Terence Corcoran: CRTC fumbled its imaginary Super Bowl commercial crisis
Four months after listening to hours of gloomy testimony from Canada’s top broadcasting executives about how broken they think the country’s revenue model for local television is, the federal regulator made an announcement focusing its attention instead on something entirely else: ensuring Canadians will finally see flashy U.S. commercials during the Super Bowl.
For the first time, the CRTC will place a limited ban on the common industry practice known as simultaneous substitution, chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said Thursday at a London Chamber of Commerce gathering in London, Ont. This swapping practice generates a total of $250 million annually for Canadian broadcasters by allowing them to provide their own feed of international programs — from sports to sitcoms — swapping out American commercials for spots sold here to Canadian advertisers.
The lingerie maker’s commercial is undoubtedly already installed in the minds of National Football League fans as mandatory viewing, with this year’s deep subliminal message — boosted by a sultry female voice singing “I’m in the mood for love” — spelled out in text as “Let the Real Games Begin.” He, he. Get it?
The commercial is already up on the Internet. Not good enough for Mr. Blais.
In a bizarre speech in London, Ont., laying out new policy, he claimed to be responding to a groundswell of Canadians calling for action on the Super Bowl commercial crisis. “Canadians have told us loud and clear: Advertising is part of the spectacle associated with this event.”
Mr. Blais intends to fix that wrong, promising to ban simultaneous commercial substitution by CTV when it carries the Super Bowl in 2017. At the same time, Mr. Blais committed to move beyond the Super Bowl and tackle the general issue of simultaneous commercial substitution more broadly. The CRTC, he said, is not going to allow maintenance of the status quo.
And so, under Mr. Blais’ leadership, Canada’s broadcast regulator — upholder of Canadian content and foreign ownership rules, protector of the national public interest and self-proclaimed “bridge-builder” to the emerging free-for-all television revolution — has a new mission: upholding and enforcing the right of U.S. advertisers in Canada.
Aside from that, Mr. Blais’ plan undermines Canadian advertisers, stripping them of the opportunity to reach millions of NFL fans in Canada. The ban would also trash the contract rights of a Canadian broadcaster — in this case CTV with the NFL. All that for non-existent benefits, unless the objective is to give the CRTC something to do.
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