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US Superbowl commercials or local news – what’s more important to you?


8 minute read

Do you know that prior to 2 years ago, you couldn’t watch the Superbowl complete with those amazing Superbowl commercials in Canada.  Before that, you had to wait, maybe catch them online, or the next morning on a local newscast.  I know, it seems like ancient history.  In our thirst for entertainment and information that is widely available “on demand”, we are testing the limits of a terrestrial television system designed decades ago.

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the case of Bell Media/CTV and the NFL as it relates to the CRTC’s decision to exempt the Superbowl broadcast from the rules of “simultaneous substitution”.  Called ‘sim-sub’ for short, it is the practice of blocking of US commercials on Canadian TV channels and in their place substituting national and local Canadian commercials. It’s been around since the rise of cable delivery in our country as a way to protect the exclusive licenses that Canadian TV companies have when they purchase the rights to a US network program and air it in Canada. These revenues help offset the cost of local news operations which generally are resource-heavy, low-margin, and in some cases, heavily subsidized programs.

In 2016 the CRTC made an exception to the sim-sub rules, allowing cable & satellite companies to dispense with the practice for Superbowl. Only the Superbowl. Why? Because the CRTC received tons of complaints for years from people who wanted to watch the big budget US Superbowl ads but couldn’t because the Canadian broadcast was full of ads for Tim Horton’s. You know what I mean.

This is in the news now because the Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the case being made by CTV and its parent company Bell Media, along with the NFL.  They make very good points relative to policy and regulations around this long-standing practice. They negotiated a long term deal with the NFL based on buying the “exclusive rights” to the game and paid big money.  And then the CRTC changed the rules.

Here’s some background.  The Canadian TV system works, complete with its local newscasts and Cancon rules worked because for years, revenue was generated and profits derived largely by purchasing Canadian rights to first-run US network programs and broadcasting them, generally in primetime, in “simulcast” with the originating US station.  You know… you think you’re watching Lucifer on FOX 28 KAYU only to realize you’re watching CTV when a commercial break comes on.  You’re a bit confused, then the show ends and suddenly you’re watching FOX 28 again.  No, it’s not you.  It’s the system.  This practice protects the Canadian TV station’s exclusive rights by blocking all other signals and inserting the Canadian channel over top of them.

Still with me? Ok… now in the case of the Superbowl, the system changed with no apparent warning.

The Superbowl is widely watched, but its for the commercials, as evidenced by the many complaints the CRTC received every year. In their zeal to satisfy the masses and quell the complaints, the Commission in effect  sacrificed CTV’s exclusive right to broadcast the game in Canada, and killed their ability to recoup the massive rights fees they’ve paid.   

What happened next? The Superbowl arrived on a variety of US cable channels, complete with the must-see commercials. And CTV, the only company that actually paid for the exclusive rights to broadcast the program in Canada, was out of luck.  The Superbowl was featured on a number of channels and CTV’s audience took a beating. The value of their commercials went down considerably.  Why? Because of the US channels with the high-budget US ads. The tsunami of production value, A-list talent and of course, those Budweiser horses proved irresistible.

So off they all go to the Supreme Court to sort it out.  Bell Media will surely argue that the loss of revenue from a show like Superbowl directly impacts the funds available to create local newscasts, pay staff, and generate profit for shareholders.

Bell said in a statement it is pleased that the Supreme Court will hear the appeal:

“We look forward to advancing our argument that a broad range of Canadian creators, producers, advertisers and businesses have been negatively impacted by the original decision.”

So what do you think? Is watching US commercials in the Superbowl more important than preserving the regulatory framework that protects our local over-the-air TV system across the country? Because the two really are inextricably linked. By eroding the ability for a Canadian program rights-holder to recoup their investment, as the CRTC did by  making an exemption of Simsub rules for Superbowl broadcasts, it strikes right to the heart of funds available to produce local news programming.

