two solitudes: Alan Sawyer's views on the media industry

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Press: Ottawa urged to revisit TV rules


Financial Post (National Post)
Saturday February 18, 2006

Canada must re-evaluate broadcast regulatory policies to keep up with changing viewer habits and the proliferation of alternate TV viewing channels, including cellphones and iPods, according to a report by a senior strategy consultant at IBM Business Consulting Services.

"The unlimited choice offered by way of alternate delivery channels could adversely affect the Canadian television industry," Alan Sawyer said yesterday in a Canadian companion piece to an earlier IBM report called The End of TV as We Know It.

The lucrative practice of substituting Canadian advertising in broadcasts of American shows is in danger, for example, because the new methods of watching TV shows are threatening to disrupt traditional scheduling, he said.

The ability of consumers to order shows and watch them whenever and wherever they want is bound to shrink the audience during traditional network broadcasts when Canadian ads can be seen.

Another troubled spot in the current system is the production of Canadian shows to meet minimum Canadian content requirements, said Mr. Sawyer.

"Content that is truly Canadian in nature will appeal almost exclusively to Canadians and, in the global perspective, that's a small market," he said.

"[I]f consumers have a choice — and they will have many — we can't let our regulatory policies that have been advantageous thus far turn into a competitive disadvantage for Canadian content creators and distributors, or advertisers."

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission determined several years ago that it would not regulate the Internet, a facilitator of much on- demand broadcasting in the United States.

But in September, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, an industry lobby group, asked the CRTC to regulate mobile broadcasts following an introductory "experimental exemption" of two years. The CRTC has not made a decision.

Kevin Roberts, worldwide chief executive of media planning and advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, said yesterday that many advertisers are operating in "fear" mode as they anticipate the shift to alternative TV viewing methods.

Over the next 12 months, Saatchi & Saatchi's Canadian operation will work to break down traditional barriers between agency functions such as creative and planning to adapt advertising messages to fit new broadcast channels, he said.


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