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June 9, 2009

CRTC calls for national digital strategy
New media exempt from regulations

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced last Thursday that, after a careful examination and a full process, it will maintain its approach for broadcasting content distributed over the Internet and through mobile devices. The Commission will continue to exempt new media broadcasting services from its regulation and monitor trends as they evolve.

“While broadcasting in new media is growing in importance, we do not believe that regulatory intervention is necessary at this time," said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC. "We found that the Internet and mobile services are acting in a complementary fashion to the traditional broadcasting system. Any intervention on our part would only get in the way of innovation."

He claims that the Commission was not presented with convincing evidence that would suggest additional support, as proposed, was needed for the creation and presentation of Canadian broadcasting content in new media.

Given the dynamic nature of the new media environment, the Commission expects to review its approach within the next five years. In the meantime, the Commission will introduce a reporting requirement for new media broadcasting services to ensure that it has the best information available for future reviews.

The Commission will also initiate a reference to the Federal Court of Appeal to clarify the status of internet service providers (ISPs). The Court will be asked to determine whether the Broadcasting Act should apply to ISPs when they provide access to broadcasting content.

The CRTC claims that the scope of the Commission's examination of the new media phenomenon was limited given its mandate under the Broadcasting Act. The digital era presents many opportunities and challenges, which can only be addressed through a holistic approach. Many countries have already developed their own plans to respond to this environment. The Commission therefore fully endorses the National Film Board's call for a national digital strategy.

" Canada needs a comprehensive national strategy to secure its digital future," said Mr. von Finckenstein. "Such a strategy is essential if we want to maintain a competitive advantage in this global environment."

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