How to make a broadcasting complaint

If you have seen or heard something on TV or radio that you object to, or you have another type of issue about your broadcasting service, you can make a complaint.

The CRTC is not a board of censors, and can't tell broadcasters what they can air. However, certain standards apply to the content of programs, and broadcasters are expected to comply with these standards.

Who to contact for broadcasting complaints

Different organizations handle different types of complaints. Check this list to file your complaint with the right organization.

First stop for any complaint: your broadcaster

For any complaint about a TV, radio program or ad, contact your broadcaster or service provider first. Many complaints are resolved at this stage.

Complaints involving a Canadian Broadcast Standards Council member

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) is the complaints resolution body for private radio and TV stations and specialty services. Check if the broadcaster is a member of the CBSC. For a complaint that involves a member of the CBSC:

  • contact the CBSC:
    • online: www.cbsc.ca
    • email: complaints@cbsc.ca
    • mail: P.O. Box 3265, Station D Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6H8
    • fax: 613-233-4826
    • telephone: 613-233-4607
    • toll-free telephone: 1-866-696-4718

Advertising complaints

For a complaint about an ad on radio or TV:

  • contact the Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) at either office:
  • ASC Toronto
  • ASC Montréal (Les normes canadiennes de la publicité)

Other complaints including complaints about accessibility

For any other complaints, including complaints about accessibility:

  • contact the CRTC:
    • online: Ask a question or make a complaint
    • mail: Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N2
    • fax: 819-994-0218
    • toll-free telephone: 1-877-249-CRTC (2782)
    • toll-free TTY: 1-877-909-CRTC (2782)
    • alternative formats: other formats that improve accessibility for people with disabilities

Accessibility issues: The CRTC handles complaints about accessibility. For example, if you ask your broadcasting service provider to submit your bill in Braille and it doesn't do so, contact the company again. If you're still not satisfied, contact the CRTC.

Filing a broadcasting complaint with the CRTC

Write your complaint

All broadcasting complaints must be made in writing. If you make a complaint by phone, you also need to send a written version.

Include this information in your complaint:

  • your name, and an email or postal address
  • a description of the problem and/or your concerns
  • the radio or TV station’s name or call sign, and location
  • the date, time and name of the program or ad that prompted you to write
  • the name and location of your service provider (i.e., cable company, satellite provider, or wireless distribution service), where applicable

Include your name

Include your name with your complaint. The CRTC doesn't follow up on anonymous complaints.

Broadcasters and service providers have the right to know who makes a complaint, and what the complaint is. They also have the right to respond. You can file a complaint with the CRTC, without fear of retaliation from any company.

File within 4 weeks of the broadcast

File your complaint within 4 weeks following the broadcast.

Why? Because broadcasters keep tapes of their broadcasts for 4 weeks. If they receive your complaint more than 4 weeks after the program or ad has aired, the tapes may no longer be available, and the CRTC may not be able to follow up.

Note about broadcast tapes: The CRTC can request tapes for its own use, but can't ask for tapes or transcripts for you. If you want tapes or transcripts of a program, some broadcasters will sell them, but they don't have to provide tapes or transcripts to the public.

How the CRTC handles complaints

Responding to you

CRTC Client Services receives and reviews your complaint, and responds to you directly or forwards your complaint.

Depending on the volume of complaints and enquiries, you should receive a response from the CRTC within 10 working days after the complaint is received, even if it's just to let you know that your complaint has been forwarded.

Forwarding your complaint

Your complaint may be forwarded to one of the following:

  • CBSC. If your complaint involves a member of the CBSC, the CRTC forwards it to the CBSC right away, and lets you know it has been forwarded.
  • The company involved, to resolve the issue with you. Sometimes no follow up by the CRTC is necessary.
  • The company involved, asking it to respond to you (with a copy to the CRTC) within 20 calendar days. CRTC staff review your concerns and the response to decide whether any regulatory action is needed. If not, the CRTC may not contact you again.

Following up

If the company doesn't respond within 20 calendar days, the CRTC sends a written reminder. If there's still no answer, the CRTC raises all unanswered complaints with the company when it applies to renew its licence.

If your complaint alleges that the company violated the Broadcasting Act or CRTC policies or regulations, CRTC staff will decide if any further process or regulatory action is required.

Privacy

If your complaint involves a member of the CBSC, the CRTC forwards it right away.

The CRTC notifies you that it is forwarding your complaint, with your name and address, to the company involved. If you have concerns about your privacy, contact the CRTC within 20 calendar days of receiving the notification.

If you contact the CRTC to remove your name and address from the file, the complaint will be withdrawn. If you don't contact the CRTC, the complaint will be pursued.

Under Canada's Privacy Act, you can ask that your correspondence not be made publicly accessible. But if you do, the CRTC may not be able to follow up on your complaint.

Once the file is closed, your name, your complaint, and the response to your complaint are kept in a file that can be read by the public. This information is used to assess the performance of the broadcaster at the time of licence renewal.

Follow up if you are dissatisfied

If you’re not satisfied with the response to a complaint handled by the CRTC or by the CBSC, you can ask, in writing, that the CRTC review the complete file and issue a decision.

Also, a broadcaster's performance is reviewed when it applies to renew its licence, and you can submit comments or intervene at that time. Find out how to participate in a CRTC public process.