Media in Canada

Media in Canada

Canada has a well-developed media sector, but its cultural output — particularly in English films, television shows, and magazines — is often overshadowed by imports from the United States. Television, magazines, and newspapers are primarily for-profit corporations based on advertising, subscription, and other sales-related revenues. Nevertheless, both the television broadcasting and publications sectors require a number of government interventions to remain profitable, ranging from regulation that bars foreign companies in the broadcasting industry to tax laws that limit foreign competition in magazine advertising.

In the broadcasting sector, Canada has a government-funded broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Société Radio-Canada, which operates radio and TV networks in English and French and some Aboriginal languages. As well, some provincial governments offer their own public educational TV broadcast services as well, such as Ontario's TVOntario and Quebec's Télé-Québec. Given Canada's small market and its position next to the dominant producer of feature films, the Canadian film industry requires substantial assistance from the government. In the 2000s, about half of the budget of a typical Canadian film came from various federal and provincial government sources.


Canadian Reginald Aubrey Fessenden, the "Father of Radio Broadcasting", was the first person ever to broadcast a voice by radio waves that were heard by another person. On December 23, 1900, from a site on Cobb Island in the middle of the Potomac River near Washington, DC, Fessenden said "one - two - three - four, is it snowing where you are Mr. Thiessen? If it is, would you telegraph back to me?" Mr. Thiessen, one mile away, confirmed, and radio broadcasting was born.

Fessenden presented radio's first program on Christmas Eve 1906. With the assistance of his wife Helen, her friend and an assistant, he broadcast from Boston. Wireless operators on ships in the harbour heard the inventor play "O Holy Night" on his violin and Helen and her friend sing Christmas carols. [( [] )]

The history of Canadian media performers goes back to the first days of radio. In the 1940s an association was formed called the Radio Artists of Toronto Society - RATS. Radio performers in Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver also organized to fight for artists' rights, working conditions and better fees. In 1943, the Association of Canadian Radio Artists (ACRA) was formed as a loose national coalition of actors' groups. Over the years, ACRA evolved to become the Association of Canadian Radio and Television Artists, the Canadian Council of Authors and Artists, the Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists and, in 1984, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists. [( [ ACTRA 2005] )]

The Canadian Broadcasting Act, historically and in its modern conception, is based on the fact that since the start of the 20th century, it was important for broadcasters to ensure that information flowed freely and reflected the diversity of Canadian points of view, as opposed to the classic approach, which gives media owners more freedom to express their views. "The Canadian broadcasting system as we know it today would probably not exist if we had allowed the marketplace to regulate ownership rights." [( [ Pierre Trudel] , Professor, L.R. Wilson Chair, Information Technologies and Electronic Commerce Law, Public Law Research Centre, University of Montreal, May 29, 2003)]

Television broadcasting

The Canadian television broadcasting industry is split between public and private ownership. Canada currently has 130 originating television stations, which broadcast on 1,456 transmitters across the country, on both the VHF and UHF bands.

In addition to the public Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/Société Radio-Canada, which operates both English and French television networks, there are four major private TV networks. CTV and Global broadcast in English, and are available throughout the country. TVA and TQS broadcast in French and are available over the air only in Quebec (and some communities in Ontario and New Brunswick which are near the Quebec border), although TVA is available across Canada on cable. Radio-Canada (the French division of the CBC), TVA and TQS function in the particular cultural context of Quebec television. Most network stations are owned and operated by the networks themselves, although all networks except Global have some affiliates with different ownership.

In addition, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, a service devoted mainly to programming from the First Nations, is considered a network by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, although in most of Canada APTN airs only on cable.

There are, as well, a number of smaller broadcast systems, which are treated as independent local stations which air some common programming:
* Citytv
* A-Channel
* E!
* Joytv
* Omni Television

Several provinces maintain provincial public broadcasting networks in addition to the CBC:
* Télé-Québec
* TVOntario and TFO
* Saskatchewan Communications Network
* Knowledge (British Columbia)Unlike in the United States, where a statewide public network is usually the state's primary PBS member station, the provincially-owned public systems in Canada are "not" CBC affiliates, but distinct networks which offer entirely different programming schedules.

