REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE Thursday, March 20, 2003

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications

has the honour to present its

FOURTH REPORT


Your Committee, to which was referred Bill S-8, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act, has, in obedience to the Order of Reference of October 24, 2002, examined the said Bill and now reports the same without amendment. Your Committee appends to this report certain observations on the Bill.

Respectfully submitted,

JOAN FRASER
Chair


Observations of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications on Bill S-8, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act 

            Your Committee endorses the content and philosophy of Bill S-8, namely that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) should have the same power to award costs to interveners in broadcasting hearings that it has in telecommunications hearings.  This support was previously noted in your Committee’s Fourth Report during the First Session of the Thirty-Seventh Parliament.  During the course of hearings on this Bill, however, witnesses raised several concerns. 

            The Bill does not specify the exact mechanism for the awarding of costs to interveners at broadcasting hearings.  The Telecommunications Act does provide a model – one that officials from the CRTC thought worked well – but several witnesses expressed concerns.  They said that hearings for broadcasting and telecommunications are not comparable.  In particular, telecom hearings are more technical and attract a relatively small number of specialist interveners, including lawyers, economists and accountants.  There is no ceiling on the awards at telecom hearings; the size of awards has varied considerably, from a low of $151.59 (Costs Order CRTC 2000-4) to a high of $305,091.64 (Taxation Order CRTC 98-6). 

            Broadcasting hearings tend to be less technical and attract a larger number of interveners.  Some witnesses suggested that using the telecom model of cost awards could lead to more technical hearings for broadcasting, and the larger number of interveners could lead to higher total intervener costs for broadcasting hearings than for telecom hearings.   

            In addition, several witnesses suggested that small broadcasters and small, rural cable systems would be hurt if they had to pay intervener costs.  The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) also raised concerns about a possible financial burden if it were subject to the Bill.  Large payments could harm the CBC’s financial position and lead to a cut-back in services to Canadians. 

            While your Committee supports the Bill, it also urges all those involved in developing mechanisms for its implementation to pay particular attention to these issues. 


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