Bell Wants a CRTC News Fund, Paid for By Foreign Streaming Services

Bell has proposed to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) the establishment of a news fund to help make up for losses facing broadcasters. This fund is intended to assist broadcasters and allow contributions from foreign streaming services towards Canadian content expenditure.

During a CRTC panel discussion on Tuesday, Bell representatives advocated for the exemption of Canadian streaming platforms, like its own Crave, from this fund until traditional broadcasters receive regulatory relief. The hearing is a part of the CRTC’s public consultations, which began on Monday and will continue for three weeks, responding to Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act.

Bill C-11, which received royal assent in April, aims to modernize the Broadcasting Act. It requires digital platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, and TikTok to contribute to and promote Canadian content.

Bell’s presentation addressed what they termed a “crisis” for Canadian broadcasters. Jonathan Daniels, Bell Canada’s vice-president of regulatory law, criticized the CRTC’s current approach, saying “your priorities are backwards,” reports The Canadian Press.

“Traditional broadcasters, the linchpin of the Canadian broadcasting system, need relief and we need it now,” Daniels remarked. He highlighted the challenges faced by local broadcasters, including customer loss to streaming services and increased content acquisition costs.

Daniels emphasized that Bell’s proposal to compel digital streamers to fund subsidies would increase the broadcasting system’s funding for Canadian news and television productions while reducing traditional broadcasters’ obligations.

In June, Bell made two submissions to the CRTC, including a plea to reduce its Canadian content spending obligation on some television stations and to eliminate spending requirements on local news and the mandated broadcasting hours for locally reflective news.

These submissions coincided with Bell announcing a significant workforce reduction, the closure or sale of nine radio stations, and the shutting down of two foreign bureaus.

Bell Media has also sought to challenge a CRTC decision that renewed its broadcast licenses for three years without a public hearing, fearing that this might lead to a prejudgment of the issues raised in its June applications.

The CRTC’s prior engagement with the Online Streaming Act implementation set a threshold to determine which streaming services in Canada, with annual revenues exceeding $10 million, will be subject to new regulations. A decision in September mandated these streaming services to report their activities to the CRTC.

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