CRTC’s Manager of English Radio Operations, Peter Foster, Director General of Television Policy, and Michael Craig, Manager of Television Policy.
This is my third visit to Banff and it’s a treat for me to see the mountains again – and to meet with Western broadcasters.
On my first visit, I hiked in the Rockies for a few days. I remember seeing some real mountain men: four gentlemen – all in their 80s, with long white beards and the same outfit – the old-fashioned Swiss outfit. They looked like they had just stepped out of a ZZ Top album…except that they had a very different outfit!
I have no idea if they were musicians, but I was very impressed with how strong and fit they were.
WAB fosters the success of western broadcasters
Today, I have a similar impression of the WAB: a venerable organization that has the potential to remain as vital as those mountaineers. WAB has a proud tradition as one of the first associations of broadcasters in the world. Can you imagine?
WAB was created in 1934 – only 15 years after the first broadcasting licence in Canada was issued to Marconi.
The industry has changed a great deal since then, of course. How many broadcasting associations have been created over the last 84 years? Likely more than we could have imagined back then.
There are likely hundreds of associations that represent the interests of broadcasters around the world.
There are currently more than a hundred communications regulators worldwide responsible for broadcasting, telecommunications and anti-spam related matters. This is likely more than we could have imagined 50 years ago when the CRTC was created.
Radio and TV stations give value to communities across Canada
Across the West, entrepreneurs have achieved great success by using local radio to bring people together, define communities and provide listeners with credible, practical news and information. Whether it’s coverage of municipal affairs, weather and traffic, a local fundraiser or the Calgary Stampede, radio has the pulse of the community.
Radio also contributes to the success of local businesses and the economic development of the regions they serve.
I understand, however, that covering local events became all too personal for Golden West’s CHBO Humboldt station in April, when two of their own were among the victims of the tragic Broncos bus crash. On behalf of the CRTC, I extend my most sincere condolences to Golden West, the families of Tyler Bieber and Brody Hinz, and everyone in this room for your loss.
People want to know what is going on when catastrophes happen, and Western radio stations are particularly good at this. The value of this connection became also evident during the natural disasters of recent years. When forest fires hit Fort McMurray, for instance, and floodwaters rose across southern Alberta, people turned to a trusted source of information: local radio.
The ability to connect with audiences helps explain why Canada punches well above its weight in the music industry. The success of established stars, such as Jann Arden, Tom Cochrane, Brett Kissel and Paul Brandt, as well as up-and-comers such as Colter Wall, Lindsay Ells, Nuela Charles and the Hunter Brothers – performing here tonight – shows that Canada produces great musicians in various styles.
Canadian musicians also continue to break new creative ground. A great example is Kiesza, a Juno winner born and raised here in Alberta, in Calgary. Kiesza wrote the lyrics and was the Canadian voice of one of the first – if not the first – international project to create an album using artificial intelligence.
There are also great examples of television in Alberta: Heartland, shot here in the province and licensed in 119 countries. It’s our longest-running TV drama and the show is popular both in Canada and around the world. Each year, tourists from everywhere travel to Alberta to visit Heartland locations.
A second example from television is North of 60, which remains popular long after production wrapped. In fact, APTN recently added the show to its schedule.
All stakeholders contribute to the broadcasting ecosystem
Earlier, I mentioned that I met a group of men out hiking during one of my previous visits.
More interesting than their beards and outfits, they used a specific hiking relay technique. The four of them were in a line. The guy at the front was switched to the back, which meant that the second man was then in the lead. In other words, one after the other, they took turns leading the way to the top. Each one contributed to the success of the entire group.
This type of collaboration reminds me of Canada’s successful model for the broadcasting industry. The model involves six separate groups: creators, broadcasters, distributors, regulators and policymakers, associations such as the WAB, and audiences.
Each group plays its respective role while contributing to the success of the whole industry. Creators make and produce material that resonates with audiences. Broadcasters and distributors build and maintain connections with listeners and viewers. And associations protect their interests.
As we all know, audiences are the ones that ultimately dictate what goes on air, and whose needs everyone tries to satisfy. This includes the regulator who must strike the appropriate balance between the needs and interests of all Canadians, including members of all groups.
