The Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) is calling on the country’s government to reject a regulator decision to renew pubcaster CBC/Radio-Canada’s license for another five years and reassess its content before approval.
The body claims the renewal decision, which covers the next five years, eliminates a “key license condition” that ensures the CBC works with indie producers on Canadian programs at prescribed levels.
In June, the CRTC, which regulates Canadian broadcasting, renewed the broadcasting licences for CBC’s English- and French-language services, which the new charter beginning on September 1, 2022, and ending on August 31 2027. The decision included provisions ensuring the broadcaster spent on programming made by Indigenous, racialized, LGBTQ and disabled people and allowed CBC to put apportion some of its content spend to digital productions for the first time.
However, the CMPA contends the renewal makes no specific spending or exhibition requirements for Canadian indie programming and believes that baseline thresholds around Canadian programming have been dropped, making the CBC the only broadcaster exempt of those licensing regulations. It is also concerned that while new expenditure requirements had been introduced, the fact they are not based on revenues means they are inconsistent with existing policies.
The body also believes that while the new commitments for programming from minority groups are “laudable,” they cannot be measured against any index and as they will now be considered part of CBC’s total indie spend, entirely at CBC’s discretion, which it sees as lacking transparency and accountability. A similar argument is being made against allowing digital-first production into the total production measure.
A petition has been submitted to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Pablo Rodriguez, asking him to set aside, or refer back, the decision until the CMPA’s “deep concerns about the damaging impact” are assessed.
Bodies including the Indigenous Screen Office, Black Screen Office, FilmOntario, On Screen Manitoba, Documentary Organization of Canada, the Saskatchewan Media Production Industry Association and the Alberta Media Production Industries Association have sent the CMPA letters of support, Deadline understands.
“This is a decision from the CRTC that frankly came out of left field, and will negatively alter the Canadian media production landscape in a number of troubling ways,” said Reynolds Mastin, President and CEO of CMPA. “The decision undermines federal broadcasting policy objectives, and is fundamentally dangerous to the future of Canada’s independent media production sector.”
In its appeal, the CMPA asserts that the CRTC decision removes pivotal protections that underpin the Canadian broadcasting system and claims the removal of the broadcasting obligation in question was taken without prior warning and evidence, and was not requested by the CBC or by any other stakeholder involved in the renewal process.
The body also said “a fundamental shift” in broadcasting should only take place after a “full-scale policy review with input from experts and impacted industry stakeholders” — a view aligned with dissenting CRTC Commissioners Lafontaine and Simard.
“The CBC is the most significant commissioner of independent programming in Canada, and the removal of this condition will have a precedent-setting negative impact on the future of Canadian programming,” added Mastin.
The license fee furore comes at a perilous time for public service broadcasting around the world. France is scrapping its 89-year-old TV license fee, as we reported last week, while the ruling Conservative Government has been keen to follow suit in the UK. The European Broadcasting Union has warned such moves threaten the very existence of public broadcasting.
Deadline has reached out to the CBC for comment.