Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting us to be here before you.
As you say, there are two points, Internet content and administrative monetary penalties. I will begin by addressing the topic of Internet content.
I am going to talk now about the regulatory background of the new media.
Unlike many other jurisdictions in the world, future technological developments were taken into consideration when drafting our Broadcasting Act. It does not refer to any specific technologies. As such, all types of broadcasting fall within the Commission’s mandate.
Ten years ago, we examined new media services that deliver broadcasting content over the Internet. After holding a public hearing, we concluded that these services were not having a discernible impact on conventional radio and television audiences and that regulation was not necessary to achieve the objectives of the Broadcasting Act.
Consequently, in 1999 we issued an exemption order for new media services, and in April 2006 we determined that broadcasting services received through cellphones, personal digital assistants and other mobile devices should also be exempted for similar reasons.
Naturally, the world has changed tremendously in the past decade. In particular, the broadcasting and telecommunication industries have converged and there have been significant advances in technologies.
In December 2006 we submitted a report to the government on the future technological environment facing the Canadian broadcasting industry. Our report found that new media services had yet to have an impact on conventional radio and television audiences. However, the report also advised that public policy action would have to be taken in the next three to seven years.
Given the rapid pace of change, we felt it was high time the commission take another look at the impact of new media services on traditional broadcasting systems. When I joined the commission in early 2007, I immediately launched a new media project initiative, the purpose of which was to investigate the social, economic, cultural, and technological issues associated with broadcasting in new media.
In two days we will be issuing a document called Perspectives on Canadian Broadcasting in New Media, which is a compilation of the research we have commissioned and views that we have obtained over the past year.
In parenthesis, I didn't know I was going to appear before you today. The document was always timed for Thursday, so it isn't ready. Otherwise I would have brought it with me today.
You will read in the document that recent studies show that Canadians are spending more and more time accessing all types of broadcasting content over the Internet and through mobile devices. The perspectives highlighted in the document also tell us that there are very different opinions on how to promote and support Canadian content in this environment.
Broadcasting in new media is becoming an increasingly important element of the Canadian broadcasting system. It is having an impact on traditional broadcasters. But is it a positive impact or a negative impact? Do the exemptions orders continue to be appropriate?
We have decided to ask the public to help us in answering these questions and in defining the issues related to broadcasting in new media. At the same time as we release Perspectives on Canadian Broadcasting in New Media, we will be launching a public consultation on the same day. We're seeking guidance from the public to verify that we have correctly identified the issues and are on the right track, and we want the public to help us structure a framework for public hearings that we plan to hold in early 2009.
I would like to be clear on one point. Our interest primarily lies in the distribution of professionally produced broadcasting content. That is, the same kind of high-quality Canadian content you would normally watch on television or hear on the radio. Our ultimate aim is to ensure that broadcasting in new media contributes to the achievement of the objectives of the Broadcasting Act.
Once Canadians have had a chance to weigh in with their views, we will issue a notice of the public hearing, probably towards the end of the summer, and we will outline the details of the hearing that we will hold on new media next year.
I would gladly return after our documents have been made public this Thursday to answer any further questions you may have as a result of the issue of those documents.
Now let me turn to the subject of AMPs. I was pleased to learn that your committee recently passed a motion to study our request for the power to impose AMPs or administrative monetary penalties. When I appeared before you in March, when you were studying Bill C-327, I raised the subject. I mentioned that the Telecommunications Act currently provides the commission with such powers, which it can use to enforce its policies in limited areas. In the case of the “do not call” list, we have the power to impose penalties on individuals and companies for each violation of the telemarketing rules. However, the commission does not have AMP powers under the Broadcasting Act. This creates a significant gap in our regulatory toolbox, as we can impose only penalties that are either relatively light or excessively heavy--or as one of your committee members said, we can either use a peashooter or a bomb, but nothing in between.
As you know, the commission grants licences and there are usually terms and conditions associated with them. If a licensee commits an infraction, we have at our disposal three options.
At the light end of the spectrum, we can wait until the end of the licence term and then impose more stringent conditions of licence during the renewal process. Given that licence terms can extend up to seven years, there can be a significant wait before we are able to act, especially if the infraction occurred early in the term.
At the more severe end of the spectrum, section 12 of the Broadcasting Act allows us to issue mandatory orders that effectively require licensees to abide by the rules, and we can file these in court. If the licensee refuses to abide by the order, we can launch contempt of court proceedings. Of course, contempt of court proceedings are criminal proceedings, and the standard of proof is beyond all reasonable doubt. It's a very difficult thing to pursue, and it's really not appropriate when we're talking about the violation of the term of a licence.
Finally, if we find that the licensee is still not in compliance we can call a hearing to determine whether we should suspend or revoke the licence--in effect, put the person out of business. That's at the very extreme end of the spectrum.
This is simply not an efficient way to make the system work. We need intermediary civil penalties to induce licensees to abide by the rules, without having to elevate their non-compliance to criminal behaviour. We should only have to resort to the courts in the most extreme of cases. Following my last appearance before you, we submitted a draft of an amended Broadcasting Act. I would encourage you to refer to it as you carry out your study.
A modern regulator needs AMP powers in all areas under its mandate. If we are to regulate with a lighter hand and provide broadcasters and BDUs with more latitude, then we must have the tools to ensure that licensees live up to their responsibilities.
It is my hope that at the conclusion of your study you will support our request for the power to impose AMPs. I would now be happy to answer any of your questions.