CRTC invites comment on infomercials

In a move that recognizes the growing significance to the marketing industry of infomercials and home shopping services, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has called for public comments on whether it should exempt operators from the need to be licensed.Under...

In a move that recognizes the growing significance to the marketing industry of infomercials and home shopping services, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has called for public comments on whether it should exempt operators from the need to be licensed.

Under the Broadcasting Act, the commission may exempt specific classes of undertakings from licensing and other requirements.

Bill Allen, the crtc’s director of public affairs, says the broadcast regulator received several proposals for home shopping and infomercial services in response to its June 3, 1993 call for applications for new Canadian specialty tv programming services.

Among the home shopping applicants were Stylevision Canada, Arts Alive! Tickets and Rogers Broadcasting.

There was also an application by Ladi Horvak for an unnamed company.

The lone infomercial channel application was submitted by WIC Western International Communications in partnership with Dino Music.

An application for an interactive channel was submitted by QVC Canada.

Allen says the commission decided not to consider these applications at the public hearings into specialty services that are scheduled to begin Feb. 14, but to conduct a separate public process.

On Dec. 8, the commission sent out a notice stating a number of issues upon which interested parties are invited to comment:

- Should the crtc exempt the operators of home shopping and or infomercial channels from the requirement to hold licences and, if so, under what circumstances?

- Do home shopping and/or infomercial services, by their nature, need to be licensed in order to ensure they meet the general principles and objectives set out in the Broadcasting Act?

- If they are exempt from licensing, what specific criteria should be established to define the services which fall in the exempt category?

- What priority, if any, should the crtc give these services in terms of their distribution by cable systems?

If the crtc decides ultimately in favor of exemption, the ruling would have a profound effect on the evolution of Canada’s home shopping and infomercial industries, which, up to now, have been stunted by the commission’s restrictive regulations.

Currently, licensed broadcasters are limited, between 6 a.m. and midnight, to running a maximum of 12 minutes of paid advertising per hour.

As a result, broadcasters are unable to run infomercials during prime tv viewing time.

Even though there is no limit on the amount of commercial time broadcasters may run from midnight to 6 a.m., the daytime restrictions have effectively prevented the infomercial from developing into a significant advertising medium, as it has in the u.s. and elsewhere.

The crtc’s 12-minute ruling has similarly stifled the growth of home shopping services, which, in fact, do not broadcast in Canada on the licensed airwaves.

Instead, the Canadian Home Shopping Network, for example, is relegated to broadcasting in a stop-motion format not subject to crtc control.

Written comments in response to the proposal should be sent to the crtc’s secretary general by Feb. 8.

If the crtc decides, after reviewing the comments, to exempt home shopping and/or infomercial services, it will issue an order to that effect.

If it decides licences are still required, public hearings will be scheduled this year to consider the applications as specialty channels.