Evidence of meeting #5 for Canadian Heritage in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was information.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

François Demers  Professor, Centre des études sur les médias, Université Laval
Monica Auer  Executive Director, Forum for Research and Policy in Communications
Al MacKay  Director, Forum for Research and Policy in Communications
Dwayne Winseck  Professor, School of Journalism & Communication, Carleton University

8:50 a.m.


The Vice-Chair Conservative Larry Maguire

Good morning, everyone. I call the meeting to order.

I'll be doing the chairperson's work this morning, as arranged earlier in the week, as Ms. Fry is not available today.

We'll get right at it. We have three witnesses before us this morning in this first session in our fifth meeting of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

I want to draw your attention to Mr. Demers, from the University of Laval.

Welcome, and thank you for being with us this morning, Mr. Demers.

Can you can hear us all right?

8:50 a.m.

Prof. François Demers Professor, Centre des études sur les médias, Université Laval

Good morning.

8:50 a.m.


The Vice-Chair Conservative Larry Maguire

Very good. Thank you. We're just checking out the sound here.

Because of the weather, it's been suggested to me that perhaps we should hear Mr. Demers' presentation first in case we lose him as a result of the storm today, if that would be okay. Then we would go through 10-minute presentations from each of our three presenters this morning.

Welcome, also, to Monica Auer and Al MacKay, from the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications.

Thank you for being here.

From Carleton University we have Dwayne Winseck, professor, School of Journalism and Communication. These folks are with us, and we are ready to proceed.

We'll have 10-minute presentations from each of them and then we'll go through the questions from each member, as arranged. When those are exhausted, we have a few pieces of business to take care of and we will see whatever your wish is as to the length of the meeting at that point, once we've exhausted questions on our own business. I'll leave that to the committee members.

Welcome, everyone.

I'll turn it over to Mr. François Demers. Please go ahead with your presentation for us.

8:50 a.m.

Professor, Centre des études sur les médias, Université Laval

Prof. François Demers

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning, everyone. I hope you are hearing me okay.

One of my colleagues and I have undertaken a study whose main concern is Canadians' consumption of Canadian cultural products, more specifically in terms of journalism. I will try to put the issue of local and regional information in that context.

At local and regional levels, it seems to us that the challenges are very similar to those in large regions and on the national level. This comes with a number of challenges, which you are familiar with and which I will not dwell on.

The first challenge, of course, is the multitude of cultural products available to Canadians. That multitude leads to a splitting of audiences, a scattering of attention and a turmoil that force practically all the stakeholders to reposition themselves.

In that context, other phenomena change consumption habits, such as the invitation to the piecemeal consumption of television or audiovisual products. This is a “time budget”, or time spent on those types of activities when there is considerable demand for activities not directly related to cultural products, such as outdoor or tourism activities. We are also talking about financial budgets and the consumption of cultural products. The data shows that there has been a transfer toward distribution infrastructure—in other words, money people are likely to invest in it.

The second major challenge is the funding of those activities, especially during a transformation period when the players must invest substantially in innovations, be it for existing media, transfers or reorganizations. As they say, deep pockets are needed to survive periods that are not always profitable. Everyone has heard about the experiment the Gesca group has undertaken with La Presse +, without really knowing whether it would break even. The funding aspect is very important.

When it comes to journalistic information, there has been a change in context regarding distribution. Previously, that information was disseminated through media providing other content, virtual or symbolic. They may have included a recreational and entertainment aspect. There was also advertisement, of course. We are talking about a place of public expression, not only for organizations and institutions, but also, to a certain extent, for individuals. Yet everyone knows that those four parts of public expression, to put it that way, are slowly splitting up, and that this is causing all kinds of problems in terms of journalistic information.

As far as consumption goes, the rural/urban divide was also a major challenge. There have been population movements for a very long time, and they favour urbanisation. However, it seems that the arrival of the Internet and electronic infrastructure has lessened the divide between rural and urban areas and made it less drastic.

