The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission last week announced "new media" broadcasting services will continue to be exempt from the regulations governing television and radio broadcasters but broadens the definition of new media.
The order, in essence, extends a ruling made in 1999. The Commission has called for comments on the issue, with a deadline of July 6.
"The Commission concludes that traditional broadcasting frameworks should not be imposed in the new media environment without evidence that intervention is warranted," the CRTC stated in its decision, Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-329.
The role of the CRTC is similar to that of the United States Federal Communications Commission, in regulating television and radio stations, in addition to telecom carriers. Though it stipulates minimum hours of Canadian content for both television and radio programs, it decided 10 years ago these quotas would not be imposed on Internet content providers.
The extension of the exemption comes as a pleasant surprise to Michael Geist, research chair for Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa.
"It was a surprise in the sense that regulators are there to regulate and I had some concerns and some expectations that the CRTC would feel the pressure to do something," he said.
In May, 2008, the CRTC said it would take another look at the question of whether it should regulate news content delivered over the Internet. At the time, the CRTC said it may propose new measures to support the goals of the federal Broadcasting Act.
In its decision, the federal regulator extended the new media exemption order to cover all "point to point" broadcasting, and sent to wireless devices. It will also include broadcasts "delivered and accessed over the Internet."
The Commission wrote: "While only mobile television broadcasting undertakings are presently exempt in the mobile point-to-point broadcasting environment, the Commission no longer considers the distinction between audio and video programming to be relevant. Extending the New Media Exemption Order to cover all point-to-point mobile broadcasting undertakings will further the Commission's stated objective of technological neutrality, as all mobile broadcasting undertakings will be treated similarly, whether they rely on point-to-point or Internet technology."
It also plans to require content providers to provide reports on content delivered over new media but did not elaborate on the content of the reports or time frame. The commission plans to initiate "at a later date" a reporting requirement for new media news services but was short on specifics.
"I think they want to get a sense of who's using it, how much are people accessing the content, how much is Canadian and how much are some of the Canadian sites making Canadian content available," Geist said.
The commission plans to invite comments from the public and "explore in greater detail" the information that would be required these reports.
During proceedings on new media this spring, the issue of reporting was "raised frequently," the CRTC said.
"Internal data, which is data compiled by a new media broadcasting undertaking about its content offerings on new media platforms, could include a list of all the programs offered, how often each was viewed, and the associated revenues and expenditures. Discussions about external data, which is data on broadcasting activities offered over new media platforms at an aggregate level, raised issues about the feasibility of identifying and measuring such data."
While the regulations exclude Canadian content, the commission hinted this may not last forever.
In its notice, the CRTC stated: "The Commission is of the view that the promotion and visibility of Canadian content in new media is important to implementing the broadcasting policy set out in the Act. It notes that many new media broadcasting undertakings are currently developing innovative and creative approaches to promote Canadian content on new media platforms. However, the Commission considers that, at this early stage, specific measures for the visibility and promotion of Canadian content in new media would not be appropriate."
Last year, the regulator specifically excluded user-generated content from new media.
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