Offering cultural diversity on TV and radio
What do we mean by cultural diversity?
Upholding cultural diversity is one of the key goals of Canada's Broadcasting Act. It says that the Canadian broadcasting system should, through both programming and employment opportunities, serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations of:
- Canadian men, women and children, including equal rights
- the linguistic duality and multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society
- the special place of Aboriginal peoples within society
So, in this context, cultural diversity refers to how different groups – like ethno-cultural minorities, Aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities – are represented in broadcasting.
CRTC approaches to cultural diversity
The CRTC is using two main approaches to ensure that Canada’s diverse nature is reflected in our broadcasting system. These are:
- programming by and for specific groups
- reflecting diversity in all broadcast services
Programming by and for specific groups
The activities and policies supporting this approach are:
- Native Broadcasting Policy
- Ethnic Broadcasting Policy
- increased licensing of ethnic and third-language stations
- expanded availability of non-Canadian, third-language services
Native Broadcasting Policy
The Native Broadcasting Policy (Public Notice 1990-89) outlines the criteria for a radio or TV service to broadcast as a Native station. It encourages Aboriginal broadcasting by emphasizing the importance of Aboriginal ownership and the preservation of Aboriginal languages and culture.
The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) is the first national indigenous TV network in the world. It’s run by Aboriginal people and reflects the communities and the diversity within Canada’s many Aboriginal cultures, in many languages. APTN must be carried by all TV service providers, making it a service for all Canadians.
There are also many Aboriginal radio stations. For lists of native programming services, see Radio and TV Station Lists.
Ethnic Broadcasting Policy
The Ethnic Broadcasting Policy (Public Notice 1999-117) outlines the criteria for an over-the-air radio or TV service to broadcast as an ethnic station. For example, ethnic television and radio stations must devote a minimum amount of time to ethnic and third-language programming. Local ethnic broadcasters must also reflect local issues and concerns.
Increased licensing of ethnic and third-language stations
Canada’s ethnic broadcasting choices are expanding. Canadian services now include:
- A multilingual, multi-ethnic channel on the digital basic service
- 4 ethnic television stations and 28 radio stations; these stations devote a large part of their schedules to third-language programming
- 5 general-interest, third-language discretionary services
- over 190 ethnic pay and specialty services have been approved for digital distribution
- certain third-language services now don’t need to be licensed, so it’s easier for them to get started
Expanded availability of non-Canadian third-language services
In 2004, the CRTC began to make it easier for more third-language, non-Canadian television services to be available in Canada.
Reflecting diversity in all broadcast services
Presenting people from diverse cultures is not just the responsibility of ethnic broadcasters. Canadians from all backgrounds, and persons with disabilities, should also be able to recognize themselves in “mainstream” TV and radio programming.
The activities and policies supporting this approach are:
- reflection of diversity in mainstream programming
- better access to TV for persons with disabilities
Reflection of diversity in mainstream programming
The Television Policy (Public Notice CRTC 1999-97) states that the broadcasting system should be a mirror in which all Canadians can see themselves portrayed accurately, fairly and without stereotypes. The broadcasting system should also give opportunities to producers, writers, technicians and artists from different cultural and social backgrounds.
The CRTC has asked broadcasters to:
- develop corporate plans to improve how visible minorities and persons with disabilities are portrayed and represented in broadcasting
- report annually on their progress on these diversity issues; you can read the Annual Reports filed by Licensees
The CRTC has also been working with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) in supporting cultural diversity objectives. The CRTC has asked the CAB to:
- research how visible minorities and persons with disabilities are portrayed in broadcasting; you can read the results of the CAB’s research in Diversity in Broadcasting
- report annually on actions being taken, industry-wide, to improve how people from diverse cultures and persons with disabilities are portrayed in broadcasting; you can read the CAB Annual Report
The CAB developed the Equitable Portrayal Code, a code to improve the way visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities are represented and portrayed. Broadcasters must adhere to the code, as part of their licence agreement.
In 2007, the CRTC’s policy on cultural diversity widened to include radio broadcasters. Radio broadcasters must now use the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Best Practices for Diversity in Private Radio (Public Notice 2007-122).
In 2016, the CRTC published a new policy on local television and community programing. The policy reiterates the importance of the continued local reflection. The policy framework also includes new measures to ensure that community channels adequately reflect the population and provides all Canadians with access to the broadcasting system as a whole. (Policy framework for local and community television CRTC 2016-224)
Other policies that touch on cultural diversity include:
- Campus Radio Policy (Public Notice CRTC 2000-12-1)
- Community Radio Policy (Public Notice CRTC 2000-13-1)
- Employment Equity Policy
Better access to TV for persons with disabilities
Persons with disabilities must be able to access programming. For more information, see Acessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting services.
Broadcasting by and for Aboriginal peoples
Native Broadcasting Policy (Public Notice CRTC 1990-89)
Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) (Decision CRTC 1999-42)
Order Respecting the Distribution of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) (Public Notice CRTC 1999-70)
Ethnic and third-language services
Ethnic Broadcasting Policy (Public Notice CRTC 1999-117)
Commission’s response to the report of the Task Force for Cultural Diversity on Television (Public Notice CRTC 2005-24)
Commission’s response to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ final report on the presence, portrayal and participation of persons with disabilities in television programming (Public Notice CRTC 2006-77)
Representation of cultural diversity on television - Creation of an industry/community task force (Public Notice CRTC 2001-88)
Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Best Practices for Diversity in Private Radio; Reporting requirements on cultural diversity for commercial radio operators (Public Notice CRTC 2007-122)
Equitable Portrayal Code (Public Notice CRTC 2008-23)
The broadcasting industry
Building on Success - A Policy Framework for Canadian Television (Public Notice CRTC 1999-97)
Amendments to the CRTC's Employment Equity Policy (Public Notice CRTC 1997-34)
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