Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Bell Media can not show Canadian ads during the Superbowl broadcast

Bell Media finds itself in an interesting conundrum regarding their broadcasting of the American Superbowl.
Bell owns the rights to show the NFL Championship game on Canadian television. But the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Canada's regulatory body for all things TV, has ruled that Bell cannot substitute the famously expensive and high-profile American half-time advertising with its own Canadian ads, and now the Federal Court of Appeal has upheld the CRTC's policy on this.
Bell is complaining that it is losing out on $11 million in advertising revenues as a result of the policy (which I can believe), as well as experiencing a 39% decrease in audience numbers for the game (which I can't believe, especially given that, up until a few years ago, people used to be up in arms about NOT being able to see the splashy new American ads, which are considered quite a viewing spectacle in their own right, with something of a cult following, at least among media-heads). This is diametrically opposite the usual simultaneous-substitution (simsub) rule that applies to all other American shows broadcast in Canada, and not only does it mean that Bell CAN show the US ads, it is in the strange position of being FORCED to show them.
The legal decision is certainly not without its critics, and its inconsistency is clear. The irony of legislation that is supposed to help protect the Canadian broadcasting industry being used to require the use of American (and not Canadian) ads during the broadcasting of a major sporting event was not lost on at least one of the Federal justices.
I have to say that I do feel a bit sympathetic to Bell's point of view. Essentially, the CRTC is saying that the game and the US ads come as a package, and that people expect to see them together, which I feel is a bit of a stretch. If Bell broadcasts a movie, it is allowed to break it up with advertising, but not the Superbowl? Furthermore, the American ads are widely available on the internet after (and often even before) the game. So, do we really need to make them sacrosanct?

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