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Letter to the Minister of Canadian Heritage regarding the CRTC

Apr 21, 2016

Hon Mélanie Joly, PC, MP
Minister of Canadian Heritage
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6 

Dear Minister:

I am writing on behalf of FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting to ask that you rescind the ‘mandate’ letter written to the Chair of the CRTC by your predecessor, James Moore on June 18, 2012 (copy attached).

Several of former Minister Moore’s comments in that letter have no legal basis under the Broadcasting, Telecommunications or CRTC Acts, but appear to have been received as a governmental direction to move the CRTC in the direction of ‘consumer’ interests, rather than the interests of Canadians as creators and citizens, as outlined in the statutes. As you know, this direction was reinforced in the October 16, 2013 Throne Speech: “Our Government believes Canadian families should be able to choose the combination of television channels they want. It will require channels to be unbundled, while protecting Canadian jobs.”

There is an unmistakable and direct line between Moore’s letter and crucial elements of the Commission’s Let’s Talk TV decisions announced last year, now rolling out in television policy – decisions that are starting to come home to roost:

  • While there is no evidence that ‘consumers’ are better served through policies such as ‘skinny basic’, distributors are now taking advantage of their enhanced leverage over programmers, who have lost access rights and must must now survive on a ‘pick-and-pay’ basis.
  • Canal Argent, Canada’s only French-language business channel, has announced that it is closing its doors on April 30th – an early casualty of this faux ‘consumer’ orientation. Launched in 2005, the channel has gone from 950,000 subscribers in 2011 to 440,000 in 2015 due to less favourable bundling, a steady decline presaging the Let’s Talk TV decisions, and accelerated by their anticipated implementation. It is noteworthy that seasoned and well-esteemed journalists such as Michel Morin and Andrew McIntosh are casualties of this decision.
  • Avis de Recherche, a unique Québec-based public safety public-interest specialty service launched in 2004 now faces imminent closure. Without carriage protections that were eliminated by the Commission effective September 2015, this service is about to fade to black. This despite strong support from victims and victims-rights groups, and endorsements from police forces across Canada, including the RCMP’s Montreal Division, which indicated that resolution of at least 34% of its “unlawfully at large” cases was directly attributable to ADR.

FRIENDS regards these services as harbingers for other Canadian channels that will shortly shutter because of the CRTC’s newly-adopted laissez faire approach, including vulnerable independent local TV stations in all parts of Canada, as well as specialty services.

Rescinding the 2012 Moore mandate letter – without replacement – will send a powerful message that your government expects the CRTC to conduct itself in the manner described in the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts, through a broad holistic lens, consistent with historical precedent: a lens that recognizes Canadians as citizens, creators and consumers – not just the latter.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Morrison

Ian Morrison
Spokesperson
FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting