What is Broadcasting?

What is “Broadcasting”?


  • Is one-way communication
  • Includes over-the-air and satellite delivered radio and television transmission, cable TV and radio, video on demand services, pay-per-view television, and Internet-delivered television (IPTV)
  • Involves the transmission of programs for reception by the public by means of a receiving apparatus
  • Can be encrypted, and is not intended for viewing in a public setting
  • Has its own law which defines it, the Broadcasting Act[1]

There are four major conceptual divisions of providers of broadcasting under the Act:


  • Are “broadcasting undertakings” under the Act and are assumed to have some measure of control over programming. Broadcasters include the three categories below, namely distributors, programmers and networks.


  • Are “distribution undertakings” that receive broadcasting and retransmit it to more than personal dwelling or to another distributor.


  • Are “programming undertakings” that transmit programs, either directly by radio waves or other means of telecommunication or indirectly through a distribution undertaking, for reception by the public by means of broadcasting receiving apparatus;


  • Are “networks of one or more broadcasters where control over all or any part of the programs or program scheduled is delegated to another undertaking or person.

The Role of the CRTC

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is the federal body that governs the Broadcasting Act. It creates, maintains and enforces rules that govern the activities of broadcasters within Canadian markets. All broadcasters in Canada require a license from the CRTC to operate.

“Broadcasters” generally refer to television or radio stations. Television cable companies and satellite radio providers, for example, are considered distributors of content, and are not included in the Broadcasting Act.


The Role of Industry Canada

The Department of Industry (Industry Canada) governs the broadcast spectrum that broadcasters use, so has some input on the technical aspects of broadcasting. The Department of Canadian Heritage is primarily responsible for broadcasting in Canada.


The Role of the Department of Canadian Heritage

The Department of Canadian Heritage is primarily responsible for regulating broadcast content in Canada by enforcing the Broadcasting Act and broadcaster licenses (which reinforce the content of the Act).

The Department works to ensure that broadcasters include programming that reflects Canadian culture. This means providing content appeals to a wide audience, includes a required amount of Canadian content, and presents a diversity of opinions, programs, as well as cultural and artistic expression.

The Department also requires that broadcasters and distributors provide content at affordable rates.


“Vertical Integration” of the Broadcast Industry

From the early 2000s and into the present, broadcast companies have become more vertically integrated. Vertical integration means that the same company owns and controls all levels of the broadcast process, from production of the programming content, to the station that broadcast the content, to the cable companies and video services that further distribute the content, and all aspects of the media networks that promote the content.

This integration can reduce the variety and diversity of voices and opinions in the media by making it more difficult for independent broadcasters to compete in the marketplace.


PIAC’s Role

PIAC advocates for consumers and public interest groups before the CRTC, working with Industry Canada and the Competition Bureau of Canada to protect the public interest. We promote consumers’ and customers’ interestsparticularly vulnerable segments of the publicto achieve fairness in the broadcasting industry.


Our advocacy has included challenging Bell’s purchase of Astral in 2012 in order to protect the diversity of voices and affordability of services.

To learn more about our broadcast advocacy, visit (link upcoming)

If you have a particular problem with a broadcasting service, we may be able to point you in the right direction. Helpful links: CCTS, CRTC, OPC

[1] Section 2(1) of the Broadcasting Act defines “broadcasting” as “any transmission of programs…by radio waves or other means of telecommunication for reception by the public”.

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