As for the media landscape, four main players are involved in local and regional information in the Quebec City region, for example. The Transcontinental company, which owns weekly newspapers, has become extremely important. It does its own digital transfers. Of course, those transfers involve some trial and error, but it is clear that the company wants to move on to multimedia in the subregions where its weekly newspapers are distributed.

The Quebec City region also has Quebecor, which is using MATV to try something that is between entertainment television and social television. We don't have an evaluation on that, but it seems that there are transformation periods every six months. There is a great deal of experimentation in this area, which is related to television.

In the Quebec City region, there are also existing community media, some of which play a role, not in terms of journalism training as such, but in terms of regional cultural production. I am thinking of the first community radio stations, such as CKRL, to name just one.

Of course, we have Radio-Canada, which also seems to be going through a period of accelerated downturn. In fact, its ability to produce regional and local news in the regions has greatly diminished. I would obviously add Le Journal de Québec and Le Soleil, which are periodically rebranding and are also experiencing downturn to a certain extent.

Another extremely important change has more to do with local and regional news than news in general, but in this case, new competition in the form of foreign distributors has had a significant impact. Our study was carried out to consider that issue. We wanted to determine how, in terms of daily consumption by Canadians, the transfer occurred between foreign products and local products.

You may say that the game has changed on the local level. All media used to really be part of a group. There was a dynamic, an interaction among media when it came to local and regional news. The situation could be compared to a chamber orchestra, which contains a limited number of instruments. Now, the orchestra is large, but there is no conductor. There are instruments—in other words, media—and some take leadership from time to time.

An entire dynamic, stemming from the splitting of the audience, has led the media to reposition themselves in relation to each other. In that context, traditional media such as Radio-Canada or Le Soleil get a lot of their content from social media, which in turn get their content mainly from websites, or individual, company or organization blogs.

The flow of information currently involves a lot of people. We are in a transition period where we are no longer sure who the main producers are in terms of daily regional information. That is a major challenge.

There is also an issue we are not really looking into—I'm talking about quality information compared with what could be considered as more unremarkable or fun information. That issue arises in the context of this dynamic of interactions, this game of the regional media orchestra. We are really facing a challenge.

In these conditions—and I will close with this—you may think of the crucial role Radio-Canada played during the interwar period. Radio-Canada was a very important factor in bringing Canadians together, be it in terms of infrastructure or content. There were exchanges between regions and so on. That role could be renewed, and Radio-Canada could again be something of a spine in this new context. It could be one of the main producers, but its internal operations, as well as its investments, would probably have to be reorganized.

Thank you.

8:55 a.m.


The Vice-Chair Conservative Larry Maguire

Thank you very much, Professor Demers.

You're just under your time, so we appreciate that as well.

Thank you very much for your insight.

What's the wish of the committee? Would you like to ask questions now and Mr. Demers can go, or should we proceed with the other presentations?

Madam Dabrusin.

8:55 a.m.


Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

My preference would be to hear everyone on the panel.

8:55 a.m.


The Vice-Chair Conservative Larry Maguire

All right. Then I will ask the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications, Ms. Auer or Mr. MacKay—whoever wishes—to proceed.

9 a.m.

Monica Auer Executive Director, Forum for Research and Policy in Communications

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for inviting us to proceed.

My name is Monica Auer. I'm the executive director of the forum, a small non-profit and non-partisan organization that undertakes research and policy analysis about electronic media. We support a strong communications system that serves the public interest. I'm joined by Al MacKay, a director on the forum's board who has been involved in various aspects of broadcasting for more than 40 years.

We will address three issues this morning about local broadcast news: why it matters, what is known about it, and what can be done about it. We will be referring to the tables we have given to the clerk. I gather they have been distributed.

9 a.m.

Al MacKay Director, Forum for Research and Policy in Communications

Mr. Chairman, as your committee has already heard, local news is under severe pressure.

Strong local media serve many purposes. They foster citizen engagement and enable our democracy to exist. A vibrant local station is at the heart of its community, which relies on it for information on everything from school closures in bad weather to elections. Local media matter because every community is unique, with a different perspective on the issues that matter within and outside of its borders.

