Canadian Government Regulation on Telecommunication and Broadcasting

Table of Contents


Most governments regulate telecommunications and broadcasting, whereas newspapers, book and magazine publishing, video and filmmaking, and sound recording are not regulated. Instead, governments have support policies for the latter cultural industries. The essay looks into the nature of government policies that regulate telecommunication and broadcasting and those that support the other cultural industries. While the significance of communication in society cannot be overlooked, the essay tries to examine the reason why governments support some forms of the same while controlling the activities of others.

Communication and by extension entertainment are a force which has been contributing to the solidity of societies and is therefore a structuring element which is both facilitating and constricting. It is not possible to set apart the affairs of people and the society from communication which is the representative of those affairs. The cultural industry is the facet that imposes on the present, and the future of humans. Rationales for the government policies on the cultural industries are mainly development of culture, democratic participation, failure of the market and public service.

Thesis statement

The Canadian government exerts more regulations on telecommunication and broadcasting than on the cultural industry.


To begin with, it is necessary to understand the nature of the cultural industry. This is the industry through which centralization of production and dissemination of information as well as entertainment merchandise is carried out. In addition it is also the avenue for decentralization of production and provision of access to this information and entertainment products. It is also the industry where intelligence is exchanged in masses by the population. The mass media is more than just entertainment and information as Lorimer says. It also plays a role in promotion of culture as well as politics of a nation (Lorimer, Gasher & Skinner 282).

On the other hand, cultural policy is the preparedness a government shows in adopting and implementing a set of principles, objectives and ways for protecting and promoting the nation’s expression of culture. Support of the cultural industry is definitely an important way through which a country can emphasize its distinction from other countries (Salter and Odartey 719).

The modern day media emerged simultaneously with the industrial society. With this came the issue of freedom in the media in all nations that boasted democracy. Freedom of the press has been a matter of debate now and then in various nations in the world. This is despite the fact that theorists of communication often disagree on the role of the media in politics and society. The history of the Canadian press has shaped the principles set for their operation and freedom.

The Canadian telecommunication and broadcasting industry differs from the rest of the cultural industry which includes film-production and book-publishing in several important ways. The former is released into society through legal and government regulatory frameworks besides their content which includes images, symbols and information. In comparison, the cultural industry is enjoys more freedom in terms of legal regulations. The cultural industry seems to be more favored by the government policies, while utilizing regulatory policies to manipulate the telecommunication and broadcasting industries. There are hence various rationales that governments use to defend their regulatory and support policies (About the CRTC 2008).

Canada has a commission known as the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). This is a regulatory body whose main task is to oversee the state’s broadcasting and telecommunications sector. It is owned by the federal government. It regulates and supervises all the aspects of the broadcasting system. It also regulates carriers and providers of services under the federal jurisdiction (About the CRTC). However, the government has no commission in place to regulate or oversee the cultural industry. This points out clearly how the government is more involved in controlling telecommunication and broadcasting, and allowing freedom to persist in the cultural industry.

The reason for government regulation on broadcasting as opposed to other cultural industries is mainly that the frequencies for broadcasting are considered to be a public domain. Though important, it must also encompass the cultural industry, especially the movie industry, which closely follows broadcasting, in terms of public demand. This will help in maintaining a balance between the two in terms of regulations. To begin with, there were not many frequencies.

However, there were numerous numbers of newspapers and other publications. There was therefore a necessity to regulate the number of people who could access the limited number of frequencies. The need for regulation also arises from the fact that the Canadian nation as well as other nations has mixed systems of telecommunication and broadcasting which include private, public and community aspects. This may not be in line the wants or the needs of the mass media companies with regards to certain restriction on their activities. If the Canadian telecommunication and broadcasting industry is freed just as the cultural industry, it’s evident that its functioning would be more democratic, and favorable to all stakeholders. (Lorimer, Gasher & Skinner 282).

In Canada, the government has always intended to establish policies which keep pace with the rapidly changing technology. The Canadian Radio Broadcasting Act was the first broadcasting legislation. The current legislation act was however established in 1968 and modified in 1991. The aim of regulation on broadcasting in Canada is to make sure that all Canadians can access quality programming.

The regulations also protect culture as well as promote the social, political and economic structures of any particular government which has implemented the regulations. The broadcasting act aims at policy goals for the whole broadcasting system and also the regulation goals for CRTC. It is the latter that has ensured the development of cultural content in the broadcasting system (About the CRTC 2008). On the contrary, the government has overlooked regulations in the cultural industry whose activities can be even more hazardous than it can be in the telecommunication and broadcasting. The movie industry is a good example which can result in eroding the Canadians culture and values if not well regulated.

On the other hand, Salter says that regulation of telecommunication in Canada goes hand in hand with that of broadcasting and was established in 1906 with amendments in 1908. The first regulation was on telephone services. The policy aims at ensuring high quality and reliable telephone service. However, the policy regulates the rates, a move which locks out the main player, i.e. the telecommunication industry from enjoying its freedom in taking part in the decision of the rates, which are reasonable and accessible for all Canadians (Media and broadcasting legislation n. d.).

