CRTC sets the stage for broadcasters

Well, the CRTC has announced its policy framework for the upcoming license renewal hearings for the big broadcasting ownership groups (CanWest Global, CTV and Rogers). The hearings are slated to take place in the spring of 2011.  The proposed framework will require Canadian broadcast ownership groups to allocate 30% of their gross revenues to Canadian programming expenditures and within that, 5% must go to “Programs of National Interest” or PNI. This includes Canadian drama, documentaries and award shows that promote Canadian culture.

At first blush, the framework seems to attempt to find a balance between the conflicting agendas of the parties involved, including the independent production community here.  But there are differing opinions on this. The dollar percentage amounts for PNI are considered too low by many.

On a different note, the CRTC has decided to allow broadcasters to negotiate with cable companies to garner a fee-for-carriage of their signal, but has at the same time asked the federal court to determine if they actually have the mandate to do this as a quasi-judicial public agency.

What is perhaps the most notable omission in this policy framework is anything to do with local television programing. The conventional broadcasters have complained that they are going broke and can’t afford local programming. This topic is perhaps complicated by another policy review being undertaken by the CRTC regarding community television. For community television, “local” is the mantra and so perhaps the CRTC will look for ways to address this issue in the context of that review in the spring of 2010.

In any event, looks to be an interesting year ahead.

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