A friend who helped cover the last federal election made this clear to me in conversation. He talked about the extensive demographic changes he was seeing in many ridings and the significant differences between the issues discussed in the national media and those discussed on the doorsteps. While the national media were discussing the economy or the niqab, the local media in several ridings were hearing that the most important issue in that riding was family reunification.

But local media are in trouble.

Because of time, we're just going to focus on radio and television.

Just what do we know about broadcast ownership and local news?

9 a.m.

Executive Director, Forum for Research and Policy in Communications

Monica Auer

The primary source of broadcast data in Canada is the CRTC. Reviewing its decisions shows that since 2000 it has approved far more than 50 changes in broadcast ownership, worth more than $13 billion.

Table 1 shows one outcome. In 2014 the five largest owners earned 82% of all radio and TV revenues.

Table 2 shows that of the 57 communities with private TV stations, 54 are served by one or more of the five largest TV broadcasters. Independent local TV stations operate in just 17 communities.

As ownership is consolidated, what has happened to local broadcast news?

Tables 3, 4, and 5 show that as TV ownership has concentrated, expenditures on local programming and local TV news decreased and staff have been cut.

Moving over to programming, table 6 sets out the CRTC's definitions of TV news. Radio news is not defined. The programming data that radio stations send the CRTC every month are shown in table 7, but as they do not identify any local news, the level of local news broadcast by radio stations is not known.

Table 8 summarizes a study that the forum undertook of local radio news, using CRTC decisions. In the 1980s, radio stations were broadcasting an average of 10.2 hours of news per week. In the 2000s, news stations were proposing 4.2 hours per week, or 58% less.

Table 9 shows the data that TV stations send the CRTC every month about their programming. Table 10 shows that some TV stations described programs produced outside their communities or by radio stations and counted these as original local TV news.

In our view, the CRTC TV log results concerning the level of local original news produced by TV stations are unreliable.

Table 11 compares TV stations' descriptions of their weekly local original news in 2000 with the CRTC's current requirements. The CRTC requires private TV stations to broadcast local programming but does not specify hours of local news or original local news. It dropped that requirement in 1999.

On January 25, last month, the CRTC discussed redefining local news. Its redefinition raises concerns, because as table 12 shows, talk shows, historical documentaries, and telethons would then count as local news, diluting the concept.

Table 13 lists the data that the CRTC collects from broadcasters about their annual operations. As it does not ask how many journalists they employ, their capacity to gather news is unknown. In general, it asks little about broadcasters' Internet news presence or its news resources online.

In brief, Mr. Chair, there are very few facts about Canadians' overall access to original local broadcast news concerning their communities or about stations' capacity to actually gather this news.

9 a.m.

Director, Forum for Research and Policy in Communications

Al MacKay

What ought to be done about local broadcast news?

The proposal now on the table is for another fund for local television news. The first was the small market local programming fund approved by the commission in 2003. Since 2013, the five largest broadcasters have received 16.8% of its funding. The CRTC approved the LPIF in 2009. The five largest TV broadcasters received 80% of that funding.

Last month, the commission was asked to establish a new local news fund. It would shift millions of dollars from cable and satellite subscribers who now support community channels to private television stations. The fund's impact on local TV news is unclear. BCE, for example, said it would not broadcast more local news even with this fund.

It's clear that the problem of local broadcast news has no easy answer. The elephant in the room is the major gaps in data about local broadcast programming, which make it impossible to know if Parliament's objectives for local broadcasting are being met or whether the consolidation of ownership has strengthened or weakened local broadcast news. The CRTC's routine destruction of its older records means that these gaps are growing. The forum's concern is that basing policies on assumptions instead of facts creates new risks. Policies may be seen as favouring some at the expense of others. They risk failure if they focus on the wrong problems.

We have three suggestions to put forward for you this morning.

First, Parliament needs facts, not guesswork. The CRTC should consult with the public in the next year to revise its data collection and reporting systems. As the head of CTV once told the CRTC, “You can't manage what you don't measure.”

Second, if Parliament wants Canadians to have access to broadcast news, there must be enforceable and enforced levels of original local news. The commission dropped such conditions in the early 1990s. It said competition would work just as well as regulation in ensuring Canadians' access to local broadcast content. Of course, in private TV, the number of competitors has fallen from 30 to 17.

