Canada limit: 2 media outlets per market

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OTTAWA -- Canada's TV regulator on Tuesday imposed new cross-media ownership restrictions that restrict any company or person from owning more than two media outlets in a single market.

In a move to ensure a "diversity of voices" in the Canadian market, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said that broadcasters can own either a radio station, an over-the-air TV station or local newspaper in any market.

The new regulations will force a media group to sell a TV or radio station in a given market, for example, if they want to purchase a local newspaper.

"It is an approach that will preserve the plurality of editorial voices and the diversity of programming available to Canadians, both locally and nationally, while allowing for a strong and competitive industry," CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein said in a statement.

The new policy changes will not impact any existing Canadian broadcaster since the CRTC has chosen to consider the Globe and Mail newspaper, which is owned and run by CTVglobemedia, and The National Post, a part of rival broadcaster CanWest Global Communications Corp., as national newspapers, and not local Toronto publications.

The CRTC also introduced regulations to prevent a broadcaster from controlling more than 45% of the total TV audience in a market as a result of a buyout. However, a broadcaster can increase its audience share beyond 45% by operating and growing its existing assets, the regulator ruled.

The CRTC also imposed ownership limits on broadcast distributors, stating that it will not approve any mergers between any cabler or satellite TV distributor that would result in one entity effectively seizing control of the delivery of programming in a market.

The existing regulation that prevents a TV broadcaster from owning more than one over-the-air station in one language in a local market remains in place. As well, a radio broadcaster will continue to be barred from owning more than two AM and two FM stations in large markets, or three stations (two AM and an FM, or two FM and an AM station) in small markets.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters, which represents domestic private broadcasters, did not respond to a request for comment at press time.

During the CRTC's public hearing in November on the issue of ensuring a diversity of voices in Canadian media, the CAB argued that no new regulations were needed and that the CRTC could deal with mergers on a case-by-case basis.

Those hearings followed the CRTC's examination of high-profile media mergers here, including CanWest Global teaming up with Goldman Sachs & Co. to acquire Alliance Atlantis Communications and CTVglobemedia's purchase of rival Chum Ltd.

Konrad von Finckenstein indicated Tuesday that it was important for the regulator "to have a clear approach to guide us in assessing future transactions in the broadcasting industry."
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