So now the greater question is just how important is local TV in today’s world of digital communication, on demand viewing, tablets, phones, PVR’s, and social media? Audiences and revenues for local Canadian TV stations have been under increasing pressure for years, and few cities realize this more than Red Deer.

While not related to Superbowl advertising, the one local TV station here closed its doors and quit broadcasting in 2009. When it closed, I’m told by a former Commissioner that not a squeak was heard at the CRTC from this local community- not a letter or comment. So was the station even missed? Many will remember (or not) when it was for a short period of time called E! Entertainment, all in an effort to find inexpensive programming.  Ultimately it didn’t work.   CKRD, RDTV, E!, CHCA- it had many aliases, but ultimately struggled to drive enough revenue to continue operating.  That was 9 years ago, and many of the factors that led to its closure have only accelerated since then.

Do you watch local TV news from the remaining stations in Edmonton and Calgary? Are these institutions still important, or would we all rather just watch US commercials and US TV shows and say goodbye to the notion of local TV news programming here in Canada? How have your habits changed? Do you care? Because you really can’t have it both ways for very long.

Lloyd Lewis is President of Todayville, INC.  He was VP/GM of CTV Edmonton from 2005-2015 and GM of RDTV Red Deer from 1997 to 2000. He worked in the local television industry for 35 years. 

President Todayville Inc., Honorary Colonel 41 Signal Regiment, Board Member Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Award Foundation, Director Canadian Forces Liaison Council (Alberta) musician, photographer, former VP/GM CTV Edmonton.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

From The Border To Kevin O’Leary, Canada Is Freaking Out Americans

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Tequesta, Fla.: Those Canadians who spend time in DeSantisLand  know that our American hosts are blissfully unaware of what happens in Canada. Outside blaming the True North for brisk weather like this week’s near-freezing temps in the South.

Then, out of nowhere, Canada and Canadians are suddenly blasting down the pike like an Alberta Clipper. Example: While everyone is talking the bum rush at the southern U.S. border, former GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy was frothing about the steady tide of illegals crossing southward from Canada into the U.S.

He told X ,“The Northern Border is the next frontier for illegals. Career politicians including Republicans derided me for saying it last year. Now we’re starting to see the consequences.” One of the consequences is the PM not talking about our leaky border. But since the Liberals removed visa requirements for Mexicans the flood gates have opened. Canada’s fastest growing industry is human smuggling.

Vermont residents are very engaged with Canada’s dirty little secret. Swanton, Vt. resident Chris Feeley told reporters that “he has been hunting in the area since he was a teen and rarely ran into anyone. Now he sees illegals frequently. ‘The border patrol actually told us, ‘You guys might want to put a pistol in your backpack’ because nine out of 10 of them are just here for a better life, but there’s that one guy that’s got a rap sheet,” he said.

Will Trump build a northern wall as well as a southern barrier? Inquiring minds in Canada want to know. Then came the bimbo eruption from New York’s governor Kathy Hochul. Hochul’s state has the highest percentage of Jews in America (seven percent). One and a half to two million Jews live in the New York City area alone. She has a vested interest in their issues.

So when the heinous Oct. 7 attacks murdered hundreds of innocent Israelis in their homes and communities Hochul (whose ancestry is Irish-American) sought to show her solidarity with her constituents. “If Canada someday ever attacked Buffalo, I’m sorry, my friends, there would be no Canada the next day,” Hochul said at an event for the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York.

“That is a natural reaction. You have a right to defend yourself and to make sure that it never happens again. And that is Israel’s right.” Hey, she likes us enough to massacre us in retaliation. Now that’s a caring neighbour. Not surprisingly, when Canada’s media grandees heard the news they plotzed. And Hochul scrambled to clarify her remarks. But for a few days, Canada was a something. Americas would obliterate us for destroying Buffalo. The mind boggles.