Nearly all non-news local TV programs are gone, along with about 30% of TV station jobs. Central casting, whereby a remote production centre produces the local newscast and ships it back into the market, is ubiquitous. Some TV stations broadcast radio programming and claim it is news, and radio stations broadcast TV audio. While a survey found that 81% of Canadians said local television news is important, TV broadcasters say they can't afford to do it because they can't monetize it.

On February 1, the forum therefore asked the CRTC to restore conditions of licence for original local broadcast news for local television. That was the regulatory approach that was very effective from the 1970s to 1990. The panel's chair dismissed this concept as pure nostalgia. This was a bit odd, since on January 12 the CRTC denied requests from ethnic organizations for a public hearing into last May's cancellation by Rogers of all ethnic language TV newscasts for communities in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto, precisely because the CRTC had not set conditions for local newscasts in those licences.

If Parliament wants local broadcast news, the CRTC should be required to set conditions of licence for expenditures on, and hours of, original local radio and television news produced in, and predominantly about, the communities that those stations are licensed to serve. They can do that during the renewal of radio and TV licences over the next one to two years.

Third, Parliament ought to know if its objectives for its communications system are being met. The current statutes in the CRTC Act were written decades ago. They don't explain whether or how the CRTC should deal with the Internet or its ramifications or require the CRTC to serve the public interest.

Implementing the first recommendation, the one for better data, will position this committee for the next several years if it undertakes an examination of whether Canada's communications legislation should be updated for the twenty-first century.

Mr Chair, local radio and television stations obviously help you and you colleagues stay in touch with your communities and your constituents. They help you find out what's going on back home.

Some say we shouldn't worry about the changes happening in the media and that the Internet provides all kinds of different sources of information, but for the most part these sources are aggregators that are taking material produced by professional print and broadcast journalists.

The goal for your committee and for the commission should be to ensure that in this era of constant upheaval, we do not lose a vital component of Canadians' lives—the local news, which, as Walter Robinson of The Boston Globe Spotlight unit so eloquently put it, gives people the ability “to make thoughtful decisions in a democratic society.”

We welcome your questions when the other presenters are finished.

9:10 a.m.


The Vice-Chair Conservative Larry Maguire

Thank you very much, Mr. MacKay and Ms. Auer. That's a good deal of information in a short time. I appreciate your input into this matter as well.

I will now go to Carleton University's Mr. Dwayne Winseck for his presentation as well. Thank you.

9:10 a.m.

Prof. Dwayne Winseck Professor, School of Journalism & Communication, Carleton University

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for having me here today. It's a pleasure to come to talk to you about the state of the media landscape here in Canada, with some focus on the issue of media concentration.

I have four ideas that I want to share with you.

The first is that the overall media economy has grown enormously and become structurally much more diverse with the development of fundamentally new sectors over the last 20 to 30 years. This comes with both a great deal of promise, but also with significant perils.

Second, media concentration remains astonishingly high around the world, and Canada is no exception.

Third, emergent media do not replace traditional media, but they are important and they interact with them in complex ways that we'll talk about.

Fourth, I will finish with a half a dozen proposals about what might be done.

First of all, I do research at the Canadian Media Concentration Research project, which that I direct, and I'd invite you all to take a look at the reports we put out on an annual basis for a full explanation of some of the things I'm going to discuss today. My primary interest is in doing two things. One is mapping the growth and development of the media economy in Canada over a 30-year period, and the second is mapping the developments in concentration over the same period and asking a simple question: are media becoming more or less concentrated?

I do so because, sharing with Monica and Mr. MacKay, I know the problem with data is severe in this country. We also have a lot of people with a lot of opinions and little data to act upon. I think it's important that we do good research and have a solid base of evidence on which to draw.

I think it's important to talk about how I define the media, because I do not define the media in a narrow way, in a separate, silo-segmented way; I define the media expansively to include all of its component parts. I deal with each of the component parts separately, and then I combine them in what I call the scaffolding approach so I can get a view of the whole.

