PIAC and FRPC file CRTC Application to Ensure Continued Funding of the Broadcasting Participation Fund (BPF)

OTTAWA (21 April 2021) – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications (FRPC) today filed a Part 1 Application with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to protect consumer and public participation in Canadian broadcasting regulation in an era of fundamental change to the Canadian broadcasting system.  The Application seeks continuing funding of  the pivotal  Broadcasting Participation Fund (BPF), which provides funds to consumer and public interest groups in CRTC broadcasting matters.  The BPF faces serious budget shortfalls in the coming years unless the CRTC and the broadcasting industry find a new way to support public participation on key questions of what Canadians can watch, listen to or be entertained by, whether on their TVs, radios, computers or cellphones.

“The Broadcasting Participation Fund allows PIAC and FRPC, and many other consumer groups to protect consumer interests in broadcasting at the CRTC.  Without it, the consumer voice on upcoming legislation on regulating internet speech, news, media mergers such as Rogers and Shaw, the CBC’s licences and the regulation of online shows will be silenced,” stated John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel of co-applicant PIAC.

The application highlights the precarious nature of the support of public interest advocacy in broadcasting, before the CRTC, and the importance of continuing support of the consumer voice.  It also notes that there will be a long transition to the major reforms of broadcasting in Bill C-10, which Parliament is presently considering and which will require considerable public participation to implement fairly for all.

Monica Auer, Executive Director of co-Applicant FRPC noted: “The issues that face Canadian broadcasting in the 21st century are too important to be decided without the informed public input that organizations such as PIAC, the Forum and others provide.”
“The CRTC recognized some years ago that the BPF was crucial to a balanced and reasoned debate on broadcasting matters touching consumers every day,” added Lawford, “we are just asking that this be continued as we set the new rules for broadcasters.”

For more information, please contact:
John Lawford
Executive Director/General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
285 McLeod Street – Suite 200
Ottawa, ON  K2P 1A1
jlawford@piac.ca
613-562-4002 ext 125 [new!]
Fax 562-0007
Cell: 613-447-8125
https://www.piac.ca
@CanadaPIAC
— 30 —

PIAC files new CRTC Application regarding COVID Alert, Alberta apps

OTTAWA – 9 September 2020 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) an Application requesting CRTC oversight of potential linkages between IP addresses generated by use of Health Canada’s “COVID Alert” app (as well as similar uses of IP addresses and additionally, mobile phone numbers, by the “ABTraceTogether” app in Alberta) and telecommunications subscriber information.

The Application requests that the CRTC ensure that all Canadian cellphone and Internet companies’  involvement in potential or actual linkages of information from contact-tracing apps to confidential telecommunications information held by cellphone and Internet companies for public health purposes is done in accordance with privacy requirements of Canada’s telecommunications law.

PIAC Executive Director John Lawford stated: “Now we know how COVID Alert and ABTraceTogether work, PIAC sees a potential personal information “leak” if the government uses info from the apps to ask cellphone companies for more information on users. The CRTC must set out rules limiting any such access requests by the government to protect Canadians’ privacy.”
A previous Application was filed by PIAC with the CRTC requesting oversight of pandemic “contact-tracing” apps and network services that may be offered for Canadians to download to their smartphones on 4 April 2020 but was suspended by the CRTC).
Lawford noted that consumers who are concerned about government access can take the practical step of using a virtual private network app while operating the COVID Alert and ABTraceTogether apps: “Using a VPN on your phone will allow Canadians to use these apps worry-free and still help combat COVID-19. But what really would help Canadians trust these apps are clear legal rules to limit any possible government access to personal information.”

For more information, please contact:
John Lawford
Executive Director/General Counsel
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
285 McLeod Street – Suite 200
Ottawa, ON  K2P 1A1
613-562-4002 x 25
Fax 562-0007
Cell: 613-447-8125

— 30 —

PIAC Submission to the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Review Panel – 11 January 2019

Please see attached PIAC’s submission to the Government’s “Review of the Canadian Communications Legislative Framework, Responding to the New Environment: A Call for Comments”.  PIAC’s major request is that a statutory Universal Service Obligation be added to the Telecommunications Act.