Canada to remove caps on amount of TV ads in stages


The CRTC, Canada's federal broadcast regulator, has turned down a request from Canada's television networks to charge viewers an additional fee to watch their programs on cable or through satellite. However, CRTC did give broadcasters a small win, saying the restriction on how many minutes of advertising they could pack into one hour of programming would be phased out and eventually eliminated.

The CTV, CBC, Global and the French TVA, had argued last fall they needed the new fees because fragmentation of media and ad dollars had cut into their ad base, and to pay the cost of converting to HD signals. In a ruling handed down Thursday, the CRTC said the networks' argument of necessity "has not been demonstrated," adding that, "the current financial situation of conventional television broadcasters does not justify such a measure."

Currently, conventional TV stations are restricted to 12 minutes of ads per hour in primetime, between 7-11 p.m. But the maximum limit will increase to 14 minutes on 9/1, to 15 minutes on 9/1/08, and will be unlimited after 9/1/09. The CRTC said relaxing the restrictions will "provide broadcasters with additional revenues to respond to the changes this industry is experiencing."

Most U.S.-based programs bought by Canadian networks leave room for between 14 and 16 minutes of advertising. The Canadian broadcasters currently fill the extra minutes with promotions, public service announcements or news briefs, but will presumably be able to increase their ad content in the future. As well, the commission said by 8/31/11, television channels must be broadcast in high definition digital, with the possible exception of remote regions where there are no digital transmitters.