Canada's broadcast regulator relaxes quotas for local content
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's broadcast regulator is relaxing long-standing requirements for television broadcasters to carry a certain amount of Canadian-produced content, saying some protections are no longer needed in a world of abundance and choice.
It is also making it much harder for established broadcasters to tie video-on-demand services meant to fight Netflix Inc's (NFLX.O: Quote) online content to their other TV or Internet services, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said on Thursday.
"In the Age of Abundance, where people can pick from among a multiplicity of programming choices on as many channels, quotas are square pegs in round holes," CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a speech.
The regulator said recent video-on-demand services, including a joint venture from Rogers Communications Inc (RCIb.TO: Quote) and Shaw Communications Inc (SJRb.TO: Quote) and a separate product from BCE Inc's (BCE.TO: Quote) Bell, must be offered to anyone with an internet connection or face onerous restraints.
The existing model for both the Shomi joint venture and Bell's CraveTV means that only existing customers of the companies' other services can subscribe, which had raised the ire of consumer groups.
Broadcasters will also be required to invest in the creation of domestic content, the CRTC said.
The regulator is also pushing for greater freedom for Canadian television viewers to buy only channels they watch, rather than require them to subscribe to large packages, with a decision expected next Thursday.
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Alastair Sharp in Toronto; Editing by David Gregorio and Leslie Adler)
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