Only CBC/Radio-Canada, TVA and APTN are officially considered national networks by the CRTC, while TQS is a provincial network in Quebec. CTV and Global are legally considered "television services" even though they operate as networks for all practical purposes.

As well, there are a few independent stations, including CKXT in Toronto, CFTU in Montreal, CJON in St. John's and CJIL in Lethbridge. However, most of these are not general entertainment stations like independent stations in the United States, but are instead specialty community channels or educational services. CKXT and CJON are the only independent commercial stations currently operating in Canada, although CJON sublicenses a mix of programming from the main commercial networks rather than purchasing program rights independently.

TV station callsigns in Canada are usually made up of four letters, although two stations have three call letters (CKX in Brandon and CKY in Winnipeg) and some (primarily CBC-owned Radio-Canada stations) have five. The first call letter is always "C", and callsigns of privately owned television stations start with the two-letter combinations of "CF", "CH", "CI", "CJ", or "CK". The combinations "CG", "CY", "CZ" and several combinations beginning with "V" and "X" are also assigned to Canada, but to date no Canadian television station has ever been licensed to take a call sign within those ranges.

CBC-owned stations use call letters beginning with the combination "CB" (through a special agreement with the government of Chile); private affiliates of the CBC use the same combinations as other private stations. The CBC has also sometimes directly acquired former private affiliate stations; these usually (although not always) retain their historic call sign rather than changing to a CB call.

While Canadian TV stations are technically required to identify themselves over the air by their call letters, the rule is rarely enforced by the CRTC. As a result, many TV stations "never" use their call letters for any purpose other than official CRTC business, and are instead identified by a brand such as "CTV Northern Ontario", "OMNI.1" or "Global BC".

There is no clear rule for the call letters of rebroadcasters—some are labelled by the call-letters of the originating station, followed by a number, while others have their own distinct call letters. Low-power repeater transmitters (LPRTs) have their own unique callsign format, which consists of the letters CH followed by four numbers. Some rebroadcast transmitters are licensed as "semi-satellites", which are licensed to air separate commercials (and, on rarer occasions, a limited amount of distinct programming) targeted to their community of license.

Canada also has a large number of cable channels. For a more extensive list of Canadian TV broadcast outlets, see List of Canadian television channels.

Although all broadcast networks in Canada are required to produce and air some Canadian content, only the English and French networks of the CBC run predominantly Canadian-produced schedules. (The English network does run some imported programming, such as "Coronation Street", "Doctor Who" and "Emmerdale", the game shows "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!", and strip reruns of "The Simpsons" and "Arrested Development".) Both CTV and Global have at times faced criticism over their level of commitment to producing and airing Canadian programming. Both networks often find it easier to purchase rights to hit American series than to invest in Canadian productions, which are often prohibitively costly for the comparatively small size of the Canadian market. The French-language networks traditionally have had less difficulty meeting their Canadian content obligations, as the language difference makes Francophone audiences much more readily receptive to home-grown programming than to dubbed American imports.

Digital television is an emerging technology in Canada. Although some TV stations have begun broadcasting digital signals in addition to their regular VHF or UHF broadcasts, this is not yet as widespread as in the United States. Although most markets have digital channel assignments already in place, to date digital broadcasts have only launched in the largest metropolitan areas. Digital television sets are available in Canadian stores, but are not widely owned by consumers at this time.

Several broadcasters, including the CBC, have argued that there is no viable business case for a comprehensive digital conversion strategy in Canada. At CRTC hearings in 2007 on the future direction of regulatory policy for television, broadcasters proposed a number of strategies, including funding digital conversion by eliminating restrictions on the amount of advertising that television broadcasters are permitted to air, allowing terrestrial broadcasters to charge cable viewers a subscription fee similar to that already charged by cable specialty channels, permitting license fees similar to those which fund the BBC in the United Kingdom, or eliminating terrestrial television broadcasting entirely and moving to an exclusively cable-based distribution model.

