Sparks Fly at the Copyright Hearings in Ottawa

Thursday (March 3rd 2011), two panels of broadcasters, led by Sylvie Courtemanche, Chair of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, appeared before the Bill C-32 Parliamentary Committee that is considering the amendments to the Copyright Act which include a reproduction right exception for broadcasters.  The two panels provided regional representation and the small and large broadcaster perspective: Panel 1 (National Private Broadcasters) Sylvie Courtemanche, Vice President Government Relations, Corus Entertainment and Chair of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Gabriel van Loon, Legal Counsel to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Brad Phillips, Vice President Operations, Astral Radio British Columbia and President of the British Columbia Association of Broadcasters Mike Keller, Vice President Industry Affairs, Newcap Broadcasting Panel 2 (Independent/Regional Private Broadcasters) Ross Davies, VP Programming & Operations, Haliburton Broadcasting Group Inc. Guy Banville, Consultant and former Vice-président des programmes RNC Media Inc. Paul Larche, President, Larche Communications The broadcaster appearance was a true spectacle that highlighted how contentious the reproduction right issue is.  The Liberals on the committee went on the offensive and launched a number of direct assaults on broadcasters generally, as well as the broadcaster position, and the assertions that the industry should not be paying multiple times for a single use of music.  Liberal MP Dan McTeague suggested that radio stations are making record profits and the industry is using new technology and copying music onto broadcast servers that allows broadcasters to lower costs. “Technology is allowing you to get more for less” said McTeague. The Bloc Quebecois was diplomatic and even complimentary while the NDP sent mixed messages.  The Conservatives demonstrated that the current PSA campaign is working – they displayed their clear support for the broadcaster provision. Paul Larche, appearing for the Independent Broadcasters said “Of the $21 Million for the reproduction rights that are now being collected, $16 million goes to foreign record labels and foreign rights holders. There is an overhead or administration costs of over $1 million dollars. Only $3.5 million dollars actually stays within in Canada.” “Larche went onto to say “Copyright is one of the biggest issues facing broadcasters today. I was paying 3.2% for the rights to play music when I brought my first radio station in 1995 and today I am paying about 9% for the rights to play this same music. We are now making three different copyright payments just for the rights to transfer music from one digital format to another so we can play this music on radio. This additional $21 million fee is on top of the $64 million the radio industry pay annually for the rights to play music. This is just not right.” When asked if anything had changed Larche said “The output is exactly the same….we are using the same transmitter and the same process. The input is still virtually the same. In the past we would play 45 records and they would often get scratched and the record company would send us another copy which they were always happy to do. Then we started to copy the CD’s onto a cart (like an 8 track tape) so we could play them on the air, and there was never any rights issues with this process. . Now we receive the music digitally and we transfer that music to a computer hard drive.” Mike Lake, the Parliamentary Secretary (Industry) said “It sounds like you are now paying several times for the rights to play the same music. I don’t know that someone listening to the radio at home would really know how that music gets from the creator to the radio and understands the steps, so it’s easy to slide a back door fee in there of $21 million dollars. If I go back to my own business experience when I was the Director of Tickets sales for a hockey team. It would be like us selling a ticket to a game but then having someone collect a fee on the way in, an additional fee like a seat access fee.” The CAB and its members clearly have an uphill battle on this issue, but we are heading in the right direction and now have some positive momentum.   We have much more to do in order to shore up support for the broadcast reproduction exception and we may call upon you again to help us fight the good fight in Ottawa and across the country. Broadcasters have shown their opponents that this industry will not roll over on this issue.  We will continue to monitor the passage of this Bill and keep you informed.