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The 20th century is characterised by a lot of political activities that led to democratization of many societies. People have gained significant access to certain rights and privileges. One of the most important rights that people enjoy today is the access to information, which is essential because it enables people to identify and demand for other rights.
Although the advocates of the right to information insist that everyone should be well informed, some people have claimed that such rights can cause serious challenges if not regulated (Edwardson, 2008). For this reason, several governments have put in place measures to ensure that rights are enjoyed in a manner that protects other aspects of life.
This paper discusses the functions, composition, scope of operation, financing and source of authority of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) (Edwardson, 2008).
Establishment of CRTC
CRTC was created in 1976 after the parliament of Canada enacted the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act (1976).
Before CRTC came into being, its functions were performed by the Canadian Radio-Television Commission established in 1968 to take over from the Board of Broadcast Governors. CRTC is answerable to the Minister for Heritage who in turn reports to parliament (Dunbar & Leblanc, 2007).
Purpose of CRTC
The overall role of CRTC is to facilitate fairness and quality in the country’s communication sector (Edge, 2013). These functions are clearly spelt out in the Broadcasting Act (1991). In addition, some functions are outlined in the National Transportation Act (1996) as well as the Railway Safety Act (1985).
One of the main functions of the CRTC is to ensure that Canadians own and control most of the country’s broadcasting firms. The designers of this function aimed at protecting the Canadian culture, politics, social fabric and economy from foreign infiltration (Edge, 2013).
In this case, it is believed that broadcast communication was one of the factors contributing to the country’s cultural degradation by exposing citizens to foreign cultures. The commission is also expected to ensure that there is high quality and exhaustive programming that fully utilizes Canadian talents and other local resources (Edge, 2013).
Speaking about media, it should provide a platform for people to give their opinions about the matters of public interest (Edge, 2011). In this case, CRTC is expected to ensure that everyone is given a fair opportunity to build his or her views.
For example, during the time of election campaigns, candidates could use broadcast media to reach the electorate. The commission should guarantee that all candidates get equal opportunity to use broadcast media without bias (Edge, 2011).
CRTC requires that broadcasting companies cover all parts of Canada using the two official languages in this country (Edge, 2011). The commission also mandates broadcasters to always remain updated on the advances in technology. With regard to telecommunication, CRTC has the mandate to protect the public by ensuring that charges for communication services are fair and affordable.
Stakeholders are people who are either directly involved in the activities of an organisation or not involved but affected by such activities (Armstrong, 2010). With this in mind, CRTC has several stakeholders. As Armstrong (2010) points out, some of the directly involved stakeholders are the commissioners and members of the secretariat. Appointment of commissioners is arranged by the Governor-in-Council.
Moreover, they are expected to be in office for a maximum period of five years. The commission is expected to come up with policies and regulations to be used in implementation of its mandate. The Governor-in-Council appoints the chairperson with the mandate to control all the affairs of the commission (Armstrong, 2010).
The chairperson is assisted by two vice chairpersons, one of whom takes over his or her responsibilities in an acting capacity in the absence of the chairperson. CRTC is comprised of thirteen commissioners maximum. The secretariat is responsible for implementation of all the commission’s policies. At the beginning of the financial year 2012-2013, CRTC had a human resource base of 448 employees (Edge, 2013).
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The Canadian broadcasting and telecommunication firms that are controlled by CRTC are stakeholders in the commission. The policies formulated by the commission are designed to manage functioning of these firms. In this case, it is expected that such policies are designed to govern broadcasting and telecommunication organisations in a manner that enhances quality and fairness (Armstrong, 2010).
The organisations mentioned above serve the public. In its turn, CRTC guarantees that communication firms provide quality services without imposing unfair prices. On a similar note, the Canadian government is another stakeholder in CRTC, which is a state agency mandated by the government to carry out some functions.
The government is expected to protect the public against unscrupulous businesspersons who offer poor services and charge high tariffs (Armstrong, 2010). The government also needs to act in favour of the country’s culture against infiltration by foreign values. This implies that the government will also fail if the commission fails. In this regard, the government owns the commission on behalf of Canadians.
CRTC is majorly funded by the government of Canada. The commission projects allocation of $53.1 million for the financial year 2013-2014. Out of the total amount, $17.6 million (33.14%) is planned to be spent on managing broadcasting. Another $17.6 million (33.14%) will be dedicated to telecommunications’ sector and $17.9 million (33.71%) is allocated for internet services (Winseck, 2010).
Scope of CRTC Operations
CRTC controls all the broadcast and telecommunication activities in Canada. The commission formulates and implements policies to achieve the objectives that led to its creation (Winseck, 2010). It is worth noting that the functions of CRTC are not as broad as the functions of its equivalent in the US (Federal Communications Commission).
