Feds send CRTC GLR decisions back for reconsideration

Melanie Joly Banff 2016
Industry unions and guilds have commended Minister Joly's action and are urging the Commission to overturn its decisions.

Canadian Heritage has sent the CRTC’s recent group licence renewal decisions for English and French-language broadcasters back to the CRTC for reconsideration and hearings.

The Governor in Council made the decision late Aug. 14 on the advice of Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly and with the support of Cabinet, according to a release announcing the decision.

“Canadian broadcasters and creators are at the centre of the broadcasting system, and at a time when our competitive advantage rests on creativity, they must be positioned to succeed,” Minister Joly said in the release. “We are asking the CRTC to reconsider these decisions in order to ensure that we achieve the right balance of investment in content and in the ability to compete.”

Members of the Canadian screen-based industry launched a campaign against the group licence renewal decisions soon after the decisions were released in May. The DGC, ACTRA and CMPA filed a joint petition in June arguing, among other things, that the decision to set programs of national interest spend at 5% of revenues could result in a $141 million decrease in broadcaster spending on independently produced Cancon over the five-year licence term.

“In referring back these decisions, the Government wishes to affirm its support for great Canadian dramas, comedies, animation, films, documentaries — and other programs of national interest — that reflect our country and its diversity. It also recognizes the importance of original French-language content and support for the creators of music programming, short films and short-form documentaries,” said Minister Joly.

Canada’s production community has largely come out in favour of the government’s decision. In a joint press release, ACTRA, the CMPA and DGC commended Joly for taking action and urged the CRTC to overturn its decision.

“After a long wait, we have Melanie Joly’s first major decision on cultural policy and it’s a winner. We hope this is a sign of a permanent break with the previous government’s policies on culture,” DGC president Tim Southam said in a release.

The unions and guilds noted, however, that Minister Joly did not address other challenges to the GLR decisions, including the CRTC’s decision to remove independent production obligations on non-PNI programming and evening exhibition requirements for discretionary services.

“We urge the Minister to take concrete measures to prevent large broadcasters from using their market power to kill competition, reduce programming diversity, and appropriate Canadians’ hard-earned dollars for themselves,” said Scott Garvie, chair of the CMPA and SVP business and legal affairs at Shaftesbury.

Minister Joly is expected to deliver her long-awaited cultural policy framework in the next month, and the unions and guilds expressed their expectation that she will address these other issues at that time.

A representative for the CRTC told Playback Daily that the commission will reconsider its decision and announce next steps at a later date.

Rogers Media, Bell Media and Corus Entertainment did not respond to requests for comment as of press time. The three private broadcasters did previously express their desire to maintain the CRTC GLR decisions, however. The companies took out a full-page ad in Ottawa’s Hill Times two weeks ago (in response to an ad taken out by 19 screen industry organizations), arguing that sending the decisions back for reconsideration would “create more uncertainty for our businesses at a time when we need to be laser focused on our audiences.”