Canadian MPs say CRTC made a bad call on Super Bowl ads
Two Liberal MPs are asking the CRTC to reverse its new policy that forces the NFL to run an unfiltered broadcast of its championship game so Canadians can see the big-budget ads.
Thu., Dec. 15, 2016
WASHINGTON—Two federal MPs are throwing a flag on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission new policy on Super Bowl ads, asking the broadcast regulator to review its latest ruling.
The regulator has forced the National Football League to run an unfiltered broadcast of its championship game so that Canadians can see the big-budget, star-packed ads some grumble about missing each year.
But that’s alarmed numerous parties: the NFL, which sold the Canadian rights to the game; U.S. federal commerce officials; CTV, which paid for the Canadian rights and recoups costs by selling domestic ads; and Canadian advertisers, who say the snap decision is costing them money on their biggest day of the year.
Two Liberal MPs, both committee chairs, are asking the CRTC to reverse course.
Bob Nault and Wayne Easter have written to several policy-makers, saying the decision is costing the Canadian economy tens of millions of dollars, that it will result in the airing of ads for some products Canadians can’t even buy, and they’re urging a policy change before the Feb. 5 game.
“There seems to be no real rationale for making this kind of a one-off decision,” Nault said in an interview Thursday.
“This has a huge impact. ... Just one company — CTVglobemedia — is forecasting about a $40 million loss. This is serious. And what shocks me the most is the information we’re receiving is that this was all based on less than 100 people complaining that they couldn’t see the American commercials.”
The CRTC adopted the policy in early 2015, as it studied the broader issue of simultaneous substitution — the process by which Canadian rights-holders insert domestic ad spots they’ve sold into a live broadcast.
The federal regulator said the quality of these broadcasts is occasionally spotty. It also pointed to viewers’ complaints about missing Super Bowl ads. In the end, the regulator allowed simultaneous substitution for every type of broadcast — except the Super Bowl.
That prompted howls of protest from the NFL and its Canadian partners about discriminatory treatment. It has enlisted well-connected U.S. lobbyists, who have raised the issue with American federal officials.
Now the Liberal MPs have issued letters to various parties, including their colleague Melanie Joly, the heritage minister.
They’re hoping to exert pressure on the broadcast regulator before its January board meeting — in an effort to get a reversal, just before the big game. The CRTC is an arm’s-length body, meaning it can act independently.
However, Nault said there are different ways to spike the decision.
They include appealing to Health Canada — which regulates health-related advertisements in the country. One of the arguments raised by those seeking to overturn the CRTC decision is that U.S. broadcasts can feature ads for pharmaceuticals that aren’t allowed in Canada.
Nault said he believes Health Canada, for instance, has the power to order a pause on CRTC policy: “That’s one option.”
These latest letters follow similar ones from the U.S. Commerce Department to two Canadian federal departments and from the NFL to Canada’s ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton.