Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
In the short time we have, I'd like to address three subjects this committee is considering.
First I'll address the implications of vertical integration in broadcasting, and second, the maintenance of a diversity of voices. Third, my colleague, Rita Cugini, will address the role of small and independent broadcasters.
In all of our activity as the broadcasting regulator, we are following a very clear principle: we interfere as little as possible in the marketplace. We establish regulations or guidelines only if they are shown to be necessary to serve the interests of the Canadian broadcasting system or fulfill the objectives of the Broadcasting Act.
With that in mind, l'd like to begin with vertical integration. The broadcasting industry is changing very quickly through the consolidation of ownership and the widespread adoption of new media platforms. Major transactions have produced vertical integration, that is, the ownership by one entity of both programming and distribution properties, or of both production and programming properties, or of all three--production, programming, and distribution properties together.
Does this present a risk of anti-competitive behaviour? The commission already has rules in place to discourage particular types of anti-competitive behaviour. For example, broadcasters have to acquire 75% of their prime-time programming from unaffiliated producers.
There is also the possibility that the distribution arm of an integrated company may give undue preference to services offered by its programming service arm, to the disadvantage of outside providers. We have established procedures to serve as a check against such undue preference in both traditional broadcasting and the new media. In the event that a preference has been demonstrated, a reverse onus is placed on the distributor to show that it is not an undue preference.
However, concerns have been raised that an integrated company could adopt other types of anti-competitive behaviour. Given the increasing consolidation of ownership and the rapid adoption of new platforms, we have announced a public proceeding to determine whether our existing safeguards are sufficient or not. A hearing will begin on May 9, 2011, on that very subject.
Through that hearing, we will examine the different situations under which undue preference and reverse onus provisions may be needed. We will also aim to develop norms that provide all players with a fair opportunity to negotiate for programming rights and carriage. This furthers competition and enhances consumer choice.
We do not intend to intrude into the commercial environment unless absolutely necessary to achieve the purposes of the Broadcasting Act. Intervenors in this proceeding must make a compelling case that any regulatory measures they propose are necessary in order to serve the best interests of the Canadian broadcasting system.
Let us move on to diversity of voices. Let me now turn to the second subject: how can we ensure a diversity of voices in a changing media landscape?
In January of 2008, following a wave of consolidation among broadcasters, we announced a policy to maintain a diversity of voices within the private element of the broadcasting system. This policy sets limits on the ownership of media outlets.
In a large market, an entity may control a maximum of two AM and two FM radio stations in the same language. In smaller markets, an entity may control as many as three radio stations operating in the same language, with a maximum of two stations in either frequency band.
For conventional television stations, the limit is one station per language in a given market.
We will not permit an entity to control all three main sources of local news serving the same market: a radio station, a television station and a newspaper. At most, an entity would only be able to control two out of the three.
We will generally not allow a single entity to have effective control of all TV distribution in a market.
Finally, the policy provides a limit to the share of the national audience that a single broadcasting entity may control as a result of a transaction. Any transaction that would result in an entity controlling more than 45% of the national audience will not be approved. Transactions that would result in an entity controlling between 35% and 45% of the national audience will be carefully scrutinized. They will only be allowed if the Commission is convinced that they do not diminish the diversity of voices. And transactions that would result in an entity controlling less than 35% of the national audience will be approved expeditiously if there are no other concerns.
Ownership consolidation is a fact of life, for both economic and technological reasons. Our media companies must be able to compete in the digital environment, where content can come from anywhere.
But in spite of all the consolidation, Canadians still enjoy a rich variety of broadcast programming from public, private and community sources. Our 2008 policy, which was built on previous policies to maintain diversity, has worked well. When we applied it to the Shaw/Canwest transaction that we approved last month, for example, we found that the consolidated company would lay claim to a national audience share of less than 35%.
But we cannot stand still. The rules for common ownership of radio stations are defined in terms of both FM and AM. But as you know, AM is losing market share, and it has been a long time since we had a single application for a new AM licence. The question arises: should we still be regulating the AM market? Is there a case to be made for letting it go by way of exemption?