During the appearance on 16 November 2022 of the CRTC before the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications regarding Bill C-11, the Online Streaming Act, the Chair was asked about concerns expressed by witnesses, including FRPC, about the CRTC’s transparency and accountability. FRPC had mentioned that the CRTC excludes the public from some of its public hearings, and that some of its decisions were not available for review.
The Chair expressed perplexity and confusion about such concerns, and said that the CRTC holds all of its public hearings in public, and publishes all of its decisions. (You can watch or listen to the video of the Senate Committee’s meeting and the minutes of the meeting should soon be published on the Committee’s site.)
FRPC’s 17 November 2022 letter to the Chair provides the evidence from the CRTC’s website about ‘faux’ public hearings and hidden decisions. It shows that during Mr. Scott’s first five-year term, 25 of the 36 broadcasting ‘public hearings’ held by the CRTC took place without the presence of any applicants or members of the public. These 5-minute ‘public hearings’ are attended only by CRTC Commissioners, staff and a court reporter (to record the remarks of the hearing-panel chairperson explaining that the hearing is being held without applications or other witnesses). The CRTC also made 287 decisions that, while listed on the CRTC’s website, are inaccessible (including through the CRTC’s search engine). While described as “administrative”, 45 of these decisions related to changes in ownership and 10 to changes in programming.
The Forum’s position is that quasi-judicial tribunals such as the CRTC must operate in a way that is transparent and accountable, so as to ensure that Canadians have reasonable grounds to believe that it is operating in the public interest. Sham hearings and secret decisions bring the administration of Canadian justice into disrepute: justice, as some say, loves the light of day. If you are interested in more results from FRPC’s analysis of the CRTC’s hearings and decisions, visit our Research page.