When I talk about the media, I'm talking about everything from cellphones to plain old telephone service to Internet access to cable television to broadcast TV, as well as pay television, newspapers, radio, magazines, search engines, social media sites, Internet news sources, browsers, and operating systems. We need to look at the entire universe, because increasingly all these components interact with one another, and we cannot deal with them adequately separately.

What do we know? We know a couple of things. We know that media have expanded greatly over the last 30 years from about $19 billion in total value in 1984 to over $75 billion in 2014, the last year for which a full set of data is available.

Some media are growing fast; others are stagnating, others are in decline, and yet others are being remade and are recovering. The music industry is the poster child of the last type.

We've seen the rise of fundamentally new media, especially cellphone service, Internet access, Internet news, and search engines. The rapid expansion of the pay television universe is another thing to remark upon.

Revenues are up greatly for the cellphone industries, Internet access, Internet Protocol TV, Internet advertising, pay and specialty TV, and television overall.

Some areas have stayed flat. Radio and cable television, in the last couple of years, are those types. Some are in significant decline. Newspapers, magazines, and broadcast TV are those types. Music, as I said, is in recovery mode.

The growth of the network media economy since 2008 has been slow and sluggish, reflecting the overall economic conditions of our time.

I think one of the things we can take away from the general description I've just given you is that in the new media environment it's not content that is king, but connectivity that made be emperor. This is significant for policy discussions.

We live in an age of information abundance, not scarcity. There are 695 TV channels in Canada, 1,100 radio stations, and 92 paid daily newspapers. Expert blogs abound. Most Canadians have a smart phone. One hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. About three million Netflix subscribers were in Canada in 2014, and some estimate the number is about four million today. About 18 million are subscribers or users of Facebook.

What do people do with the media they have at their disposal?

Well, Canadians have long used a wide variety of media very extensively by international standards. That's been the case since plain old telephone service in the early 20th century, and it remains the case today with smart phones and the Internet.

As I said earlier, most growth in the media has been in connectivity, not in content. Consuming old media still occurs. People are still watching TV. People are still watching movies. People are still reading the newspapers a great deal. People are still listening to music. However, they are doing it on their smart phones, on their laptops, on their desktops, in their bedrooms with the big screen TV. They're doing it in the movie theatres and so on and so forth. What we have is the same media, but they've been detached from the traditional delivery vehicles and now are being circulated across an expanding array of delivery devices.

When we look at what people are doing, we see that youth are not so much disconnected from the news as they are connected with it in different ways, and the types of news are perhaps not the kind that senior folks like ourselves would like to see. It's more lifestyle news and personal news that they can use. There are issues there. They are also getting their news via Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Google. These sources bring people to the news in droves, but engagement is fleeting, shallow, and not easy to monetize.

What could possibly be wrong in this scenario? There are several things that stand out.

One, access to the Internet, to mobile phones, and to other media is far from being universal. One in five Canadians does not have a cellphone or an Internet connection from home. The connection between income and access is strong. For people in the bottom income quintile, around one-third do not have access to a cellphone, and just over half, about 56%, have access to Internet at home. If you look at the top income quintile, everybody has both. It's income inequality.

Advertising-dependent media are in big trouble right now, and this is due to a number of factors that we'll talk about. We see the closure of nine daily newspapers since 2008, and 13 free daily newspapers, and 16 newspapers have scaled back their publishing schedule. Four TV stations have closed. This is not a good-news story for the real engines of the news environment.

Third, Facebook's average revenue per user in 2014 was $28 for the entire year. A Globe and Mail subscription is a little over $500. We can see the difference here in the scale of resources. They're not bringing a very big scale.

Now, the big point that I want to make today is that concentration in Canada is very high in most media sectors, although this is not uniformly the case, and I'll point to some of those later. In many media sectors, concentration levels are very high. Across the media as a whole, concentration levels are very high, and this is high by Canadian historical standards, high by international standards, high by empirical measures that are commonly used to assess the state of competition and concentration.