In May 2007, the CRTC set August 31, 2011 as the deadline for digital conversion in Canada. This is approximately two years later than the cutoff date in the United States. The CRTC ultimately decided to relax restrictions on advertising as the funding mechanism. However, a CRTC statement issued in June 2008 indicated that as of that date, only 22 digital transmitters had been fully installed across the entire country [ [ "Networks unprepared for digital TV shift: CRTC"] , "The Globe and Mail", June 24, 2008.] , and expressed the regulator's concern that Canada's television broadcasters were not adequately preparing for the shift to digital broadcasting.

Cable television

Cable television is a very common method of television programming delivery in Canada. Many Canadian cities have cable penetration rates of 90 per cent or more of television households.

There are currently 739 licensed cable distributors in Canada. This significant decline from over 2000 just a few years ago is attributable both to major cable companies acquiring smaller distributors and to a recent change in CRTC rules by which independent cable operators with fewer than 2,000 subscribers are no longer required to operate under full CRTC licenses. (However, the CRTC does retain some regulatory authority over these operators. This is an exemption granted by the CRTC to previously licensed companies that continue to meet certain conditions, and does "not" mean that anybody can simply set up their own small cable company without CRTC approval.)

Major Canadian cable companies include Rogers, Shaw, Cogeco, Vidéotron and EastLink/Persona. Most Canadian cities are served by only one cable company per market; in the few cities that are served by more than one cable company, each company is restricted to a specific geographical division within the market. For instance, in Hamilton, Cogeco Cable, Mountain Cablevision and Source Cable are all licensed operators, but each has a monopoly in a specific area of the city.

However, two major companies offer direct broadcast satellite delivery as an alternative to cable: Bell TV, which is a division of BCE Inc., and Star Choice, which is a division of Shaw Cable. "Grey market" DBS dishes can also be obtained from American services such as DirecTV and Dish Network, but as these are not licensed Canadian providers, stores that sell those packages—and users who buy them—are at risk of criminal charges.

In some remote communities in the Territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut), cable delivery is prohibitively costly, so similar services are offered through MMDS technology.

A "basic cable" package in English Canada traditionally includes:

* the major Canadian commercial networks (CTV and Global),
* the English and French CBC networks, including Newsworld and RDI (the French-language Newsworld equivalent),
* the provincial educational broadcast undertaking (if one is available, as not all provinces have one),
* a community channel (locally-produced public affairs and information programming and community events listings),
* APTN, a network devoted to Aboriginal programming,
* TVA, one of the two private French-language broadcasters in Quebec1,
* local or regional independent stations such as Citytv, A-Channel and CH,
* CPAC, which broadcasts parliamentary sessions and committee meetings, along with some political public affairs programming,
* a similar channel broadcasting the proceedings of the provincial legislature,
* American network affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and Fox2,
* a mixture of Canadian and American special interest channels such as TSN, MuchMusic, CNN, CTV Newsnet and Showcase3.

A further set of Canadian and American special interest channels are offered as "extended cable" packages, which are available for additional fees. In the past, cable companies have engaged in the controversial practice of negative option billing, in which a subscriber is automatically given and billed for the new services unless he or she specifically declines them, but this is now illegal.

As well, a package of "pay TV" channels is also available for further fees, including movie networks such as The Movie Network, Movie Central, Super Channel and Super Écran, and American superstations such as WSBK, WPIX, WGN and KTLA (which are often CW or MyNetworkTV affiliates.) These services, however, require a descrambler box.

Cable companies now offer digital cable packages in most Canadian cities, including a number of channels which have been licensed exclusively for digital package distribution. Digital cable also typically includes a range of audio broadcast services such as Galaxie and Max Trax. In some markets, digital cable service may also include local radio stations; where this is offered, it has largely "replaced" the availability of cable FM service. Digital cable, however, is provided only if a customer chooses to subscribe to that package.

Although this is sometimes controversial, Canadian cable companies are required by the CRTC to practice simultaneous substitution when a Canadian channel and a non-Canadian channel (which is usually American) are airing the same program at the same time. Programming on an American service may also be blocked if it has significant bearing on a Canadian legal matter (one episode of "Law & Order", inspired by the trials of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, was blocked in Canada) or if it interferes with a Canadian channel's broadcast rights (such as James Bond movies airing on Spike TV; the Canadian broadcast rights are held by Bell Globemedia.)

