Canada’s legislative framework reflects an outdated structural separation between broadcasting and communications
May 25, 2016 – Canada’s communications and broadcasting world has changed dramatically in recent decades, but its communications and broadcasting statutes and regulations have not kept pace, states a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute. In “Changing the Channel on Canadian Communications Regulation,” authors Benjamin Dachis and Daniel Schwanen say the federal government should replace ineffective Canadian content regulations with direct subsidies, introduce more legal and economic rigour in regulatory hearings, and eliminate ownership restrictions on communications companies and wireless spectrum.
“Canada’s legislative framework reflects an outdated structural separation between broadcasting and communications,” state Dachis and Schwanen. They add that “the regulatory model for communications providers is ill-suited to current technology that allows users to access whatever they want, however they want, and wherever they want.”
Dachis and Schwanen provide four recommendations for the fast-approaching federal government review of Canadian communications and broadcasting policies:
- The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) should eliminate Canadian content exhibition quotas, and the Department of Canadian Heritage should take the helm on promotion of cultural programming. Specifically, it should replace broadcasters in financing Canadian content through general government revenues, and not through a tax on internet subscribers.
- The CRTC should defer to the Competition Bureau for enforcement against anti-competitive conduct. A sector-specific regulator like the CRTC will still have a role in the future, but changing technologies means that it should not have a heavy hand in setting prescriptive regulations.
- The CRTC should be required to adopt a more rigorous legal and economic approach to its own regulatory interventions.
- The Department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development should allocate spectrum to maximize public benefit without any pre-determined policy aim for industry structure. It should also remove foreign ownership limits on firms in communications and broadcasting.
The authors note that the federal government must reform Canada’s communications regulatory regime to recognize the sector’s rapid technological change. “Regulation should move beyond outdated presumptions of the sector being a natural monopoly and focus instead on enabling new kinds of competition among service providers,” state the authors. “The mandate of Canada’s communications regulator should be to intervene only in the case of demonstrable market failures that warrant a sector-specific intervention,” they conclude.
The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. Widely considered to be Canada's most influential think tank, the Institute is a trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review.
For more information contact: Benjamin Dachis, Associate Director, Research; or Daniel Schwanen, Vice President, Research at the C.D. Howe Institute: 416-865-1904 or email: email@example.com