CRTC establishes a new approach to media ownership



    OTTAWA and GATINEAU, QC, Jan. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian
Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today introduced new
policies to ensure that a diversity of voices is maintained in the Canadian
broadcasting system.
    "With these new policies, we have developed a clear approach to guide us
in assessing future transactions in the broadcasting industry," said Konrad
von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. "It is an approach that will
preserve the plurality of editorial voices and the diversity of programming
available to Canadians, both locally and nationally, while allowing for a
strong and competitive industry."
    Further to its review, the Commission is satisfied that the broadcasting
system currently provides Canadians with a range of news and information
programming. For this reason, it reaffirmed its existing common ownership
policies governing the number of conventional television and radio stations a
person may control in the same market.
    However, to maintain this plurality of editorial voices, the Commission
is establishing a new policy restricting cross-media ownership. As a result, a
person or entity will only be permitted to control two of the following types
of media that serve the same market: a local radio station, a local television
station or a local newspaper.
    In addition, the Commission has conditionally approved the Journalistic
Independence Code proposed by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC).
In particular, the Commission directed the CBSC to include a minimum number of
journalists on the panels that study complaints and to formalize the process
used to select panel members. The principles set out in the Code will ensure a
diversity of professional editorial voices and will eventually apply to all
broadcasters who own a newspaper in the same market.
    The trend toward greater consolidation in the broadcasting industry has
raised concerns that a large ownership group could achieve a dominant position
through acquisitions, which could bring about a reduction in the diversity of
local, regional and national content. To address these concerns, the
Commission has decided to:

    
    - impose limits on the ownership of broadcasting licences to ensure that
      one party does not control more than 45 per cent of the total
      television audience share as a result of a transaction; and
    - not approve transactions between companies that distribute television
      services (such as cable or satellite companies) that would result in
      one person effectively controlling the delivery of programming in a
      market.

    The new policies announced today apply only to private broadcasters. The
Commission will consider the contribution public broadcasters make to the
diversity of voices during upcoming proceedings focusing on the Canadian
Broadcasting Corporation and provincial educational broadcasters. The
Commission will also undertake a comprehensive review of its policies relating
to community broadcasters in the near future.

    The CRTC

    The CRTC is an independent, public authority that regulates and supervises
broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada.

    Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2008-4
    http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/whatsnew.htm
    Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2008-5
    http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/whatsnew.htm

    Reference documents:

    News release, "CRTC launches a proceeding to review the diversity of
    voices in the Canadian broadcasting system," April 13, 2007
    http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/news/releases/2007/r070413.htm
    Broadcasting Notice of Public Hearing CRTC 2007-5
    http://www.crtc.gc.ca/archive/ENG/Hearings/2007/n2007-5.htm
    Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2007-41
    http://www.crtc.gc.ca/archive/ENG/Notices/2007/pb2007-4.htm

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                       Backgrounder on media ownership

    Common ownership policies

    The Commission has reaffirmed its existing common ownership policies for
conventional television and radio stations. Under these policies, a person may
own no more than one conventional television station in one language in a
given market. In large markets, a person may control as many as two AM and two
FM stations in the same language. For smaller radio markets, a person may
control as many as three stations operating in the same language, with a
maximum of two stations in any one frequency band.

    Cross-media ownership

    The CRTC has decided to restrict cross-media ownership in order to ensure
that Canadians continue to benefit from a range of perspectives in their local
news coverage. Under the new approach, a person or entity may only control two
of the following types of media that serve the same market:

    - a local radio station,
    - a local television station, or
    - a local newspaper.

    Given that it considers the Globe and Mail and the National Post to be
national newspapers, the Commission is not aware of any market in Canada where
a single person or entity controls all three types of media at this time.

    Ownership of television services

    The Commission has decided to impose limits on the ownership of television
broadcasting licences to maintain the diversity of programming. As a result,
the CRTC will not approve a transaction that would result in one party
controlling more than 45 per cent of the total audience share, including
conventional, pay and specialty television services.
    Additionally, the Commission will:

    - carefully examine transactions that would result in one party
      controlling between 35 per cent and 45 per cent of the total audience
      share, and
    - expeditiously approve transactions that would result in one party
      controlling less than 35 per cent of the total audience share, assuming
      there are no other concerns.
    

    However, an ownership group can increase its audience share beyond 45 per
cent by operating and growing its existing assets without causing the
Commission concern.

    Broadcasting distribution

    Companies that distribute broadcasting services also play an important
role in providing a diversity of voices in the broadcasting system through
their acquisition and packaging of channels. The Commission is of the view
that competition in the distribution of broadcasting services translates into
increased programming diversity for consumers. To further this objective, the
CRTC will not approve a transaction that would result in one person
effectively controlling the delivery of programming services in a single
market.

    Journalistic Independence Code

    The Commission has granted conditional approval to the Journalistic
Independence Code proposed by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC).
The Code sets out procedures to ensure that broadcasters maintain news
management and presentation structures that are separate and distinct from
those of their affiliated newspapers.
    The general public and members of the broadcasting industry may submit
complaints about issues relating to the Journalistic Independence Code. Any
complaint requiring adjudication is brought to the attention of the CBSC's
Journalistic Independence Panel.
    The Commission directed the CBSC to include a minimum number of
journalists on the panels that adjudicate complaints. Given their experience
and expertise, the presence of journalists, or representatives from this
profession, is essential to fully understanding newsroom operations. The
Commission also directed the CBSC to formalize the process used to select
panel members in order to ensure a fairer and more transparent appointment
process.
    The Code will eventually apply to all broadcasters who own a newspaper in
the same market and will ensure a diversity of professional editorial voices
in the Canadian broadcasting system.




For further information:

For further information: Media Relations
http://support.crtc.gc.ca/CRTCSubmissionMU/forms/Mediarelations.aspx?lang=e,
(819) 997-9403, Fax: (819) 997-4245; General Inquiries: (819) 997-0313, TDD:
(819) 994-0423, Fax: (819) 994-0218, Toll-free #, 1-877-249-CRTC (2782), TDD -
Toll-free #, 1-877-909-CRTC (2782); On-line services
http://support.crtc.gc.ca/crtcsubmissionmu/forms/main.aspx?lang=e; These
documents are available in alternative format upon request.


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