There's a month left to weigh in on CBC's next broadcast licence

Now’s your chance to weigh in on the future of the CBC. 

The national broadcaster is in the process of applying for a new broadcast licence from the CRTC. As part of that process, the CRTC is inviting all Canadians to answer a series of questions ranging from how the broadcaster could improve its programming to whether that programming adequately reflects Canada’s diversity.

If you haven’t heard of it, that may be because the news was announced last November, shortly after the federal election. That means it hasn’t been as widely advertised as it might otherwise have been, said Patricia Valladao, a media relations manager with the CRTC. She floated the possibility the comment period could be extended. 

“The CBC is the public broadcaster, it has to reflect the Canadian reality,” she said. “It’s important for people to have their say.” 

The deadline for submissions is Feb. 13. The hearings will begin May 25 in Gatineau, Que. 

Canadians are invited to submit their comments through the CRTC’s somewhat complex online form. Your comments will become public. 

Move to digital services

As Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC is mandated to “inform, enlighten and entertain” while enhancing Canada’s “national identity and cultural sovereignty.” The CRTC is responsible for putting conditions on the CBC’s broadcast licence to ensure it meets that mandate. 

The current broadcast licence expires at the end of August. 

In its latest licence application, the CBC has proposed a cross-platform goal for its broadcasting, meaning some, but not all, of its regulated broadcast hours will be on television. 

For example, the CBC is proposing to drop its weekly broadcast commitment from nine hours to seven of “programs of national interest” during prime time (7-11 pm) and up its online offering to at least 10 hours per week. 

The CBC is also proposing to drop its Canadian local programming offered each week (outside of metropolitan areas) from seven hours to five, while offering at least seven and a half hours per week of local programming on either the station or on digital platforms. 

“We’re really focusing on delivering content to our audiences where, when and how they want,” said Leon Mar, the corporate spokesperson for CBC/Radio-Canada, “and what we’re finding right now is that those audiences are looking for our content online so there’s less demand on our traditional linear services.” 

Research issued last August found that Canadians who rely on cable news and traditional radio continue to make up the largest segment of the population, though this is the fastest decreasing. Meanwhile, a growing number of Canadians rely on online and subscription services for programming. Mar said he expects 2020 to be the year that more Canadians are subscribing to streaming and other online offerings than relying on traditional TV and radio. 

The CRTC is also asking what the CBC could do “to continue to serve and meet the needs of Canadians who cannot or do not consume content via online platforms.”

“Our goal is obviously to serve all Canadians no matter how they’re accessing their public broadcaster,” said Mar. 

Gender parity, diversity

The CBC has proposed it be given “new consultation and reporting commitments relating to content created by and for Indigenous peoples.” It also wants reporting commitments “for gender parity in audio-visual content production.”

The CRTC also wants to know how Canadians think it should be regulating the CBC. I.e. should it be regulating the CBC’s online offering as well? If so, how? One option would be to monitor the amount of money spent on programming overall, rather than the number of hours produced or broadcast.

Submissions to the CRTC can be submitted by fax to 819-994-0218 or by mail to: CRTC, Ottawa, Ont., K1A 0N2.

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