While we have stated that the cultural industries include film-production, music recording and publishing, we cannot fail to note that it also includes the new media which in this case is includes the Web, blogging and audiovisual production. Policies on telecommunication apply to various areas which include telephone, telegraph, data networks, telex and satellite communication and recently the internet.

The cultural industry in Canada is the means through which the state distributes and promotes the cultural products both within and outside the country. It is therefore crucial for the Canadian government to support the industry so that Canadians are able to know the talented artists they have. These writers, musicians, actors and singers among other artists need the domestic industry in order for them to produce, sell as well as promote their merchandise. (Lorimer, Gasher & Skinner 283).

The government of Canada has come up with ways for supporting the cultural industry. They include funds, content requirements, measures on tax and foreign investment besides ownership regulations. The measures ensure that all the Canadians have access to the industry without limiting the access they have to foreign material as well. However, there are minimal measures and regulatory structure to ascertain the value and quality of the materials.

Government policies for the cultural industries in Canada began in the beginning of the 50s while the development of those policies did not begin until the 70s. Among the reasons why governments support cultural industries are reasons related to the industry itself. In Canada, such industry-related reasons include investment in the production of films and video and incentives for broadcasting the Canadian productions.

This applies for the music records too where content of the music is of significance. In the same state, the government measures for structural, cultural and industrial support have seen to the development of the sector. The Income Tax Act has on the other hand been effective in controlling ownership of the magazine publications (About CRTC 2008).

From this information, it is clear that the most important concern for the cultural industry is control and ownership of the system of distribution, and not the welfare of the citizens. Canada’s ownership provision makes it possible for the state to dominate in the field of newspapers. In the rest of published material and the film industry, the US has total dominance. This foreign dominance clearly implies the fact that the government is reluctant in regulating its film industry, to the benefit of its citizens. Though the government manifests its support for the cultural industry, its concern for regulating the industry comes at a distance.

Besides direct funding, governments have employed other strategies for nurturing and promoting culture. Such include establishment of public institutions and services like public libraries and archives, galleries and museums. However, there is also legislation, for instance Copyright and Status of the Artist laws. The government protects the industry against export of valuable cultural material and heritage and artifacts. There are guidelines which govern purchase of textbooks and distribution of films.

These, in addition to ownership and regulations on control and content are ways through which governments ensure the promotion of the industry (The Implications of Convergence for Regulation of Electronic Communications 2004). The media attaches itself to society via a procedure of integration of the content of the media with the contemporary social life. Nonetheless, the interpretation is not always safe as it also involves some form of violence, pornography and staging of real issues. The media influences the interpretation and comprehension of the world we live in and hence the activities of society (Lorimer, Gasher & Skinner 282).

It is factual that the Canadian government favors the cultural industry in terms protection from foreigners. A good example is the 1985 case of publishing. The Canadian cabinet was convinced to implement the “Baie Comeau Foreign Ownership Policy.” The policy prohibited Noncanadian Company in buying a Canadian publisher. It also stipulated that no new foreign distribution firm would be established in the country.

The Canadian film industry, particularly the movie industry lacks regulation. Though a good idea of freedom, foreigners took the advantage, and dominated the industry. The government on realization of these phenomena, designed measures which allocated the local movies more space in cinemas (the Canadian Conference of the Arts, p.6). The minimal regulations imposed on the cultural industry are meant to protect and safeguard the industry from foreigners, while the regulations in the telecommunication and broadcasting are more meant to restrict their operations and freedom.


The explosion of technology that is used in telecommunication and broadcasting has been rapid. The internet has especially been useful in achieving a number of functions. It has facilitated communication, enabled dissemination of information and other material and enabled universal access of intelligence information. Above all, it has enabled spread of culture.

The cultural industry in Canada, despite facing financial problems, is gaining popularity across the globe. Government continues to support the industry amid debate of the importance of doing so. The Canadian government regulation of its telecommunication and broadcasting industry is crucial in protecting the welfare of the general public, despite taking over the industries’ freedom.

This is in contrast to the cultural industry, whose minimal regulation has led to foreigners’ intrusion into the industry, posing a great not only to the industry, but also to the public. Governments therefore, should ensure that the cultural industry as well as the telecommunication and broadcasting are synchronized and balanced, with regards to policies that aims at regulating their activities

Works cited

“About the CRTC.” Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. 2008. Web.

Lorimer, Rowland, Gasher, Mike, and Skinner, David. Mass Communication in Canada. (6th Ed). Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 282.

“Media and broadcasting legislation.” Web.

Salter, L. & Odartey-Wellington, F. The CRTC and Broadcasting Regulation in Canada. Thomson-Carswell: 2008, p. 719.

“The Implications of Convergence for Regulation of Electronic Communications,” OECD Working Party on Telecommunication and Information Services Policies, 2004.

“Why Canadian Cultural Industries Need Effective Legislation and Enforced Regulation To Maximize Competition.” Canadian Conference of the arts. 2008. Web.

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