Many cable companies also offer high speed cable Internet service.


#The other French language broadcaster in Quebec, TQS, does not have mandatory national carriage rights, although some cable companies in Ontario and New Brunswick offer the network on a discretionary basis, and the network does have mandatory carriage in Quebec.
#Under CRTC rules, American networks are offered on a "4 + 1" basis, meaning that a cable company may offer any four American commercial networks and PBS on basic cable; other American networks can only be offered on a pay tier. In most cities, this means that The CW and MyNetwork TV are not available on basic cable, due to lower demand for those networks. However, cable providers in border cities have been allowed to offer all American networks on basic cable that are available over the air in that market, even if that means more than four commercial networks are provided. American network affiliates are usually provided from the nearest available American market. However, signals distributed by Shaw Broadcast Services (particularly affiliates from Detroit and Rochester) are frequently substituted where cost or technical limitations prevent use of a closer signal.
#Under CRTC rules, cable companies cannot offer a new American service if a comparable Canadian service already exists. However, if a Canadian equivalent begins operations after an American service has already been added to cable packages, the cable company is not required to discontinue the American service. (For example, Canadian cable companies cannot offer MTV, as the station was not yet available in Canada when MuchMusic began broadcasting in 1984. However, cable companies can offer CNN, as they were already offering that service when CBC Newsworld first aired in 1989.) This rule recently created some controversy in Canada, due to The Nashville Network's 2003 rebranding as Spike TV, which overlapped with the pre-existing mandate of the Canadian channel mentv. However, the CRTC ultimately ruled that Spike TV would be allowed to stay on the cable dial.

Radio broadcasting

Canada is served by almost 2000 radio stations, on both the AM and FM bands.

As with television stations, radio callsigns in Canada are made up of four letters beginning with the two-letter combinations of "CF", "CH", "CI", "CJ", or "CK", although a few stations use three-letter callsigns. In addition to private stations CKX and CKY, some CBC stations have three-letter callsigns, generally in major cities where the stations first aired in the 1930s. Newer CBC stations have normal four-letter callsigns, however. As with CBC television, CBC radio uses callsigns beginning with "CB", through a special arrangement with the government of Chile. A few exceptions, such as CKSB in Winnipeg and CJBC in Toronto, exist where the CBC acquired an existing station with a historically significant callsign.

The combinations "CG", "CY", "CZ" and several combinations beginning with "V" and "X" are also assigned to Canada. Only four Canadian radio stations, all in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, have taken call signs in those ranges. Three of these stations, VOAR, VOWR and VOCM, began broadcasting before Newfoundland was a Canadian province, and retained their "VO" call letters when Newfoundland joined Canadian Confederation in 1949. The other station, VOCM-FM, adopted the callsign in 1981 because of its ownership association with VOCM. With the exception of VOCM-FM, radio stations licensed in Newfoundland after 1949 use the same "CF"-"CK" range as other Canadian stations.

The future of "VO" callsigns in Canada is unknown. It would not be at all unusual for Industry Canada to simplify all callsigns used in Canada as part of the ongoing modernization and simplification of domestic telecom regulations.

There is no clear rule for the call letters of repeater stations—some repeaters are labelled by the call-letters of the originating station, followed by a number, while others have their own distinct call letters. Low-power repeater transmitters (LPRTs) have their own unique callsign format, which consists of the letters VE or VF followed by four numbers.

Major commercial radio broadcast groups in Canada include Rogers Communications, Corus Entertainment, Astral Media, CTVglobemedia and Newcap Broadcasting. However, many smaller broadcasters operate radio stations as well. Most genres of music are represented on the Canadian commercial radio spectrum, including pop, rock, hip hop, country, jazz and classical. News, sports, talk radio and religious stations are also available in many cities. In addition, many Canadian universities and colleges have licensed campus radio stations, and some communities also have community radio stations licensed to non-profit groups or co-operatives.

