BUSINESS

CRTC Loosens CanCon Rules, Says Streaming Services Must Be Available To All

03/12/2015 01:59 EDT | Updated 03/13/2015 11:59 EDT

Canada’s telecom watchdog announced major changes to the country’s broadcasting regulatory framework on Thursday, relaxing Canadian content regulations on some broadcasters and requiring streaming services to be made available to all Canadians if they include exclusive content.

Rogers’ Shomi and Bell’s CraveTV are two services that will be affected by the decision. Both of these streaming services, announced in recent months and intended to compete with Netflix, had been available only to Rogers and Bell customers, respectively.

The move is meant “to ensure Canadian video-on-demand services can compete on an equal footing with online video services,” a CRTC statement said.

“Canadian video-on-demand services will be able to offer exclusive content as long as they are available to all Canadians over the Internet. This means that Canadians would not need to have a cable or satellite subscription in order to access these services,” the Financial Post quoted the CRTC as saying.

The regulator also loosened CanCon requirements on local TV stations and specialty channels, but maintained their requirement to spend a certain amount of their revenue on TV production. This will allow stations to spend more creating fewer TV shows, if they choose.

Local and specialty stations will still have to devote half their prime-time schedule to CanCon, but the quota for daytime TV drops to zero from 55 per cent.

"We want creators and distributors to choose quality over quantity," CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais said in a speech to the Canadian Club of Ottawa.

"Such an approach creates a virtuous cycle where the industry invests to create better programs, which in turn bring more value into the system, which in turn generates more money to re-invest in content made by Canadians."

The CRTC is also scrapping “genre protection” — rules that require specialty stations to broadcast a minimum amount of certain types of content, such as music videos on MuchMusic.

The elimination of genre protection caused some consternation online, with critics pointing out many specialty channels have already been moving away from the type of content associated with their specialty.

Blais argued that both CanCon quotas and genre protection "are idea[s] that [are] wholly anachronistic in the age of abundance and in a world of choice."

One thing the CRTC did not do is institute a “Netflix tax” — a fee levied on streaming services meant to pay for the generation of CanCon.

Traditional broadcasters had argued before the CRTC that CanCon was at risk if streaming services like Netflix were not required to pay into media funds, as the traditional broadcasters are.

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