For instance, disputes regarding broadcasting of unworthy contents are handled by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, abbreviated as CBSC. However, unsatisfied parties can refer the matter to CRTC for determination. Allocation of frequencies is also under the jurisdiction of CBSC (Armstrong, 2010).
One of the well-known functions of CRTC is management of cable television broadcast pricing. Today, this function is almost overtaken by events because too much competition from satellite broadcasters has kept prices at minimum levels (Armstrong, 2010).
CRTC also exercises control on the distribution of signals. In this case, the Broadcasting Act requires that locally owned broadcasting channels are given more priority as compared to foreign channels.
This requirement is designed to protect small Canadian broadcasting firms that may not be able to compete with large broadcasters from the United States. It also protects the country from too much foreign advertisement because some of the advertised products may be competing with the locally produced goods (Armstrong, 2010).
CRTC also regulates internet communication processes like covering audio and video contents. The commission has recently been investigating whether streaming of information on internet affects the rate of television and radio subscriptions in the country. Thus, it is expected to take measures if it finds that internet news affects radio and television subscriptions negatively (Edge, 2013).
In addition, CRTC exercises some control on landline telephone services in Canada. Traditionally, provision of landline services has been a privilege of only 2 main providers, in particular Bell and Telus (Armstrong, 2010). Due to some protection, the two service providers have been delivering very poor services. To enhance quality, the commission should stop protecting and encourage more competition.
Although CRTC is expected to control the amount of money charged by mobile service providers, complaints have been raised concerning its performance because some firms are charging people differently for the same services. Consequently, people claim that there is some bias in accessing mobile services yet the commission is mandated to facilitate fairness.
This inefficiency has been attributed to the confusion caused by existence of other bodies such as CBSC that deal with communication in Canada. It has been suggested that all communication issues are handled by one body to enhance efficiency (Armstrong, 2010).
CRTC also supervises the change of ownership of broadcasting firms that aims at ensuring that much ownership remains in the hands of Canadians (Murray, 2001). Therefore, according to the communications Act, pending transfer of ownership has to be taken to the commission for approval.
Impact and the Future of CRTC
The creation of CRTC had positive intensions. While most of the objectives have been achieved, efforts are still needed to fully streamline the functioning of the communication sector. CRTC has been successful in limiting foreign ownership of communication organisations in Canada (Edge, 2012). However, too much protection of local firms reduces competition and, consequently, sets a stage for a monopoly.
Under such circumstances, service providers offer poor services and increase charges. According to Armstrong (2010), this is the reason why some providers charge unreasonable prices. In addition, the current situation also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of CRTC given that price regulation is a part of its mandate.
CRTC and CBSC should be merged so that there is one body responsible for addressing all matters related to communication. After merging, the body should operate under one ministry and receive more support from the government.
The commission may also be affected by the current efforts to minimise trade barriers from the countries’ sides. Denying opportunities to foreign companies is against the spirit of globalisation (Armstrong, 2010).
Communication has the ability to change people’s perceptions. This is the reason why it is necessary to control the kind of information that reaches the public. In this regard, CRTC is put in place to ensure that the Canadian culture and values are protected against dilution. The commission also supervises pricing in the communication industry to protect the public against unscrupulous businesspersons.
It also ensures that services offered by media houses are of unquestionable quality. However, with the increasing need for globalization, it is expected that international politics may affect functioning of the commission, which operates alongside other state agencies that deal with communication. Effectiveness may not be realised if such bodies are not merged.
Armstrong, R. (2010). Broadcasting Policy in Canada. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto. Broadcasting Act, the (S.C. 1991, c. 11).
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the. (1976, c. 49, s. 1).
Dunbar, J.E., & Leblanc, C. (2007). Review of the regulatory framework for broadcasting services in Canada. Ottawa, Canada: CRTC.
Edge, M. (2011). Convergence after the collapse: The catastrophic case of Canada. Journal of Media, Culture & Society, 33(8), 1266-1278.
Edge, M. (2012). CRTC, no longer for sale? Astral Media ruling reverses rising tide of ownership concentration. Suva, Fiji: The University of the South Pacific.
Edge, M. (2013). Public benefits or private? The case of the Canadian Media Research Consortium. Canadian Journal of Communication, 33(10): 52-53.
Edwardson, R. (2008). Canadian content: culture and the quest for nationhood. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto.
Murray, C. (2001). Wellsprings of knowledge: Beyond the CBC policy trap. Canadian Journal of Communication, 26(1), 31-53.
National Transportation Act, the (S.C. 1996, c. 10).
Railway Safety Act, the. (R.S.C., 1985, c. 32).
Winseck, D. (2010). Financialization and the crisis of the media: The rise and fall of (some) media conglomerates in Canada. Canadian Journal of Communication, 35(2), 365-393.