Ottawa, April 1, 2011
Mr. Konrad Von Finckenstein, Chair
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
1 Promenade du Portage
Dear Mr. Von Finckenstein:
Re: Over-The-Top Services Working Group
As you may know, on February 18, under the leadership of the Canadian Media Production Association and its President Norm Bolen, some 35 senior private sector executives from the distribution, telecommunications, broadcasting, production and creative sectors in Canada met to discuss foreign over-the-top services.
As a result of this initial meeting, a Working Group of executives representing all sectors of the Canadian industry gathered on March 23 to start developing an industry strategy around the following objectives: Ensuring the competitiveness of the Canadian broadcasting industry; And fostering the creation, production, distribution and promotion of high quality Canadian content on the new digital platforms. In order to achieve this, the Working Group has put in motion relevant research to assess the current and potential economic and cultural impact of foreign over-the-top services in Canada and to identify appropriate market-based and public policy responses.
At the same time, the Working Group wishes to make the following representations to the Commission.
First, the Working Group endorses the following recommendation of the May 2011 Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on "The Impact of Private Ownership Changes and the Move Towards New Viewing Platforms":
"That the Commission examine the growing emergence of non-Canadian broadcast players in the new digital realm and initiate a public consultation process to determine whether and how such non-Canadian companies should support Canadian cultural programming."
The Working Group believes indeed, like the Standing Committee, that foreign over-the-top services are becoming a significant presence in the domestic market. It is now public knowledge that a foreign over-the-top service operating in Canada has commissioned new exclusive dramatic content, including for the Canadian market. It is buying exclusive rights with studios in the windows of certain linear Canadian programming services. Therefore, the Working Group submits that the Commission should initiate the public consultation recommended by the Standing Committee.
Second, one of the important elements in assessing the status of foreign over-the-top services in Canada would be to obtain sufficient relevant information on their activities in our country. The Working Group is aware that the Commission has already sought information from new media broadcasting undertakings that are affiliated with a licensed Canadian broadcaster. While the Commission's questionnaire would need to be reformulated to be appropriate for foreign over-the-top services, the relevant Exemption Order permits the Commission to require such undertakings to provide such information as the Commission may request. In due course, the Working Group hopes to propose to the Commission what could be an appropriate form of questionnaire and a list of the foreign over-the-top operators that to our collective knowledge have a sufficient presence in Canada to warrant receiving a questionnaire.
Finally, we wish to express our appreciation for the quality of the March 24 CRTC Forum on Shaping Regulatory Approaches for the Future. The discussions were substantive and productive. On foreign over-the-top services, we believe they generally confirmed our analysis and support our representations.
Alain Gourd, Chair
Over-The-Top Services Working Group
cc: Robert Morin
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