As well, the publicly owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation operates four national radio networks, two each in English and French. The English Radio One and the French "Première Chaîne" provide news and information programming to most communities in Canada, regardless of size, on either the AM or FM band. The English Radio 2 and French "Espace musique" provide arts and culture programming, including classical music and opera, and are always on FM, generally serving larger communities only.

Music-based commercial radio stations in Canada are mandated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to reserve at least 35 per cent of their playlists for Canadian content, although exemptions are granted in some border cities (e.g. Windsor, Ontario) where the competition from American stations threatens the survival of Canadian broadcasters, and for stations whose formats may not have enough Canadian recordings available to meet the 35 per cent target (e.g. classical, jazz or pop standards).

In recent years, a notable trend in Canadian radio has been the gradual abandonment of the AM band, with many AM stations applying for and receiving authorization from the CRTC to convert to the FM band. In some Canadian cities, in fact, the AM band is now either nearly or entirely vacant. Because Canada is more sparsely populated than the United States, the limitations of AM broadcasting (particularly at night, when the AM dial is often overwhelmed by distant signals) have a much more pronounced effect on Canadian broadcasters. AM radio stations have the additional protection that cable companies which offer cable FM services are required by the CRTC to distribute all locally-available AM stations through conversion to a cable FM signal, but cable FM only accounts for a small percentage of radio listeners in Canada.

Digital audio broadcasting, or DAB, is an emerging technology in Canada. Although there are currently 73 licensed digital audio broadcasters in Canada, not many consumers yet own digital radios, and the existing digital audio broadcast signals duplicate AM or FM broadcasts. No Canadian radio broadcaster currently offers an exclusively DAB signal.

On November 1, 2004, the CRTC began hearing applications for satellite radio services. Three applications were filed: one by XM Radio Canada, one by Sirius Canada, and one by the partnership of CHUM and Astral Media. These services, which were approved by the CRTC on June 16, 2005, were Canada's first official satellite radio services, although a small "grey market" already existed for American satellite radio receivers. Sirius and XM both launched in December 2005. The CHUM-Astral service, however, was never launched, and its license expired on June 16, 2007. CHUM stated that its business plan was based in part on the expectation that in the interests of Canadian content, the CRTC would have rejected the Sirius and XM applications, approving "only" the CHUM-Astral service.


Almost all Canadian cities are served by at least one daily newspaper, along with community and neighbourhood weeklies. In large cities which have more than one daily newspaper, usually at least one daily is a tabloid format. Bilingual cities like Montreal and Ottawa have important papers in both French and English.

Canada currently has two major "national" newspapers, "The Globe and Mail" and the "National Post". "Le Devoir", although not widely read outside of Quebec, serves as the French-language counterpart to the national newspapers.

The newspaper with the highest circulation is the "Toronto Star", and the newspaper with the highest readership per capita is the "Windsor Star".

Canadian newspapers are mostly owned by large chains. The largest of these is the CanWest News Service chain, owned by CanWest. Quebecor owns many tabloid newspapers through its Sun Media subsidiary, including "Le Journal de Montréal" and the "Toronto Sun".

At various times there have been concerns about concentration of newspaper ownership, most recently when Conrad Black's Hollinger acquired the Southam newspapers in the late 1990s. When Hollinger sold its Canadian properties, however, many of their smaller-market newspapers were in fact purchased by a variety of new ownership groups such as Osprey Media, increasing the diversity of newspaper ownership for the first time in many years.

The 1980s and 1990s have seen the emergence of city-based alternative weekly newspapers, geared toward a younger audience with coverage of the arts and alternative news. In recent years, many of these weeklies have also been acquired or driven out of business by conglomerates like CanWest, Quebecor and Irving. Smaller newspapers like "The Dominion", publishing primarily online but in a newspaper format, have attempted to fill gaps in Canada's journalistic coverage while avoiding the vulnerabilities of the previous generation of alternative media.

In the 2000s, a number of online news and culture magazines have launched to provide alternative sources of journalism. Some important online publications include "Rabble", "The Tyee", "Vigile", CBC Radio Three/Bande à part and "".

