the Honourable Beverley J. Oda Issue: North America 2007
Article no.: 1
Topic: The broadest spectrum: Canadian TV choices in the 21st century
Author: the Honourable Beverley J. Oda
Title: Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women
Organisation: Canadian Heritage and Status of Women
PDF size: 312KB

About author

Beverley J. Oda is Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women. Ms Oda is the first Japanese Canadian elected to the House of Commons (2004). She served as the Critic for Canadian Heritage and was also a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. She was re-elected in 2006. Before entering federal politics, Ms Oda spent more than 25 years in the fields of public and private broadcasting most recently as Senior Vice-President at CTV. From 1987 to 1993, she served as a commissioner with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC. She also worked as a consultant in government policies and regulation in broadcasting, multiculturalism, and diversity. Ms Oda has long been involved in the arts and theatre. She taught art, theatre arts and English in Mississauga for six years. In 2003, she was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, CAB, Broadcast Hall of Fame. Ms Oda has served on a number of national and international boards, including as chair of the Lakeridge Health Hospital Corporation. She is a recipient of the Queenís Golden Jubilee medal. Ms Oda holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto.

Article abstract

Television is a significant factor in Canadaís economy – it employs thousands in high-skill, high paying jobs – and is an important contributor to the protection and diversification of Canadaís social and cultural life. Canada was the first country to ratify UNESCOís Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. HDTV, digital broadcasting, Video on Demand, VoD, PVRs, personal video recorders, and other technologies are creating opportunities and opening markets for a wide range of products and services.

Full Article

This is a challenging time for the television industry in Canada; technological advances are giving viewers access to more options, including the best Canada has to offer at home and around the world, while at the same time opening up exciting new platforms for producers, distributors and broadcasters. We are living in an age of transition, a transition toward HDTV and digital broadcasting, toward programming being offered through unconventional channels, in short, toward ëTV here, there, everywhere, from anywhereí. The main beneficiaries are, of course, viewers, who now have access to a wider range of choices, in terms of both what to watch and how to watch it. Video on Demand, VoD, has been advanced by the arrival of PVRs, personal video recorders, the sale of CD box sets of popular TV series, and streaming content on the Internet. Entrepreneurs are rising to the challenge, seizing opportunities presented by new markets and emerging technologies, and meeting the new expectations of their audiences with a wide range of products. The transformation in technology and in viewer demand is taking television into a promising new era and having a notable impact in Canada. As a geographically large, culturally diverse and economically advanced nation, television is important to Canada on a number of levels. First, it is a significant driver of the economy. Television is an integral component of our creative economy, employing thousands of Canadians across the country in high-skill, high-wage jobs. It is also an important contributor to our social and cultural life, bringing Canadians closer together. Our broadcasting sector, including television, is an important element in our democratic life, providing an indispensable space for dialogue. Finally, in Canada we have additional considerations that are seldom a factor elsewhere, such as our close proximity to the American entertainment industry and our bilingual and multicultural society. Given all these factors, the primary goal of the various stakeholders in the television sector has always been to ensure that Canadians have access to choice, including to high-quality Canadian choices. Our first priority is maintaining a strong Canadian broadcasting system that supports the availability of such choices. We are taking action on a number of fronts to achieve our goal. One of these is Canadaís leadership in the development and the ratification of UNESCOís Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. We were the first country in the world to ratify this convention, which will ensure that countries are able to enhance their particular cultural expressions, including their own television productions. Another key measure is to ensure a flexible and responsive regulatory system that safeguards the public interest and puts citizens first. Last year, I asked the Canadian broadcasting systemís regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, to study how technological changes are expected to shape the broadcasting industry in the years ahead. The commission conducted an exhaustive study, consulting widely with stakeholders at every level. The CRTCís findings were published late last year, and it is the commissionís report that is now informing our work as we move forward to ensure that we have a strong Canadian broadcasting system. Embracing technological change As we take these and other steps to adapt to the new reality of television in the 21st century, we draw strength from the fact that Canada has a long history of adapting to technological innovation in broadcasting. Indeed, our commitment to embracing technological change is spelled out explicitly in our legislation. The Broadcasting Act, which sets forth our countryís broadcasting policy, states as a core objective that the broadcasting system should be ëreadily adaptable to scientific and technological changeí. In 1958, Canada unveiled a network of microwave towers that was nearly 7,000 kilometres – more than 4,000 miles – long, giving us a national television system. Over the years, Canadians have embraced such technological changes as the switch to colour television, the introduction of cable and the launch of satellite broadcasting. In each instance, we have seen new and richer opportunities foster stronger dialogue within the Canadian presence in the audio-visual world. Today, Canadians are accessing a greater variety of content than ever before, including diverse Canadian content. Between 1995 and today, the number of television services originating in Canada has grown more than two and a half times – from 90 to 231. Canadians also have access to more US and other foreign content; 135 foreign television services are currently authorized for distribution in Canada, 46 of which are broadcasting in languages other than English or French. Our citizens also enjoy greater access to content on new media platforms. Canada has consistently been a leader among G7 countries for broadband Internet penetration. At the end of 2005, 78 per cent of Canadians were using the Internet, and forecasts suggest that, by 2010, up to 80 per cent of Canadian Internet subscribers will have high-speed broadband connections. Furthermore, 60 per cent of Canadians have a digital camera, 59 per cent use a cell phone, 16 per cent use a digital music player, and ten per cent are using portable communications devices such as the Blackberry. The realities of the Canadian media industry are changing. New business models are evolving as Canadian companies consolidate, converge, launch new services, and explore new platforms. Traditional players and new enterprises are coming together, and the lines between broadcasting, telecommunications and the Internet are becoming blurred as traditional boundaries between media platforms dissolve. The overarching challenge remains the same: to ensure that the broadcasting system is flexible and responsive to change, while also safeguarding the public interest, which includes Canadian choices and access to those choices. Capitalizing on new opportunities We recognize that change is a constant. By approaching change in a spirit of partnership, stakeholders in the broadcasting sector are using new opportunities to their advantage. Technological advances are opportunities to expand Canadian cultural activity, opening up new windows to Canadian content. We see emerging platforms as new stages for Canadian artists, musicians and creators, multiplying the opportunities to reach Canadians and people around the world to showcase events, views and stories that are important to us. In Canada, our geography and diverse social reality have shaped us as world leaders in the communications world of the 20th century. People like Alphonse Ouimet, Spence Caldwell and others dared to seize the opportunities they saw and helped build the Canadian broadcasting system. All Canadians have benefited from their vision, their energy and their entrepreneurial spirit. That same daring and spirit inspires us in what we can accomplish today. It drives us forward to embrace the changes of the new digital era, and ensures we have a broadcasting policy that is responsive to, and reflective of, the changing nature of the broadcasting system and of Canadians.