Canada: CRTC chief calls for regulatory rethink

The Chairman of the Canada’s broadcasting regulator has called for a rethink of the entire regulatory system, including the status of his own organisation.

Delivering a welcome address at the Banff World TV Festival, Konrad von Finckenstein, Chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), outlined a number of media industry activities that are dynamically impacted by the new digital economy and emerging media creation and distribution platforms.

“We are in a new digital world now, a world in which consumers are in control. They have access to a wide range of digital platforms and applications. These new media bypass the traditional pathways of regulated broadcasting: over-the-air, cable and satellite. Therefore the Commission’s ability to regulate through control of access is very much reduced,” he said.

“I believe we need a conceptual rethink of the whole regulatory system. The results of that rethink should preferably be embodied in a single comprehensive Act to govern all communications. The aim of the new legislation would be to create a structure for optimal regulation of the transportation of bits, whether by wireline or wireless technology, and whether they are carrying voice, video or data. This structure would support the development of a flexible, competitive and innovative system providing access for all Canadians to their choice of fast and efficient digital resources,” he said. He added that a rationalisation of the institutional framework should be considered, as well whether the present CRTC model was best suited to the role.

“Regulatory change is necessary in our new digital world. We need new legislation and a new institutional framework. We cannot make the most of new opportunities when we are limited by the practices and the structures of the past,” he declared.

He also announced a fact-finding exercise on over-the-top (OTT) programming services and their impact on the Canadian communications system. “We do not know what impact OTT may have. Is it an extension of our broadcasting system, complementing the traditional methods of delivery? Or is this the beginning of a paradigm shift that will eventually replace traditional methods,” he asked.

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