February 17, 2016 / 8:59 PM / in 4 years

Canada regulator warns broadcasters not to skimp on news

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian broadcasters have a responsibility to invest in robust news operations and will be held to account for those obligations ahead of license renewals due next year, the head of the country’s broadcast regulator said on Wednesday.

A string of Canadian television and radio stations have cut jobs and reduced programming in recent months as they adjust to rising online competition.

But the broadcast media industry has the resources to respond and an audience eager for quality journalism, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said, and must step up to the challenge.

“There were decisions made recently that were completely valid because there were no conditions of license,” Blais said in an interview. “The good thing about licensing renewals is that we have an opportunity to have a second look.”

Those decisions include Rogers Communications Inc and BCE Inc trimming of 200 jobs including in conventional television, radio, and publishing, and BCE Inc’s cutting of some 380 jobs in its Bell Media unit last year.

Blais said the CRTC likely will issue a decision on new rules for local television news in June, following a public hearing. Hearings on license renewals will follow.

Cable and satellite companies, including BCE and Rogers, will by March 1 be required to offer a new small basic television package with a focus on local programming.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Bill Trott

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