The CRTC regulates what prices cable television companies are allowed to charge, as well as which channels they must or may offer. They give priority to Canadian signals—many non-Canadian channels which compete with Canadian channels are thus banned. As well, when a Canadian network licenses a television show from an American network and shows it in the same time slot, cable companies must replace the show on the American channel with the broadcast of the Canadian channel (along with any overlays and commercials). This explains why Canadians don't see the popular American Super Bowl advertisements even when watching an American network.
In 2004, the CRTC was involved in three controversial decisions:
CHOI: The CRTC announced it would not renew the license of the popular CHOI radio station in Quebec, after receiving about 50 complaints about offensive behavior by radio jockeys. Many thousands of the station's fans have marched in the streets against the decision, and are organizing a march on Parliament Hill.
RAI: This Italian station was banned on the grounds that it would compete with Telelatino, a station which already produces shows in Italian. Many Italian-Canadians who either prefer RAI or cannot receive Telelatino are using "grey market" satellite dishes of dubious legality, which pick up signals from the United States, in order to watch RAI.
Al Jazeera: Despite concerns over possible anti-semitic incitement on this station, it has been approved by the CRTC as an optional cable offering. However, the CRTC is demanding that any carrier which shows Al Jazeera must edit out any instances of hate speech. Many in the Arabic community feel frustrated, since it seems unlikely that any cable company will carry the station under such restrictions. The Canadian Jewish Congress has expressed its opinion that the restrictions are appropriate, while the Canadian B'nai Brith is opposed to any approval of Al Jazeera in Canada. Again, many Canadians are using grey market dishes to receive the station without regulation.
In addition, the CRTC's apparent reluctance to grant a digital licence to Fox News had angered many conservative Canadians who believed the network was being kept out due to its perceived conservative bias. The fact that services such as CNN and BBC World had been available in Canada for many years helped to fuel these arguments. However, on November 18, 2004 the CRTC approved an application by Fox News to offer its services to Canadians.
Pursuant to legislation establishing a new Broadcasting Act and amending the CRTC Act the commission's composition (originally 9 full-time and 10 part-time members) was changed in June 1991 to a maximum of 13 full time and 5 part time members appointed for terms not exceeding 5 years.
The CRTC's chairmen have been Pierre Juneau 1968-75, Harry Boyle 1975-7, Pierre Camu 1977-9, John Meisel 1980-3, and André Bureau 1983-9, succeedeed by Keith Spicer 1989 While Spicer was absent to head the Citizens' Forum on National Unity, Alex Colville was chairman 1990-1.
The CRTC at first reported to Parliament through the secretary of state, but early in the 1970s it began reporting through the minister of communications.
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