Next, the liberals in overheated #TDS legacy media had one of their periodic fits over former president #OrangeManBad . They were left aghast that another Donald Trump presidency might decline to protect NATO partners from the boogey man. Trump even suggested he’d give Putin the A-OK to do his worst on Luxembourg or Montenegro. Shocked and appalled, they declared the end of NATO and McDonald’s McRib sandwich.

What the Jake Tapper Brigade neglected to mention in all this fainting and pearl clutching was that this would happen ONLY IF rogue nations refused to pay their obligations under the NATO charter. (Why ruin a good hysteria over running the full quote? See: Charlottesville, Jan. 6, drinking bleach.)

Now, which American neighbour to the North of Biden’s Bedroom is delinquent in its obligations to NATO? Might it be Trudeaupia where it’s more important than agriculture minister Lawrence McAuley be seen casually gorging on lobster in Asia than paying up for deterrents against the Chinese?

So to all his other self-inflicted miseries Prince Justin of Rideau Cottage was confronted with the pitiful funding of Canada’s military (his government just cut military spending by a billion) and its reliance on the support of strangers when it comes to protecting the Arctic, among other tracts of lands. Trudeau has lobbied NATO to include other spending under its requirements. But so far, NATO is not accepting maple syrup, Melanie Joly desk calendars and Bollywood costumes as applicable contributions to defence spending.

According to reports reaching us in the Land of Farenheit, Trudeau responded to all this scrutiny by flying west in a carbon-belching jet to promote climate something-something. But how would an incoming Trump administration deal with Trudeau (and his paid media) who has made POTUS 45 a convenient whipping boy? Has Canada’s PM said too much already? Might Trump tighten the pressure on paying up— just in spite? Trump? Spiteful? Never!

Next on the screens of Americans was the ubiquitous Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary, Canada’s gift to Shark Tank/ Dragons Den. The recent civil trial of Trump in NYC has vexed him. So everywhere one looks O’Leary is schooling dim liberal hosts on CNN about the idiocy of the decision to fine Trump $354M for cheating no one out of nothing.

“It’s appalling. It’s unjust. I would go as far to say it’s un-American.” Here he is with some place setting named Laura Coates explaining how you do real estate in NYC. “That fact that he was found guilty, you might as well find guilty every real estate developer on Earth,” O’Leary says. “I don’t understand where someone got hurt … What developer doesn’t ask for the highest-price value for any building they built?… If this judgment sticks, every developer must be jailed. They must be found guilty. They must be put out of business. You can’t do this to one but not another. It’s not about Trump.”

O’Leary followed up by saying he wouldn’t be doing business in NYC until the decision was reversed. Others, including Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams followed suit, “100% of people who don’t understand banking, business, negotiating, or the world in general are sure Trump committed fraud. 100% of people who understand banking, business, negotiating, and the world in general saw ‘business as usual’ and no fraud.” Like O’Leary, Adams vowed not to visit nor do business in New York State, setting off an X wave of hysteria among former CDN sports writers and liberal arts graduates.

But Mr. Wonderful discouraging business is different. Hearing O’Leary’s warning to businesses to steer clear of NYC, Governor Hochul sought to reassure real-estate developers that the government will not go after them like they have gone after Donald Trump. Prompting Texas senator Ted Cruz to observe, “In other words, if you don’t make Democrats angry, you won’t get sued. But if you do, you’ll get the Donald Trump treatment.”

It’s almost too much Canada in the news. Luckily, Trudeaupia will slip beneath the waves of American attention again shortly, ignored and dismissed. To think we were that close.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via

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Fraser Institute

Yes, B.C.’s Land Act changes give First Nations veto over use of Crown Land

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From the Fraser Institute

By Bruce Pardy

Nathan Cullen says there’s no veto. Cullen, British Columbia’s Minister of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship, plans to give First Nations joint decision-making authority over Crown land. His NDP government recently opened consultations on its proposal to amend the B.C. Land Act, under which the minister grants leases, licences, permits, rights-of-way and land sales. The amendments will give legal effect to agreements with Indigenous governing bodies. Those agreements will share decision-making power “through joint or consent models” with some or all of B.C.’s more than 200 First Nations.

