By Jamie Sturgeon, Canwest News Service April 14, 2010
Konrad von Finckenstein, the head of Canada's broadcasting and communications regulator, is calling for massive reforms to the country's media and telecom rules but remains staunchly against opening up the domestic market to foreign takeovers.
As access to broadband Internet proliferates -- as well as the digital content it carries -- the chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission told a parliamentary committee Tuesday that his commission's powers are becoming "outdated."
He suggested to members of Parliament that the old framework that split regulation under the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts should be merged into a single "comprehensive" piece of legislation.
The convergence of broadcasting and telecommunications is now a "fact of life," the chairman said, as the country's major phone and cable firms such as BCE Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. offer services and content that historically was provided by broadcasters such as CTV Inc. and Canwest Global.
"Technological convergence has led to corporate convergence," he said. Thus, "we need a unified [regulatory] approach."
Yet the hot-button issue for industry watchers was how von Finckenstein would address foreign-ownership rules.
During last month's speech from the throne, the federal government strongly hinted it would remove laws preventing foreign firms from buying up domestic companies in Canada's highly regulated telecom sector in a move to bolster competition and promote greater investment.
True to the CRTC's long-held position, von Finckenstein said he was against foreign communications companies owning a majority stake in Canadian carriers, warning that throwing open the gates wholesale would results in a "branch plant" communications sector that would serve as nothing more than a "training ground for young executives from other countries."
I might be wrong, but I thought the CBC has special powers. If they want a frequency that is available (99.1 in Toronto), don't they have first dibs on it? Also, can the CBC not reject the CRTC decision when it comes to programming?