ARCHIVED - Audit of the Implementation of Section 41 of Part VII of the Official Languages Act at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission - Follow-up

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October 2009

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has made significant efforts to meet all 10 of our audit recommendations, which allowed it to make considerable progress. The activities put forth with regard to formal consultations with official language minority communities (OLMCs) mainly allowed the CRTC to better establish its objectives and to implement the necessary measures to ensure that it identifies and understands the special broadcasting needs of these communities. The CRTC also recognized that the implementation of this audit’s recommendations has had a definitive impact on other activities related to official languages, including the preparation of its report entitled Review of English- and French-language broadcasting services in English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada, published on March 30, 2009, at the government’s request.

The recommendations made in the February 2007 audit were the following:

  1. That the CRTC develop and implement a policy and guidelines on official languages that are specific to its activities and that give due regard to its obligations under section 41 of the Official Languages Act;

  2. That the CRTC ensure it has the human and financial resources needed to properly implement all of its official languages obligations;

  3. That the CRTC require its managers and executives to attend mandatory awareness sessions on Part Vll of the Official Languages Act and to make its staff appropriately aware of the needs of official language minority communities and the obligation to promote linguistic duality;

  4. That the CRTC prepare a new action plan for implementation of both components of section 41 of the Official Languages Act. The new action plan should cover both of the CRTC’s areas of activity (broadcasting and telecommunications) and be based on the results of recent consultations with official language minority communities. The plan should contain clear objectives and identify specific positive measures, accompanied by deadlines for implementation and performance indicators that address the needs of Anglophone and Francophone minorities at the national and regional levels;

  5. That the CRTC develop an information kit for licence applicants to help them prepare their application. The CRTC should also designate resource persons who can deal with requests for administrative and technical information to facilitate access for official language minority communities. CRTC staff should in turn be officially informed of these measures;

  6. That the CRTC adopt an appropriate mechanism for informing and sensitizing applicants, licensed broadcasters and telephone companies of the CRTC’s obligations under section 41 of the Official Languages Act;

  7. a) That the CRTC review the following policies on a priority basis to ensure they fully account for the CRTC’s section 41 obligations under the Official Languages Act: A Policy Framework for Canadian Television, Community Radio Policy, Commercial Radio Policy, A policy to increase the availability to cable subscribers of specialty services in the minority official language, Ethnic Broadcasting Policy;

    b) That the CRTC identify its other broadcasting and telecommunications policies that may have a significant impact on the vitality and development of official language minority communities and the promotion and use of English and French in Canadian society, and ensure section 41 of the Official Languages Act is taken into account when these policies are reviewed;

  8. That the CRTC establish a structured and coordinated process for consulting affected groups, in particular national and provincial (or regional) representatives of official language minority communities. This process should include an ongoing feedback mechanism for those consulted, to guide and help them prepare for participation in official public consultations;

  9. That the CRTC establish an evaluation framework for its implementation of section 41 of the Official Languages Act and that it introduce appropriate monitoring mechanisms. The CRTC also needs to evaluate results and take appropriate action in cases of non-compliance;

  10. That the CRTC include a provision on implementation of section 41 of the Official Languages Act in  the performance appraisal process for its managers.

The analysis of the progress report on the CRTC, produced by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, notes the following achievements:

  • The CRTC has a Framework for official languages, a Policy on the Implementation of Section 41 of the Official Languages Act as well as Policy Guidelines that were recently approved by the chairperson. The objectives to which the CRTC committed in its policy regarding section 41 are:
    • to know and understand the realities of OLMCs;
    • to raise awareness among CRTC employees, including the commissioners, of the needs and realities of OLMCs;
    • to facilitate OLMC participation in processes that affect their vitality and development by informing them of the workings of CRTC public processes;
    • to cooperate with federal institutions and share information in order to promote the development and vitality of OLMCs;
    • to ensure that OLMCs have access to broadcasting services in their preferred language by encouraging and inciting broadcasters to support diverse local and regional programming;
    • to encourage telecommunications service providers to communicate with consumers in both official languages.

  • In order to establish and implement most of its activities related to section 41 of the Official Languages Act, the CRTC received one-time funding from the Treasury Board Secretariat. Even though this allocation ended on March 31, 2009, the employees in charge of implementing section 41 of the Act showed a willingness to continue their activities and informed us that discussions in this respect were currently in progress with management. The CRTC indicated that there are few expenses that still need to be covered to address the recommendations proposed by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, as most activities have been implemented.

  • Regarding awareness of the obligations resulting from the implementation of Part VII of the Act, presentations were given during a meeting with the commissioners and members of the senior management committee in June 2007 and during a public hearing in January 2009 on access to Canadian television, radio and new media services. Despite the fact that the institution did not give presentations to all its managers to inform them about and make them aware of its language obligations, the addition of the “section 41 lens” to its application review process will familiarize them in this regard, as will regular meetings between sector coordinators who are experts in the fields of radio, television, research, development and persons responsible for official languages. The institution states that the various branches of the CRTC now systematically take section 41 into account.