Yes, First Nations will have a veto.

Cullen denies it. “There is no veto in these amendments,” he told the Nanaimo News Bulletin last week. He accused critics of fearmongering and misinformation. “My worry is that for some of the political actors here on the right, this is an element of dog-whistle politics.”

But Cullen has a problem. Any activity that requires your consent is an activity over which you have a veto. If a contract requires approval of both parties before something can happen, “no” by one means “no” for both. The same is true in other areas of law such as sexual conduct, which requires consent. If you withhold your consent, you have vetoed the activity. “Joint decision-making,” “consent,” and “veto” come out to the same thing.

Land use decisions are subject to the same logic. The B.C. government will give First Nations joint decision-making power, when and where agreements are entered into. Its own consultation materials say so. This issue has blown up in the media, and the government has hastily amended its consultation webpage to soothe discontent (“The proposed amendments to the Land Act will not lead to broad, sweeping, or automatic changes (or) provide a ‘veto.’”) Nothing to see here folks. But its documentation continues to describe “shared decision-making through joint or consent models.”

These proposals should not surprise anyone. In 2019, the B.C. legislature passed Bill 41, the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA). It requires the government to take “all measures necessary” to make the laws of British Columbia consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

UNDRIP is a declaration of the U.N. General Assembly passed in 2007. It says that Indigenous people have “the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired… to own, use, develop and control.”

On its own, UNDRIP is non-binding and unenforceable. But DRIPA seeks to incorporate UNDRIP into B.C. law, obligating the government to achieve its aspirations. Mere consultation with First Nations, which Section 35 of the Constitution requires, won’t cut it under UNDRIP. Under Section 7 of DRIPA, agreements to be made with indigenous groups are to establish joint decision-making or to require consent of the Indigenous group. Either Cullen creates a First Nations veto or falls short of the goalposts in DRIPA. He is talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Some commentators warned against these dangers long ago. For example, shortly after DRIPA was passed in 2019, Vancouver lawyer Robin Junger wrote in the Vancouver Sun, “It will likely be impossible for government to live up to the expectations that Indigenous groups will now reasonably hold, without fundamentally affecting the rights and interests of third parties.” Unfortunately, few wanted to tackle that thorny question head on at the time. All three political parties in B.C. voted in favour of DRIPA, which passed unanimously.

For a taste of how Land Act changes could work, ask some B.C. residents who have private docks. In Pender Harbour, for instance, the shishalh Nation and the province have jointly developed a “Dock Management Plan” to try and impose various new and onerous rules on private property owners (including red “no go” zones and rules that will make many existing docks and boat houses non-compliant). Property owners with long-standing docks in full legal compliance will have no right to negotiate, to be consulted, or to be grandfathered. Land Act amendments may hardwire this plan into B.C. law.

Yet Cullen insists that no veto will exist since aggrieved parties can apply to a court for judicial review. “[An agreement] holds both parties—B.C. and whichever nation we enter into an agreement (with)—to the same standard of judicial review, administrative fairness, all the things that courts protect when someone is going through an application or a tendering process,” he told Business in Vancouver.

This is nonsense on stilts. By that standard, no government official has final authority under any statute. All statutory decisions are potentially subject to judicial review, including decisions of Cullen himself as the minister responsible for the Land Act. He doesn’t have a veto? Of course he does. Moreover, courts on judicial review generally defer to statutory decision-makers. And they don’t change decisions but merely send them back to be made again. The argument that First Nations won’t have a veto because their decisions can be challenged on judicial review is legal jibber jabber.

When the U.N. passed UNDRIP in 2007, people said they can’t be serious. When the B.C. legislature passed DRIPA in 2019, people said they can’t be serious. The B.C. government now proposes to give First Nations a veto over the use of Crown land. Don’t worry, they can’t be serious.

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