Hon. J. W. Pickersgill (Minister of Transport):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on community antenna television broadcasting. In a statement on December 31, 1963, the Minister of Transport and the Secretary of State indicated that for some time the problem of the effect of community antenna television on national broadcasting policy had been of concern to the government.
In order to give the government an opportunity to consider the problem it was announced on December 31 that until further notice no new licences or amendments to existing licences would be approved for CATV installations to receive and disseminate programs emanating from broadcasting stations outside Canada. It was also decided that no new or amended licences would be granted to any applicant in any case where more than 25 per cent of the ownership of the installation was held by persons who are not citizens of Canada, in the same way as licences for television broadcasting are limited by the Broadcasting Act. This ownership requirement was confirmed by an interim ministerial order issued by the Minister of Transport on February 21, 1964.
The government asked the board of broadcast governors, in consultation with the technical experts of the Department of Transport, to inquire into and recommend any legislative action which might be required to ensure that, so far as the constitutional jurisdiction of parliament would permit, the use of community antenna television for the dissemination of television programs was subject to similar regulation under parallel conditions to that applied to broadcasting.
The report was received by the government on March 9, 1964 and was tabled in the house. Since that date the government has received representations from the national community antenna television association of Canada and given prolonged study to the problems involved.
The government has two main concerns. One is to see that CATV installations in Canada do not come under the ownership and control of persons and corporations which are not Canadian. The other is to see that CATV installations designed to receive broadcasts emanating from outside the area reached by any local Canadian television station, and particularly from outside Canada, are unlikely to make the operation of any existing television station uneconomic or to inhibit the provision of alternate Canadian television service in the area concerned.
So far as ownership is concerned, it has been found that the interim ministerial order of February 21 does not ensure an effective degree of Canadian ownership and control of CATV installations. It is proposed therefore to amend the order of the Minister of Transport so as to ensure effective Canadian ownership and control of new CATV installations. A draft of the proposed amending order is being tabled now. It will come into effect on August 1, and will apply only to new installations or to changes proposed for the first time after today in the ownership of existing installations. Applications already before the department will be considered on their individual merits as was the case before December 31, 1963.
The so-called freeze will be lifted immediately and the Minister of Transport will deal with pending applications after informal consultation with the board of broadcast governors on the possible effect on television broadcasting in the area concerned. Since there is some doubt as to the power of the board of broadcast governors to hold hearings, the government proposes to ask parliament, through approval of an item in the next supplementary estimates of the Department of Transport, to clothe the board with the necessary authority to hold such hearings pending a more formal amendment of the Broadcasting Act or the Radio Act. Meanwhile the Minister of Transport will, in the exercise of his powers under the Radio Act, content himself with informal consultation with the board of broadcast governors.
In announcing the lifting of the so-called freeze the government wishes to emphasize that it has no desire to regulate CATV for
Community Antennae Broadcasting the sake of regulation, but merely to the minimum extent deemed necessary to maintain the Canadian identity and character of broadcasting to the greatest extent practicable, in accord with the consistent position taken by all governments and parliaments since the Aird report of 1929.
Now, sir, I have for tabling what the government proposes as an item in the next supplementary estimates and what I propose to make as a ministerial order with regard to ownership. Possibly it would be very boring if I were to read these documents, and it might be convenient for hon. members either to have them printed as an appendix to Hansard or perhaps, in these very unusual circumstances, they might just follow my statement and be deemed to have been read, so they would all be in one place in Hansard-
Subtopic: STATEMENT ON COMMUNITY ANTENNA SYSTEMS