ABU General Assembly 2011
The LaLit, New Delhi
2:00 pm, November 8, 2011
Remarks by Ian Morrison
Spokesperson, FRIENDS of Canadian Broadcasting
ABU for the chance to contribute to this timely professional discussion!
word of context, so you can evaluate my comments on "gearing up for new radio
and television services".
Canadian Broadcasting is an independent watchdog for Canadian programming on
radio, television and new media. We keep an eye on the audio-visual system from
a listeners' and viewers' point of view, including public policy, technological
and societal developments. We are located somewhat to the east of Samoa.
FRIENDS is supported financially by 150,000 Canadians, and we are not
affiliated with any broadcaster or political party.
For almost a
century, ever since the dawn of the radio age, my country has been inundated by
the full force of American audio-visual culture. As you may know, exporting
entertainment is now more important to the United States' balance of payments
than its aerospace industry. Many of you will be familiar with the export of
American cultural products - but we Canadians were the very first to experience
concentration of our population close to the American border, and also, for
almost 80% of us, a shared language, have exposed us to everything that Hollywood
has to offer - ever since there has been a Hollywood.
As a result,
English-speaking Canadians have long struggled to ensure shelf-space for
Canadian choices on radio, television and now - new media. Two-thirds of what
we watch comes from outside our country, principally entertainment programs
from our southern neighbour.
analyze country-of-origin data as a regular part of our content research, we
also know that 98% of what Americans watch over-the-air is American in origin. 
This means that a typical American might watch television for two weeks before
seeing a single non-American program - whereas a typical Canadian will see two
American programs each evening, along with programming from the rest of the
supporters are preoccupied with values. They see non-fiction programming as a
bulwark for democratic participation, and fiction programming as fundamental to
a sense of belonging and identity. Because Canada is a young and small country
in the shadow of a much larger country to our south, and also because so many
of our fellow citizens hail from cultures all around the world, Canadians value
multiculturalism, and look to our audio-visual system to help newcomers experience
and integrate in our society.
noticing increasing gaps between haves and have-nots in Canada. This is a major
preoccupation, as is a decline in our electoral participation.
evaluates our media system, we are interested in its capacity to respond to
societal problems. We do not believe that media should be "driven by the rapid
advances in technology". Nor do we believe that technology is "shaping the
content strategies and services that broadcasters offer to the audiences". 
Technology is merely a means to an end - it is plumbing, not water - and we
consider technological determinism to be dangerous.
love digital television, not just because it saves money, but also because it
builds relationships, hence brand loyalty, by creating a return path. Yet the
digital divide has disenfranchised a minority of Canadians, many of them
elderly and impoverished, by ending their effective access to free-to-air
programming, and thereby cutting them off from information that enables their
social participation. Of course they have a choice, but that choice is between
reducing further their standard of living or cutting themselves off from their
electronic community. (Theoretically, they could also move to India, where, as
we learned today, public policy would ensure that they received the digital
content without cost.)
country, listening and viewing times increase with age. Hence older people are
the heaviest users, yet their value to advertisers is far lower than younger
people, in part because youth are harder to reach. This can skew broadcasters'
decision-making, with societal priorities diverging from economic incentives.
FRIENDS has sponsored
public opinion research to gain insight into Canadians' viewing and listening
priorities. If you are interested, they are all available at "friends.ca". Here
are a few highlights:
When asked to express a preference between getting
more channels, improving the quality of programs or having popular programs
repeated more often, 57% of Canadians chose improving quality, 19% more
channels and 17% program repetition.
88% of Canadians agree that as Canada's economic
ties with the United States increase, it is becoming more important to
strengthen Canadian culture and identity.
81% of Canadians agree that our national public
broadcaster (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is one of the things that
helps distinguish Canada from the United States.
these data, not because the specific results would interest you, but rather
because such values indicators are examples of a compass to help assess the
cost-benefit of various technological options, and to underline the public's
priority for content over pipes.
technologies are of universal benefit, such as time-shifting and podcasting,
which enable a shared viewing and listening experience on a non-linear basis. Scottish
ITV, for example, reports that Scots watch 33 hours of television weekly, 9% of
technologies can have unanticipated and possibly dangerous effects, such as
influencing brain plasticity or changing neurological processes: for example,
shortening attention spans.
A recent New
York Times article by Martin Lindstrom 
tracked iPhone users through magnetic resonance imaging and identified that "the
subjects' brains responded to the sound of their phones as they would respond
to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend or a family member". While
this is no doubt of benefit to Apple Computer, and there is no doubt that an
iPhone is a "new and enhanced technology", it raises significant ethical
questions, especially when iPhones are placed in the hands of children and
In the same
article, Lindstrom reported a telling anecdote: "This past summer, I gathered a group of 20 babies between
the ages of 14 and 20 months. I handed each one a BlackBerry. No sooner had the
babies grasped the phones than they swiped their little fingers across the
screens as if they were iPhones, seemingly expecting the screens to come to
life. It appears that a whole new generation is being primed to navigate the
world of electronics in a ritualized, Apple-approved way."
fast-growing phenomenon of hybrid television, where the Internet is linked to
TV sets, presents many benefits to viewers, but at the same time, it
contributes to much greater fragmentation of viewing as it multiplies choices,
making it more difficult for broadcasters to accumulate and measure sufficient
audience to amortize the cost of high production-value programming - which
research shows is what viewers want.
with a few examples of values that provide a lens to evaluate technological
geographically diverse country such as mine, the provision of local programming
is inherently more expensive on a cost-per-viewer or listener basis than
country-wide programming, or imported programming. One way to evaluate a new
technology is to assess its capacity to reduce the cost of local programming.
issue is the tension between two competing values, on the one hand, delivering
eyeballs to advertisers and on the other, delivering programming to citizens. (ABU's
Secretary General referred to this tension in his report to yesterday's AGM.) One
can ask where a specific technology fits on this continuum. The choice will
seldom be value-free.
because the share of a country's resources available for broadcasting is
necessarily limited - think of it as a broadcasting pie - when a decision is
made to adopt an expensive new technology, what often happens is a concurrent,
and perhaps ill-considered decision to reduce investment in another technology.
In my country, radio has been impoverished in this manner, thereby reducing the
supply of story-telling without pictures - a light, portable medium, which stimulates
a different part of the brain.
is: let's keep our eyes and ears on the people who use radio, television and
new media. Their values matter, and go far beyond entertainment and diversion.
Their needs include the full panoply of human experience: learning, imagining,
adapting, improvising, creating, loving and feeling. When choosing among new
technologies, we should answer the question of how each will address our
puts new technologies such as 3DTV and Wrap-around Sound into a new
- 30 -
information: Ian Morrison firstname.lastname@example.org
 These data are based on analysis of the content of
stations broadcasting adjacent to the Canadian border.
 Both quotations are to be found in the ABU's
description of this session.
 Martin, Lindstrom, New
York Times, September 30, 2011: "You
Love your iPhone. Literally."