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Data, data, everywhere – but do the CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Reports give Parliament the information it needs to evaluate the implementation of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts?

The CRTC has published a wealth of information about the broadcasting and telecommunications systems in annual reports issued since 2000.  You can find these reports here:  When the CRTC began issuing these reports, it published separate documents about broadcasting and telecommunications; since 2008 it has published a single report with information about both sectors – the annual Communications Monitoring Report. (The CRTC also publishes some information about the broadcasters and telecommunications companies it regulates in its Departmental Performance Reports; the 2014/15 report is available here:

The CRTC has now published the broadcasting component of this year’s 2016 Communications Monitoring Report; it is available here:

In theory this cornucopia of data should provide Canadians and Parliament with all the information they need to evaluate the CRTC’s success in implementing Canada’s policy for broadcasting.  For if the data do not address Parliament’s legislative objectives, what would be their purpose?

As set out in section 3 of the Broadcasting Act, two key objectives of this policy are that Canada’s broadcasting system should be owned and controlled by Canadians and that the program it offers – to inform, enlighten and entertain audiences – should be predominantly Canadian.

The CRTC itself emphasizes the importance of content created by Canadians.  Its current three-year plan states that the CRTC’s “orders, decisions, licensing frameworks and other regulatory activities” encourage “the creation of diverse and compelling programming that reflects the ideas, perspectives and artistic creativity of Canadians”.[1]  Last week the CRTC’s Chairperson told members of Parliament on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that the CRTC has set “out new requirements to ensure robust local coverage across the country”.[2] Mr. Blais added that Canada’s communication system “must have strong coverage of all the smaller local worlds that make up our country” and that “[l]ocal news is an important public service”.[3]

But a glance at the list of 136 figures, tables and charts in the 2016 Report’s Table of Contents for this broadcasting section reveals a major gap:  there is no information at all about the programming that is actually being broadcast by Canadian broadcasters.  None of the figures, tables and charts states how many hours of original comedies and dramas created by Canadians have been or are being broadcast, and none describes the level of original local and national news available to communities across the country.  This is not to say that these data are unavailable – the CRTC requires broadcasters to maintain logs describing the programs they have broadcast, and to submit these to the CRTC  every month.  It is the absence of any analysis of these data which makes it difficult to know whether or how Parliament’s broadcasting policy is being implemented:  is Canada’s broadcasting system offering Canadian audiences programming that is, or is not, predominantly Canadian?

Similarly, the Report offers no information at all about the level of ownership and control exercised by Canadians in Canadian broadcasting companies – even though almost ten years ago the CRTC approved the non-Canadians’ acquisition of 65% of the equity and 33% of the preferred voting shares in many of Canwest’s important television services.  True – this year’s report is so far just a snapshot about radio, television and cable or satellite companies; but the CRTC’s full 2015 Report was also entirely silent about ownership and control.

The lack of data about non-Canadians’ involvement in Canadian broadcasting services makes it impossible to know just how Parliament’s policy of Canadian ownership is being implemented – or whether different levels of foreign control over equity and voting shares have any impact at all on Canadian broadcasters’ programming decisions. 

[1]               CRTC, CRTC Three-Year Plan 2016-2019, “CREATE”,

[2]               CRTC, “Jean-Pierre Blais to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage”, Speech (Ottawa, Ontario:  20 October 2016),

[3]               Ibid.