  • The CRTC developed an official languages action plan targeting the two components of section 41 for the 2007–2008 and 2008–2011 periods. This plan includes satisfactory measures that respond to all the recommendations made by the Office of the Commissioner, several of which have already been implemented. However, this plan does not include any specific measures where telecommunications activities are concerned. We encourage the CRTC to review its plan and take this into consideration.

  • With a view to helping OLMCs prepare to submit their applications for the issuance, renewal or amendment of broadcasting licences as well as maximizing their interventions during public hearings in the framework of the development of new policies or review of existing policies and other decisions, the CRTC established a reference centre to respond to requests for information from small broadcasters. It has also assigned a contact person to address more specific requests. Customers can also stay informed by consulting the CRTC’s Web site, which was recently revamped and which provides detailed information on its activities and obligations related to section 41, including information on consultations. This site is still being developed and will include an electronic mailing list for OLMC representatives with the purpose of informing them, in a timely fashion, of the various CRTC activities, such as public hearing processes that might be of concern and interest to them. A calendar of the CRTC’s activities has also been sent to all OLMC representatives that are part of the formal discussion forum.

  • The CRTC informs and raises awareness among applicants when they renew their licences, by sending a letter that asks for specific programming information related to section 41. In addition, during CRTC-OLMC consultations, OLMC representatives identified those broadcasters that play an essential role in responding to their broadcasting needs. The institution indicated that it will identify priority broadcasters in this regard while reviewing the applications.

  • During our audit, assessing the decision-making process was a key concern. In particular, we emphasized the importance of reviewing the policies used for establishing assessment criteria used by commissioners to make their decisions. Over the past two years, following our audit, the CRTC revised the Policy Framework for Canadian Television and the Regulatory Frameworks for Broadcasting Distribution Undertakings and Discretionary Programming Services, which take into account services offered to Canadians in both official languages, particularly the minority language in the communities. The CRTC also plans to revise the Community Radio Policy and the Commercial Radio Policy in 2009. We are satisfied that the institution has revised certain policies. However, it will have to review all its broadcasting and telecommunications policies in order to identify other policies that could have an impact on the vitality and development of OLMCs.

  • The CRTC has created a discussion forum composed of 20 members, including OLMC representatives as well as organizations that are active in the broadcasting field. This forum does not have a reference framework; however, the CRTC indicated that its mandate is to optimize the participation of OLMCs in its public processes so that their needs and realities are taken into account. These meetings also allow for the exchange of ideas on broadcasting and telecommunications trends, while informing OLMCs on the public hearings that could concern them and also allowing for a discussion on the tools and methods likely to improve their interventions during public hearings. Since the creation of this discussion forum, the CRTC has noted an increase in the number of participants as well as an improvement in the interventions presented by OLMC representatives during public hearings, particularly those concerning the Review of English- and French-language broadcasting services in English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada and Canadian Broadcasting in New Media.

  • The OLMC representatives indicated that they were satisfied with the measures taken by the CRTC and that they greatly appreciated the exchange of ideas within the forum. These members found the presentations given during the meetings to be very interesting and beneficial. Furthermore, the discussion forum mobilized all OLMC representatives to identify and present key messages to the CRTC in the framework of the public hearings mentioned previously. The results of this audit follow-up show that staff members who work with representatives have a better understanding of the needs and realities of OLMCs; however, we cannot say the same about the commissioners. We therefore propose that the CRTC appoint at least one commissioner to participate in the discussion forum meetings.

  • The CRTC monitors and reports on its official languages activities related to section 41 in more than one document. However, it still has not created a formal assessment framework to measure its results with the purpose of taking other measures in case of non-compliance with the Act. The CRTC will have to go beyond producing and reviewing reports that are submitted annually to Canadian Heritage and beyond the “section 41 lens” in order to truly measure the impact of its activities on the vitality of OLMCs.

  • At the time of publication of this follow-up report, the CRTC had still not included a provision in the performance agreements of executives and other managers with regard to meeting the objectives related to section 41 of the Official Languages Act.

Conclusion

The Commissioner of Official Languages is generally satisfied with the measures taken to follow up on the recommendations resulting from the audit and on the action plan measures presented by the CRTC. All the activities developed so far, including the creation of the formal and structured CRTC-OLMC discussion forum, enabled fruitful consultations to take place with a good number of representatives of linguistic communities across Canada, which has undoubtedly advanced the implementation of section 41 of the Official Languages Act at the CRTC.

It is our opinion that the CRTC still has work to do with regard to reviewing its broadcasting and telecommunications policies, since they have not yet been identified and assessed. Furthermore, the CRTC should establish and implement a formal monitoring mechanism to assess results with the purpose of taking the necessary measures in cases of non-compliance. It also needs to include a provision on the implementation of section 41 in the performance appraisal mechanism for managers and executives.

The Commissioner will monitor the progress of measures specifically related to recommendations 7a) and b), 9 and 10, as well as all activities related to the implementation of the Official Languages Act, through our senior analyst assigned to the CRTC.