CRTC Gets It Right with New Media


iconsOTTAWA – The Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) is continuing to examine the impact of the Internet on Canadians. In particular, the CRTC is looking at how online and mobile broadcasting is impacting traditional mediums, including television. While this process has continued over the past several years, the Commission remains unable to find conclusive results in its studies.

On Wednesday, the CRTC announced that its “fact-finding exercise on the nature and implications of online and mobile broadcasting activity produced inconclusive results. The CRTC will continue to monitor the evolving communications environment, and this growing activity will be the main focus of its annual consultation with the broadcasting industry in November 2011”.

On May 25, 2011, the CRTC launched a fact-finding exercise on online and mobile programming services and their impact on the Canadian communications system.

While not containing any clear evidence, the responses filed indicate that:

  • The traditional broadcasting system continues to support Canadian programming even as services emerge to deliver content to Canadians in new ways;
  • While consumption of online and mobile programming is growing, current measurement tools are unable to accurately reflect trends in consumer behaviour;
  • There is no clear evidence that Canadians are reducing or cancelling their television subscriptions. Online and mobile programming appears to be complementary to the content offered by the traditional broadcasting system;
  • Canadian creators are taking advantage of the digital environment to produce innovative content and to reach Canadian and global audiences. Canadian broadcasters and distributors are also launching their own online and mobile programming services;
  • Some online programming services have established viable business models and are competing in the marketplace for programming rights and viewers;
  • Internet and wireless networks may encounter capacity constraints and be challenged to support increasing consumption of media content.

As part of its ongoing efforts to track trends in technology and consumer behaviour, the CRTC will hold another fact-finding exercise in May 2012.

Editorial Analysis:

It is likely that as networks improve, and new mobile devices become available, it is also likely that increasing numbers of people will access more of their information online, and through their mobile wireless devices.

Over the last two weeks of September, while Thunder Bay’s Tbaytel was engaged in network upgrades, experienced a drop of about 15 to 10 per cent in daily visits from Tbaytel customers. That suggests to NNL that growing numbers of local readers are accessing the site with their wireless devices.

Since October 1st when Tbaytel reported that their upgrades were completed, traffic has increased by over 30 per cent suggesting that customers are now fully able to access the Internet and additional new readers are now finding their way to the site as well.

One area likely impacted will be radio. The CRTC commented, “With respect to audio programming, RNC Media Inc. (RNC Media) cited Statistics Canada data that in 2009 32% of Canadians listened to web radio. It also stated that based on the results of an IPSOS Survey, as presented by substance strategies, the number of hours spent listening to music through conventional radio (AM/FM) in Quebec is surpassed by those spent listening via digital devices (computer, MP3 player, etc.) by almost 50%”.

Young people in many cases will fuel change. Older readers likely remember transistor radios, powered by 9 volt batteries which brought news and music outside in the 1960s. Then through the 1970s the ‘Ghetto blaster’ took the marketplace, including cassette players. Today, the Ipod, Ipad and Iphone and other wireless devices are taking over. Teenagers are using new media and to be blunt to them it isn’t new at all, it is the only media they have ever known.

A teenager today has literally grown up with the Internet, and in many cases are the early adopters of each step of new technology or new innovation online.

The CRTC is taking the right steps with their actions toward new media.

In the conclusions of the CRTC, “Stakeholders calling for the imposition of regulatory obligations on OTT providers demonstrated that consumer adoption of OTT services is real and growing. However, they did not submit evidence of harm to the traditional broadcast system. This is consistent with the Commission’s ongoing research into new media trends.

“The Commission considers that extending regulatory obligations normally achieved through licensing to exempt undertakings could lead to unintended consequences in a global, digital environment. For example, Google, the NFB and Shaw expressed concerns that regulation could be a disincentive to innovation. Shaw added that regulation could impair the ability of Canadian media companies to compete globally. The CIPPIC noted that regulations enforcing the exclusivity of access were not applicable to the Internet as the Internet was designed to ensure access for all users to all types of content regardless of their location in the world.

“In light of the above, the Commission will not at this time consider a general review of the New Media Exemption Order, nor a review of potential policy changes to increase the regulated players’ flexibility to respond to the activities of OTT providers. Nevertheless, the Commission considers that the record of the fact-finding exercise has demonstrated that in a short time the activities of OTT providers have reshaped the broadcasting landscape by introducing viable alternatives, foreign and domestic, to traditional services. The financial impact of those services may be expected to grow as OTT services become a more important feature of the Canadian broadcasting environment”.

Perhaps it is in the concerns raised by Google, the National Film Board and Shaw that all Canadians should pay the most attention. In an ever increasingly global online world, if Canada puts roadblocks to innovation in place, the result would not be positive.

Innovation has fueled progress. Canada and in particular Thunder Bay should be innovation centres embracing that which is new. To do anything else would be to stymie progress.

No one can afford to be left behind the rest of the world.

James Murray

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