Unions, Guilds officially appeal CRTC licence renewal decision

A joint petition from the CMPA, DGC and ACTRA and a separate WGC appeal ask Minister Joly to reject the May decision.

Red TV CRTCTwo appeals released this week from industry associations and guilds argue that the CRTC’s English-language group licence renewal decision released in May doesn’t meet the objectives of the Broadcasting Act.

In a joint appeal, filed today by the CMPA, ACTRA and DGC, and a separate petition submitted this week by the WGC, the associations asked Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly to scrap the controversial decision.

The group licence renewals for Rogers Media, Bell Media and Corus Entertainment set programs of national interest (PNI) required spend at 5% of revenues – a reduction from Bell and Corus’ historic average spend of 8%. The decision also removed conditions of licence requiring the broadcasters to allocate a percentage of their revenues to independently produced non-PNI programs, and removed evening exhibition requirements for discretionary services.

The appeals argue, among other things, that the CRTC decision fails to ensure that programming provided by the Canadian broadcast system includes a significant contribution from the independent production sector and contributes to the creation and presentation of Cancon, as set out in the Act.

Regarding PNI, the CRTC argued in its decision that a standard 5% expenditure requirement would give the broadcasters “flexibility to adapt in a more competitive marketplace.”

The appeals argue, however, that the Commission didn’t actually prove that this was necessary for broadcasters to compete. Nor did the CRTC prove that setting a PNI expenditure based on historical expenditures (as several of the guilds had proposed) would put the broadcasters at a disadvantage. According to a Nordicity report commissioned by the CMPA, however, a 5% PNI spend could result in a $141 million decrease in broadcaster spending on Cancon over the five-year licence term. The report also found that the decision would result in the loss of 3,900 direct and indirect full-time equivalent jobs in 2017/18.

Moreover, the appeal argues that given that broadcasters are required to spend 5% of revenues on PNI, 75% of which must go to independently produced programs, 3.75% of revenues “does not amount to a significant contribution to the broadcasting system as required by Canada’s broadcasting policy.”

The CMPA, ACTRA and DGC appeal also argues that the decisions to remove conditions of licence requiring independent production expenditure on non-PNI programming and the removal of primetime exhibition requirements undercuts independent producers potential for success.

Most Canadians watch TV between 7 p.m and 11 p.m. and advertising dollars are concentrated on primetime programs, the appeal argues. “Canadian TV programs will only succeed in both the Canadian and international marketplace if they are given an opportunity to be discovered by large Canadian audiences, rather than being buried in Broadcasters’ daytime schedules,” it says.

Lastly, the appeal states that by not setting a definition of independent production there’s no way to ensure programs claimed as independent actually are that. The appeal specifically took aim at Corus’ producer of record program.

If the government agrees that the decision doesn’t meet the objectives of the broadcating policy, it can set aside the CRTC’s decision or refer it back to the CRTC for reconsideration and hearing.

Canadian Heritage told Playback Daily that it is currently reviewing the impacts of the CRTC’s decision.