Bell asks CRTC to drop local news requirements

Toronto –

BCE Inc.’s media division is asking federal telecommunications regulators to waive local news and Canadian programming requirements for television stations, saying its mandate is based on outdated market realities.

In an application filed with the CRTC on June 14, Bell Media listed its spending on local news and the amount per week required for stations to broadcast news of local content in major and minor markets. requested to withdraw the regulatory requirement on the number of hours of

The filing cuts 1,300 jobs, closes or sells nine radio stations and shuts down two foreign stations, amid plans to “substantially change” how Bell distributes its news in the face of mounting financial pressure. filed on the same day as the announcement of

Bell said in its filing that its 35 local television stations under the brand names CTV, CTV Two and Noovo and three discretionary television news services — CP24, CTV News Channel and BNN Bloomberg — are in financial distress. pointed out.

He called on English-language television stations in metropolitan markets to remove the requirement to broadcast at least 14 hours of local programming per week. In Quebec, Bell also called on regulators to remove the requirement that Montreal stations broadcast at least five hours of local programming a week.

Among other requests, Bell called on the CRTC to allow broadcasters in major markets to not have to broadcast news that reflects local topics for at least six hours each week. For non-metropolitan stations, Bell wants to be able to broadcast local topics in less than three hours each week.

It also asked regulators to waive the company’s requirement to spend 11% of the previous year’s total revenue on local news acquisitions and investments.

“The relief request we are seeking will allow us to better manage our regulatory obligations through the evolving competitive landscape for the Canadian broadcasting industry as it faces competition from digital media broadcasting businesses,” the petition said. described in the book.

The filing said Bell Media’s average annual news operating loss totaled $28.4 million from 2016 to 2019, but that number jumped to $40 million last year as the web giant scooped up the Canadian ad market. pointed out.

Bell said the CRTC’s implementation of the online streaming law could bail out media companies through compensation from online streaming giants, but said he couldn’t afford to wait for the outcome of regulatory talks on the bill.

The bill echoed many of the concerns Bell’s chief legal and regulatory officer Robert Malcomson expressed last week about the bill, which was approved by the king in April and is currently in the consultation stage.

Malcomson said a central issue for Bell is that popular U.S. content is not available to Canadian broadcasters because U.S. platforms offer it directly to consumers on their streaming services. . He called on policymakers to require guarantees that would allow Canadian broadcasters to pay U.S. companies to air their content.

Regulators have independently initiated the first three of at least nine consultations on the bill, which are likely to stretch for more than a year.

“In particular, without this relief, we would need to continue to operate these bases in an environment of significant regulatory uncertainty while the European Commission seeks to implement the policy directives of Bill C-11. There will be,” the application said.

“The traditional broadcasting industry is in danger, which is why the European Commission must act now and allow the deregulation we are seeking.”

Job cuts last week included a 6% cut at Bell Media. Malcomson told The Canadian Press that the company is “integrating news collection (and) news distribution” on “one news collection and distribution platform.”

In its second petition, filed on June 14, Bell asked the CRTC to reduce its Canadian content spending obligations for English-language television stations from 30% to 20% of the previous year’s revenue.

It also called for reducing the annual amount that English-language television stations must spend on national interest programming from 7.5% of the previous year’s revenue to 5%.

“The cuts we are proposing will better enable broadcasters to survive and compete,” the application states. “Such an approach could improve the prospects for broadcasters and improve long-term investments in Canadian productions.”

This report by the Canadian Press Agency was first published on June 23, 2023.

CTV News is a division of Bell Media, part of BCE Inc.

BCE Inc. statement provided to CTV News

Bell Media is Canada’s leading provider of local news, but public policy changes are desperately needed now to sustain their news operations into the future. Bell Media’s news business lost $40 million in revenue last year, even though we are Canada’s news leader. These operating losses will only grow if we do not change the way we operate to meet today’s changing consumer demands. Now is the time for the CRTC to make sensible regulatory improvements to give Bell Media and other broadcasters more flexibility in how they deliver local news in both large and small markets.

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