Broadcaster Magazine

CRTC Calls for Comments on Prohibiting Simultaneous Substitution for Super Bowl

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  • The CRTC calls for comments on a proposed distribution order regarding simultaneous substitution for the Super Bowl. Simultaneous substitution occurs when a distributor temporarily replaces the signal of one television channel with that of another showing the same program at the same time. The proposed distribution order would implement a Commission policy decision resulting from the Let’s Talk TV proceeding, by prohibiting simultaneous substitution for the Super Bowl starting with Super Bowl 51, scheduled to be played on 5 February 2024.

    The role of broadcasting distribution undertakings (i.e., cable, Internet Protocol television (IPTV) or direct-to-home satellite services) (BDUs) is to provide Canadians with access to broadcasting programming services. Generally, they cannot alter or delete the signals of the programming services that they distribute.

    An exception to this rule is simultaneous substitution, which occurs when a distributor temporarily replaces the signal of one television channel with that of a local or regional channel showing the same program at the same time. The terms and conditions for simultaneous substitution are currently set out in the Simultaneous Programming Service Deletion and Substitution Regulations. Footnote 1

    The Commission noted that simultaneous substitution promotes local broadcasting and local creation, and keeps advertising dollars in the Canadian market. As such, it stated that it would continue to allow the practice of simultaneous substitution for the time being. The Commission specified, however, that the simultaneous substitution regime is an exception to the general rule whereby BDUs cannot alter or delete the signal of a programming service.

    In that same regulatory policy, the Commission went on to note that Canadians had expressed ongoing frustration with certain elements of the simultaneous substitution process, relating to, among other things, the broadcast of special events such as the Super Bowl.

    Issues relating to simultaneous substitution for the Super Bowl have been a frequent source of complaints by Canadians. In particular, several participants in the Let’s Talk TV proceeding complained that the U.S. advertising was being replaced by Canadian advertising, arguing that the U.S. advertising produced for the Super Bowl is an integral part of that special event. Based on the above, the Commission stated  that distributors would no longer be allowed to perform simultaneous substitution for the Super Bowl as of the end of the 2024 National Football League season (that is, starting with Super Bowl 51, scheduled to be played on 5 February 2024). The Commission also noted that this determination would provide broadcasters with a reasonable period to make adjustments.

    The  Commission set out its procedures for dealing with simultaneous substitution errors, including how viewers can submit complaints. Further,  the Commission announced that it had made the Simultaneous Deletion and Substitution Regulations, which implemented the Commission’s determinations with respect to a compensation regime for simultaneous substitution errors.

    The Commission set out its intention to implement the removal of simultaneous substitution for the Super Bowl by using its general authority pursuant to section 9(1)(h) of the Broadcasting Act. This is a provision that addresses the carriage of programming services by BDUs, and allows the Commission to impose terms and conditions it deems appropriate regarding the carriage of programming services, in furtherance of the objectives of the Act (e.g., serving the needs and interests of Canadians).

    The Commission has set out a proposed order that specifies the terms and conditions for the distribution of Canadian television services that broadcast the Super Bowl. The Commission invites comments on the proposed distribution order. The Commission will accept interventions that it receives on or before 4 March 2024.

    The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Rules of Practice and Procedure (the Rules of Procedure) apply to the present proceeding. The Rules of Procedure set out, among other things, the rules for content, format, filing and service of interventions, answers, replies and requests for information; the procedure for filing confidential information and requesting its disclosure; and the conduct of public hearings. Accordingly, the procedure set out below must be read in conjunction with the Rules of Procedure and related documents, which can be found on the Commission’s website under “Statutes and Regulations.” The guidelines set out in Broadcasting and Telecom Information Bulletin 2024-959 provide information to help interested persons and parties understand the Rules of Procedure so that they can more effectively participate in Commission proceedings.

    The Commission encourages interested persons and parties to monitor the record of the proceeding, available on the Commission’s website, for additional information that they may find useful when preparing their submissions.

    The Commission expects incorporated entities and associations, and encourages all Canadians, to file submissions for Commission proceedings in accessible formats (for example, text-based file formats that allow text to be enlarged or modified, or read by screen readers). To provide assistance in this regard, the Commission has posted on its website guidelines for preparing documents in accessible formats.