CRTC deals with media concentration

It’s about time.

Canada’s federal broadcasting regulator is imposing tighter rules on media ownership, reported the CBC. “The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications   Commission said Tuesday thata single company or person can own only two radio stations, television stations or newspapers in a single market.   It was not immediately clear whether the rules mean current owners will have to sell off operations if they own more than that.”

Reaction to come. Meanwhile, here’s the CRTC Jan. 15 press release:

OTTAWA-GATINEAU — The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today introduced new policies to ensure that a diversity of voices is maintained in the Canadian broadcasting system.

“With these new policies, we have developed a clear approach to guide us in assessing future transactions in the broadcasting industry,” said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. “It is an approach that will preserve the plurality of editorial voices and the diversity of programming available to Canadians, both locally and nationally, while allowing for a strong and competitive industry.”

Further to its review, the Commission is satisfied that the broadcasting system currently provides Canadians with a range of news and information programming. For this reason, it reaffirmed its existing common ownership policies governing the number of conventional television and radio stations a person may control in the same market.

However, to maintain this plurality of editorial voices, the Commission is establishing a new policy restricting cross-media ownership. As a result, a person or entity will only be permitted to control two of the following types of media that serve the same market:  a local radio station, a local television station or a local newspaper.

In addition, the Commission has conditionally approved the Journalistic Independence Code proposed by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC). In particular, the Commission directed the CBSC to include a minimum number of journalists on the panels that study complaints and to formalize the process used to select panel members. The principles set out in the Code will ensure a diversity of professional editorial voices and will eventually apply to all broadcasters who own a newspaper in the same market.

The trend toward greater consolidation in the broadcasting industry has raised concerns that a large ownership group could achieve a dominant position through acquisitions, which could bring about a reduction in the diversity of local, regional and national content. To address these concerns, the Commission has decided to:

impose limits on the ownership of broadcasting licences to ensure that one party does not control more than 45 per cent of the total television audience share as a result of a transaction; and
not approve transactions between companies that distribute television services (such as cable or satellite companies) that would result in one person effectively controlling the delivery of programming in a market.
The new policies announced today apply only to private broadcasters. The Commission will consider the contribution public broadcasters make to the diversity of voices during upcoming proceedings focusing on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and provincial educational broadcasters. The Commission will also undertake a comprehensive review of its policies relating to community broadcasters in the near future.