Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is Canada's Chief Media Regulator Advocating Deregulation?

Broadcast Dialogue quotes CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein this week saying he has no idea if vertical integration in the media is a good thing but he’s concerned enough to have scheduled public hearings on the issue for May 9.

He also told a Commons committee late last week that with the broadcasting landscape changing at lightning speed – the advent of digital and the Internet – the rules and regulations may need to adapt. He rejects the notion that integration – owning both content distribution and production – necessarily narrows Canadians’ choices.

One of the areas that might change is radio, specifically AM. von Finckenstein said it’s been a long time since there was an application for a new AM licence. The question: “Should we still be regulating the AM market? Is there a case to be made for letting it go by way of exemption?”

He reportedly thinks the digital world is driven by the consumer and that the old top-down models are increasingly outdated, including regulation. To regulate by controlling access to the airwaves is yesterday's concept, he said.

It's tempting to respond to these statements with a shrug, a "duh" or "it's about time," and let it go at that, since the most rural Canadian provinces now have been left with absolutely no AM radio stations at all, leaving numerous remote agricultural areas with no local broadcast service, giving them only subscription cable companies to provide what local programming is still available.

Better late than never. It would be nice to hope that completely open AM airwaves would foster something exciting, new and profitable for those communities.

1 comment:

Seattle Times editorial said...

The FCC fails consumers on broadband, media concentration. AT the very least, the Federal Communications Commission is remarkably consistent. The agenda for Tuesday's meeting features the same timid fare one has come to expect from the commissioners.

Given the challenges and opportunities facing the nation's wireless and broadband industry and the consumer environment it drives, more is expected and desired. That's especially the case with turnover of the U.S. House of Representatives to regulatory-shy Republicans on the horizon.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski seeks to avert a "looming spectrum crisis" by luring TV broadcasters to surrender a share of their airwaves in exchange for a ration of the sale proceeds to mobile carriers.

With a nation forgoing TV watching for online video and all manner of wireless applications, the opportunity for a fresh revenue stream might be compelling for broadcasters.

Concern about available spectrum has others in government, notably the Commerce Department, looking for ways to slice and dice the ether. Those are worthy, practical tasks, but the FCC has more basic issues it has avoided with Genachowski in charge.