For decades, the model has enabled the industry to climb to new heights just like those mountaineers.
The participation of stakeholders is key in designing regulation. The regulation of broadcasting has not always been popular, of course, but it has without any doubt contributed to the success of the entire industry. And why is that? Most likely because the entire industry has contributed to its design.
The CRTC’s consultative approach to regulation also strengthens the whole industry. We do a lot of listening: to individual Canadians, as well as to private companies and various organizations. We also do a lot of research and analysis. This approach allows us to make licensing decisions and design policies that serve the broad interests of Canadians.
Canadian-content regulations are perhaps the best example. Having radio stations play Canadian music fuelled this country’s music industry. Some of you will remember that prior to this requirement, Canadian musicians often had to succeed elsewhere – usually south of the border or in Europe – before radio stations in this country would play their songs.
Western radio stations, though, have long acknowledged that local content helps connect with audiences. So it’s no surprise that WAB was an early supporter of Canadian-content regulations.
As a matter of fact, I’ve been told that WAB also played a crucial role in the creation of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, a national self-regulatory body that maintains the highest possible standard of radio and television broadcasting.
The CRTC has also played a leading role in other valuable components of the industry, such as closed captioning, and ethnic and Indigenous-language broadcasting. Last year, we issued five licences for radio stations serving urban Indigenous communities. The licences for Edmonton and Calgary went to the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta. I understand that a few representatives of the Society are here today. I wish them all the best.
And I hope that they will engage with the CRTC later this year. That’s when we will take the first step in our review of the policy for Indigenous radio. We could then be working together on a meaningful consultation process.
It is crucial that groups such as the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society and WAB participate in CRTC proceedings. As I said earlier, to be effective, the regulatory system must reflect the needs, interests and views of all stakeholders: creators, broadcasters, distributors, associations, regulators and policymakers, and audiences.
Starting on October 15, 2018, the CRTC will host a public hearing to consider applications for a new national TV service. The service will provide multilingual and multi-ethnic programming, including news and information. In April, we published the applications we received for these services.
As well, you may have on your radar a few upcoming decisions. This includes the licence renewals of the TV stations distributed as part of mandatory basic packages. You may also have on your radar the parts of the decision we reconsidered on the licences held by large English and French-language ownership groups.
The fast evolution of digital and online technologies raises significant challenges for broadcasters. Like all aspects of the broadcasting industry, radio continues to experience profound shifts.
There are clearly opportunities out there, and the challenge is to know how to make the most of them.
To help better understand this environment, the CRTC last week completed a report for the government looking into future content-distribution models and their possible impacts on the Canadian broadcasting sector.
Our research tells us that Canadians will rely more and more on the Internet to discover and consume music, entertainment, news and information in the future. In light of this, we have provided several policy options that the government may want to explore as it reviews the legislative framework for communications, including the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act.
In the report, we also mention certain steps that the CRTC could undertake in the next few years. One of these is to consider group-based approaches to the licensing of radio stations. Another is a possible review of the regulatory approach to radio with a view to ensuring that you can continue to contribute to the promotion and presentation of Canadian artists and music.
I know that many of you have been looking forward to such a review. I’m not here today to make any announcement. It’s something that we will consider undertaking in due course and we will let you know should we decide to launch a review.
If you have not yet seen our report, I highly encourage you to read it. It’s a “digital-first” report that was designed specifically for mobile screens and is full of interesting data and policy considerations that you may find relevant for your activities. You can find it on our website at www.crtc.gc.ca.
I’m confident that Canada’s broadcast industry will meet digital challenges the same way it met similar challenges in the past: each group fulfills its role and all groups cooperate strategically.
The industry’s longstanding success is the result of this strategy. Like the mountaineers, getting to the top requires careful cooperation from every climber. Together, the groups create and maintain a thriving industry that promotes social cohesion, Canadian identity and democracy. Let’s not forget that, the industry generates billions of dollars in revenues each year and that employs tens of thousands of Canadians.
By working together, I’m confident that Canada’s broadcasting industry will continue to succeed. I urge you to continue to innovate, to connect with individual Canadians and, foremost, to participate in the CRTC’s processes.
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