Opening remarks by Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

To the public hearing in Gatineau

Gatineau, Quebec
November 19, 2012

Check against delivery

 

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

At this hearing, we will review the application by CBC/Radio-Canada to renew the licences for its radio and television services.

As the national public broadcaster, the Corporation has a unique role within the public element, as set out in the Broadcasting Act. It should “be predominantly and distinctively Canadian” and should “reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions.” It should also “actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression” and reflect “the different needs and circumstances of each official language community, including the particular needs and circumstances of English and French linguistic minorities,” while contributing to a “shared national consciousness and identity.”

Changes in the broadcasting system

The last CBC/Radio-Canada renewal was in 2000. The broadcasting system has changed considerably since then in terms of technology, the players involved and the communications landscape in general, both here in Canada and abroad. Consumers have more and more choices of Canadian and foreign specialty services. The widespread availability of digital media has also changed Canadians’ expectations with respect to broadcasting services. The Corporation has adapted by offering numerous services on those new distribution platforms. Although the Commission exempted digital media from the requirement to hold a licence, we wish to discuss the services the Corporation is providing to Canadians.

We will, moreover, have much to review with the Corporation over the two weeks of the hearing in order to make sure that Canadians fully enjoy the services provided by the public broadcaster.

However, it is important to clarify that this proceeding is a regulatory proceeding. Our role is not to review the Corporation’s legislative mandate, but to examine how it contributes to the achievement of the goals of the Broadcasting Act in light of the parliamentary appropriation it receives and other available funds.

Like all licence renewal processes, this renewal is a timely opportunity for the Commission to review the Corporation’s conduct in consideration of its regulatory obligations. We will also determine, in light of the public record, the duration and terms of the new licences.

Hearing agenda

First, the hearing panel will examine the issues that concern the Corporation as a whole, including its role as a national public broadcaster; the achievement of the objectives of the Act; and the regulatory approach. Our review will focus on three major components: accountability, availability and reflection.

  • Under the accountability component, we will discuss in particular the Corporation’s responsibility toward Canadians, including news services; the role of the Ombudsmen; the processing of public complaints and comments; and the reports submitted by the Corporation.
  • Under the second component, availability, we will address such matters as the availability of radio and television services across the country, accessibility for persons with disabilities, and the impact of the transition to digital.
  • Last, under the third component, reflection, we will look at the programming of its French-language radio and conventional and specialty services, and then review its English-language services. We will discuss the quality of the French- and English-language services, the representation of official-language minority communities, and regional reflection.

Public participation

As with all public proceedings, the opinion of Canadians is very important in helping us fulfill our legislative responsibilities. We therefore wish to thank all citizens who have agreed to participate in this hearing either by submitting comments or by appearing before us. We received over 8,000 comments in connection with this proceeding. This shows how important the Corporation’s services are to Canadians.

Process

The hearing panel consists of:

  • Elizabeth Duncan, Regional Commissioner for the Atlantic and Nunavut;
  • Louise Poirier, National Commissioner;
  • Stephen Simpson, Regional Commissioner for British Columbia and the Yukon;
  • Tom Pentefountas, Vice-Chairman of Broadcasting; and
  • myself, Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. I will be presiding over this hearing.

The Commission team assisting us includes:

  • Aspa Kotsopoulos and Guillaume Castonguay, Hearing Coordinators and Senior Policy Analysts;
  • Véronique Lehoux and Jean-Sébastien Gagnon, Legal Counsel; and
  • Jade Roy, Hearing Secretary and Supervisor of Public Hearings.

I would now invite the Hearing Secretary, Jade Roy, to explain the procedures we will be following. Madam Secretary…

 

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