Motion pictures

Most of Canada's film (and television) industry produces output geared towards mainstream North American audiences, with Alliance Atlantis and Lions Gate Films in particular enjoying significant successes in recent years. Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are major production centres, with Vancouver being the second largest film and television production centre in North America (after Los Angeles). The Toronto International Film Festival is considered one of the most important events in North American film, showcasing both Canadian talent and Hollywood films.

Alliance Atlantis has become by far the largest and most successful Canadian film studio, both as a film and television production house (the company's television properties include "Due South", "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" and ""), and as the major Canadian distributor of independent American and international films. Lions Gate Entertainment has also become a major player in recent years.

Canada also produces films of a characteristically "Canadian" nature, and of all Canadian cultural industries, this segment of the film industry has the hardest time escaping the shadow of its (North) American counterpart. Between the marketing budgets of mainstream films, and the largely American-controlled film distribution networks, it has been nearly impossible for most distinctively Canadian films to break through to a wide audience. In many Canadian cities, in fact, moviegoers don't even have the "option" of seeing such films, as there aren't any theatres showing them. As a result, a Canadian film is usually considered a runaway hit if it makes as little as $1 million at the box office.

French Canadian films, on the other hand, are often more successful—as with French-language television, the language difference makes Quebec audiences much more receptive to Canadian-produced film. In most years, the top-grossing Canadian film is a French-language film from Quebec.

As a result of the economic challenges involved in Canadian film production, film funding is often provided by government bodies such as Telefilm Canada, and CBC television is often a Canadian film's most lucrative potential market. However, there is an established network of film festivals which also provide important marketing and audience opportunities for Canadian films. In addition to Toronto's film festival, the smaller Vancouver International Film Festival features films from around the world, and festivals in Montreal, Quebec and Greater Sudbury, Ontario—among other cities—are also important opportunities for Canadian filmmakers to gain exposure among more populist film audiences.

One particular film production house, the National Film Board of Canada, has become internationally famous for its animation and documentary production.



Canada's most famous book publisher is McClelland and Stewart, which made its name in the 1970s as the leading publisher of English language Canadian literature. English Canada also has many smaller publishing houses, including Coach House Press, House of Anansi, Key Porter Books, Hidden Brook Press, and Douglas & McIntyre. Numerous American and British publishers, including Random House, HarperCollins, Alfred A. Knopf and Penguin Books, also have Canadian divisions.

Major francophone publishers in Quebec include Bibliothèque québécoise, Alire, Québec-Amérique, Éditions Guérin and Groupe Beauchemin. Several small francophone publishers also operate outside of Quebec, including Éditions Le Nordir and Prise de parole.

Canada's largest English science fiction genre publisher is EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, which now also owns the Tesseract Books imprint, well known for producing excellent Canadian speculative fiction.


Magazines published in Canada include:

* "L'Actualité"
* "AdBusters"
*"Auto Atlantic" - East Coast Auto magazine
* "Canadian Business"
* "Canadian Dimension"
* "Canadian Geographic"
* "Canadian Living"
* "Chart"
* "Chatelaine" - Women's magazine
* "Enterprise Mag"
* "Exclaim!"
* "Flare" - Fashion
* "Frank" - Satirical
* "Geist"
* "Literary Review of Canada"
* "Maclean's"
* "Maisonneuve"
* "MoneySense"
* "Saturday Night"
* "Toronto Life"
* "This Magazine"
* "UMM"
* "The Walrus"

A notable controversy in Canadian magazine publishing in recent years has been the existence of "split run" magazines, where a title published in another country, such as "TIME" or "Sports Illustrated", is republished in Canada with a few pages of special Canadian content, in order to take advantage of Canadian advertising sales revenues. The government of Canada imposed a special excise tax on split run publications in 1995 to discourage the practice, although this continues to be controversial.


External links

* Television: [ Channel Canada] , [ Canadian Cable and Satellite Database] .
* Film: [ The Great Canadian Guide to Movies and TV] .
* Magazines: [ Finding Canadian Magazines - Journalism.Net] .
* Newspaper: [ The Canadian Newspaper Association] , [ Canadian Newspapers] .
* [ CBC Digital Archives - Concentration to Convergence: Media Ownership in Canada]
* [ Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)]
* [ Canadian Communications Foundation]

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