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An alliterated update: CRTC, C-470 and CETA

CCA Bulletin 10/11

March 21, 2011


 


Just the Facts


CRTC –

On March 7, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved BCE’s acquisition of CTVglobemedia (CTVgm) and laid out the benefits package and conditions linked to its approval. In its submission to the consultation on the sale of CTVgm to BCE, the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) had 1) asked for a robust public benefits package for Canadians commensurate with the magnitude of the transaction; 2) raised concerns about the vertical integration of Canadian broadcasting and multi-platform distribution companies, which puts the latter in the driver’s seat. More below…


Bill C-470

(charitable status) is heading for second reading in the Senate today. It may reach Royal Assent before the writ drops… if an election is called at all! More below…


CETA

negotiations are progressing but at a slower pace. The next round is set to take place in Ottawa on April 11. More below…

 


Tell me more


CRTC –

According to CRTC policy for ownership transactions in the broadcasting sector, the buyer is required to make specific commitments to fund initiatives that will improve the broadcasting system and be of benefit to Canadians. Initially, Bell argued that it was already assessed the tangible-benefits fee when it first bought CTV in 2000, and should not have to pay any more. This did not sit well with a number of interveners – or even with the CRTC – and Bell had to move from its initial position.

Further to a review of the proposed benefits package, the CRTC requires BCE to spend $245 million over the next seven years to:

  • allow for the carriage of at least 43 additional television services, including local and regional conventional stations and independent community stations ($60 million);
  • commission independently produced programs of national interest (drama and comedy series, documentaries and shows that promote Canadian culture) ($100 million);
  • enhance local news programming in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver  ($28.8 million);
  • sustain the A-Channel stations for at least three years, starting on September 1, 2011 ($30 million);
  • improve the accessibility of the Canadian broadcasting system through an independent fund of $5.7 million;
  • support the development of Canadian musical and spoken-word talent ($17.5 million);and
  • create an independent fund to help pay the costs of public-interest groups that participate in the CRTC’s broadcasting proceedings($3 million)

All in all, $140 million will go towards the production of new radio and television programming over the next seven years. Many have criticized the Commission for buying into Bell’s suggestions and allowing it to dedicate a good part of the benefits package to expenses that should actually be included in the cost of doing business (e.g. the $60 million to allow for the carriage of more television stations on ExpressVu).

Regarding

vertical integration

, the CRTC has imposed a moratorium on BCE until the close of its proceeding on vertical integration. BCE will not be able to enter into new exclusive agreements that would prevent it from making the rights to its television programming available to competitors for broadcast on mobile devices and over the Internet. The CRTC also expressed its firm expectation that other integrated communications companies will abide by this moratorium as well.



C-470-

On March 8, the House of Commons passed the third reading of

Bill C-470

, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (revocation of registration), introduced by the Hon. Albina Guarnieri (Mississauga East – Cooksville)

.

The bill is scheduled for second reading in the Senate today and it may reach Royal Assent before the writ drops for the much speculated federal election.

As noted in Bulletin 30/10, this private member’s bill initially allowed the Minister of National Revenue to deregister any charitable organization, public foundation or private foundation granting any employee $250,000 or more in total compensation. This would have put an unprecedented compensation cap on charitable organizations and foundations which caused reactions across the country. In its original form, C-470 would also have allowed the minister to publish the names and compensation details of a charitable organization’s or a foundation’s five highest earning employees, regardless of their compensation level or of the proportion of revenue of the organization derived from charitable donations. The CCA along with member organizations and Imagine Canada submitted briefs outlining the damaging effects the bill, in its original form, would have had on civil society in Canada.

C-470 was changed following study at the committee level and the tabling of amendments from Ms. Guarneri herself. The amended bill that passed the third reading in the House removed the proposed compensation cap for employees of not-for-profit organizations, and put a floor of $100,000 on the public disclosure of individual compensation.


CETA

– The Canada-EU trade negotiations (CETA) continue to progress at a slower pace and are a bit behind the ambitious schedule originally set by the parties involved. The sixth round of negotiations took place in Brussels in January, with 46 representatives from the Provinces attending alongside federal negotiators. The parties are hopeful to exchange their final offers by the end of March. Eight of the 22 chapters are completed (including electronic commerce and telecommunications).  According to European sources, there remain concerns about Canadian copyright law and the progress of Bill C-32, an issue followed closely by both the EU and its member countries and the US government. Also, we have been told that it will be quite difficult for Canada to defend its policies concerning the limitation of ownership in telecommunications. The seventh round of negotiations starts in Ottawa on April 11.

A recently published report titled: Report from the Commission to the European Council, Trade and Investment Barriers Report 2011 – Engaging our strategic economic partners on improved market access: Priorities for action on breaking down barriers to trade describes barriers that exist with strategic trade partners including China, India, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Russia and the United States. Interestingly enough, there is no mention of Canada in the report with regards to trade negotiations or any strategic partnerships!

The CCA continues to monitor the negotiations and attend briefings by trade negotiators at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. We will continue to push for transparency on discussions surrounding cultural issues.