Vertical integration in Canada is enormously high and unusual by world standards, and it has doubled between 2008 and 2013 and remains at that level today. The top four media conglomerates in this country combine telecommunications, a wide variety of television assets, and in some cases newspaper assets and Internet access. They are Bell, Shaw, Rogers, and Quebecor. Between these four companies they own about 60% of the overall media universe. The trend has strongly been up. We have a bigger media pie but a smaller number of players controlling a bigger stake of that media pie. By controlling both the access pipes and the content, they're fundamentally shaping the way in which the overall media universe is unfolding today.

If we look at the evidence, what we find is that we have, as I said, some areas where things are okay. What are those areas? Radio is not very concentrated at all. Magazines are not very concentrated at all. Internet news is the bright light on the horizon. The sources that Canadians go to are a wide plurality of domestic, traditional, and new and foreign websites, and the trend is towards greater diversity, not less.

Where is concentration a problem? Moderate levels of concentration exist in newspapers, and concentration has taken a very significant jump upward with the recent acquisition of the Sun papers by Postmedia. This was a very significant transaction. It bumped up levels of concentration a great deal. Television concentration levels are very high overall. Cable and satellite television concentration levels are moderately high.

In the highly concentrated area we have broadcast TV, pay TV, and to show you that the Internet is not immune from concentration issues, let me point to the following that have the highest levels of concentration across the entire media environment.

9:20 a.m.


The Vice-Chair Conservative Larry Maguire

Mr. Winseck, I'll give you a few minutes to do that.

9:20 a.m.

Professor, School of Journalism & Communication, Carleton University

Prof. Dwayne Winseck


In Internet access in Canada, 92% is controlled by either the cable company or the telephone companies in cities across this country. Internet advertising is very highly concentrated. Social networking sites are extremely concentrated. Mobile wireless is also extremely concentrated, as are search engines, mobile operating systems, desktop operating systems, smartphone operating systems, and so on.

We could talk a lot more, but I think my time is up. Perhaps we can get to some more through questions and answers.

Thank you very much.

9:20 a.m.


The Vice-Chair Conservative Larry Maguire

Thank you very much, Mr. Winseck, that's extremely valuable information. I'm sure there will be lots of questions that will bring out more of the items you wanted to speak about, and you'll have an opportunity to add to that.

With that, I would like to turn it over to Mr. Samson for the first seven-minute round of questions.

9:20 a.m.


Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I really appreciate the information that was shared this morning. It's very helpful as we move forward in this very important process.

I want to begin by saying that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. I say that because it's extremely important that we understand that every Canadian across this nation should have access to information, valuable information, local information, and diversity and language are essential. That's why our government needs to make sure that access is available to all.

Mr. Demers has provided us with information and, according to my understanding, it is mostly a matter of repositioning funding and innovation.

I want to know what kind of innovation we should implement to ensure that, when it comes to language and diversity, rural regions receive up-to-date information.

Mr. Demers, could you share your thoughts on that?

9:20 a.m.

Professor, Centre des études sur les médias, Université Laval

Prof. François Demers

I believe the answer is twofold.

The first part has to do with attempts to design attractive and operational products for small screens. Most of the large groups are currently headed in that direction. They are trying to take advantage of their knowledge, taken from traditional media, to try to define products that can be provided on nearly all screens.

In that area, I see the new players suggesting to start with the design of products intended for small screens to eventually move on to the tablet, websites and, finally, to more rigid media such as written material, and so on.

However, I think that your question is at another level and that you would like to know how the government, among others, could get involved to ensure diversity in terms of access and production across Canada.

In my eyes, that is a political problem. But it is also a difficulty in the sense that we would have to determine which buttons to push.

That is why I concluded my remarks by bringing up CBC's substantial, constant and highly important role. For example, until the late 1990s, at least 30% of Canadian journalists were working at CBC. Its traditional role could be renewed. The corporation would have to innovate and change certain things. I am thinking of all the cuts made at Radio-Canada International. News content was made available on the Internet, but while reducing the number of accessible languages. That kind of a situation could be remedied.

9:25 a.m.


Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Demers, thank you.

I am reminded of Steve Jobs, who is now deceased, when I think about companies that started out small 10 years ago, only to keep growing in size. Mr. Jobs had the same approach. Thank you very much.

