Given the recent uproar over the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) decision that usage-based billing was an acceptable practice, you might think Canadians are eager to see the out-of-touch regulator canned.

But that’s not the case at all. Perhaps it was a Valentine’s Day phenomenon that had Canadians looking into their hearts to find a place for the CRTC, but a recent poll conducted for ITBusiness.ca by Delvinia Data Collection shows most of us aren’t ready to banish the regulator entirely.

Although about one-quarter of respondents thought the regulator “should be scrapped, 58 per cent said that “in some situations, the CRTC plays an important role.” Another 17 per cent said the CRTC “still plays a major role in regulating Canada’s communications.”

Brian Jackson, journalist
Brian Jackson

This AskingCanadians poll of 1052 respondents was conducted for ITBusiness.ca.  The data was collected from February 11th to February 14th.  AskingCanadians is an online survey community with a panel of more than 160,000 members across Canada.

With Industry Minister Tony Clement overturning a CRTC decision to disallow Wind Mobile’s operating licence because of foreign ownership concerns in 2009, and a promise to reverse the decision on usage-based billing unless the CRTC reviewed it first, some Canadians might have been left wondering what power the regulator really has. But aside from these decisions that captured media attention and political opportunism on the part of the Conservative government, the CRTC attends to a daily agenda that is important, yet not widely publicized.

Take for example a June 2009 decision by the regulator that all broadcast programming must be closed captioned. The new policy required broadcasts to provide captions for all day time programming, and all overnight programming when captions were available. It also requires that commercials and promotions be closed caption by the end of each broadcaster’s next licence term.

Here, the regulator improved access to broadcast television for the hearing impaired, those learning to read and speak a second language, and even those who watch muted TVs (like at the gym, or in restaurants). Without the CRTC, it’s doubtful that broadcasters would voluntarily take on the expense and work required to improve accessibility, since it doesn’t result in more profit.

Perhaps Canadians have a soft spot for the CRTC just because they can’t imagine life without it. Almost three-quarters of poll respondents said they had been aware of the regulator for many years. Another 15 per cent had learned about the CRTC in the last couple of years, and only five per cent had never heard of the CRTC.

So when it comes to determining the best way to regulate communications in Canada, we seem to prefer the devil we know.

Joining the AskingCanadians panel is free to Canadians who are in the age of majority in the provinces they reside, or have the permission of their parents or legal guardian. Qu’en pensez-vous is the sister community in Quebec.  AskingCanadians is owned and operated by Delvinia Data Collection for more information go to http://www.delvinia.com/askingcanadians.

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