I will move on to a second question.

This is to my colleagues in research, Monica and Al.

Your research helps us understand some key issues. What I'm interested in is the solution.

You shared some information on three very important factors. One data fact is probably the most important thing: to allow government to redirect, restructure, and reposition itself to better meet the needs of all Canadians. Then, of course, there is enforcing—having a law or a process in place, and then making sure that it's being enforced. Then there is meeting your objective.

I guess my question now would be, if we were to put this together, what would be our steps as we move forward to get this done quickly?

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, Forum for Research and Policy in Communications

Monica Auer

As I think we mentioned, one of the biggest problems any researcher in Canadian broadcasting or telecom has is that there are practically no meaningful or relevant data. The commission publishes annual monitoring reports that are several hundred pages long. Virtually none of it has anything to do with section 3 of the Broadcasting Act, and very little has to do with section 7 of the Broadcasting Act.

One thing our organization is launching this year is a report card, just so that we can see what we are able to measure with respect to Parliament's objectives in both section 3 and section 7 of the two acts.

From my perspective, and not only because of my background as a quantitative researcher from my political science days but also now as a lawyer looking for evidence to try to make my case, it's data, data, data. It's like “location, location, location” in real estate. Parliament needs data.

You probably see the huge volumes you get from the CRTC. Very little of that relates to the two policy statements in the act, so it's data first.

I think Al will give the next two recommendations.

9:25 a.m.

Director, Forum for Research and Policy in Communications

Al MacKay

I think if you don't have the information that you think you need to be able to find out whether the objectives of the Broadcasting Act are being met, then you should ask the regulator to put in place whatever steps you think are necessary to give you the information you need to make that assessment.

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, Forum for Research and Policy in Communications

Monica Auer

This is not the first time that the heritage committee has asked the CRTC to provide data and to start measuring data properly. Perhaps the third time you will be lucky. The thing is, if you ask the commission to please start gathering data and perhaps make it clear what data you actually want, that will help.

The next thing, of course, is enforcement.

In 1968 and 1969, when the 1968 Broadcasting Act came in and Parliament took its first steps to try to strengthen Canadian culture in the face of our wonderful neighbour down south, every broadcaster really did think they might risk losing their licence if they didn't step up immediately to the plate. We are not there now; licences are family dynasties. The only way to get a TV licence in Canada is to buy the assets of someone else, and thanks to central casting, many of the stations are really empty shelves that don't even have control of their transmitters. You hear from broadcasters that “we can't even give these licences away”, and of course the licences belong to the government and can't be given away, but the assets.... It's true, because in some cases you may have a licence, but you have no means of actually getting programming to your audience anymore.

9:30 a.m.


The Vice-Chair Conservative Larry Maguire

Thank you, Ms. Auer and Mr. Samson.

I will now have to go to Mr. Waugh.

9:30 a.m.


Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

I thank all four of you here this morning. It was very enlightening, with lots of correct statements by all four of you.

It's interesting. Emerging media will never replace traditional media. The way I see it right now, you have the big corporate conglomerates—Bell, Rogers, Telus—who eventually will get into the game, and Shaw. They control everything here. Media now is all about this.

We saw it in the Olympics in Vancouver, when Bell decided to buy CTV because they were outside the stadium of the gold medal match of the women's hockey team. It just happened that the president of Bell couldn't get into the rink because there was a long lineup. Everyone was on their so-called smart phone. He realized it; two weeks later, BCE bought CTV back.

We don't need more subsidies, I don't think. We probably need more players in the game, but all four of you have just told me it's hard to get licences, and yet we've seen some growth in the industry. As well, all four of you have said that local news is very important. I think we've seen, in the recent federal election, that young people have stepped forward now and are going to have a bigger say.

Would you maybe just talk about that? I'm not really for more subsidies in this industry, when I see the big players around the table and see what their stock options are and where their stocks are sitting today.

Maybe Monica could start.

9:30 a.m.

Executive Director, Forum for Research and Policy in Communications

Monica Auer

My first starting point to that question is going to be the Broadcasting Act.