November 13, 2016 2 years 11 months ago

UPDATED (#3): Federal government bringing in new CRTC vice-chair, just prior to French TV hearing

OTTAWA – According to sources close to the process, Judith A. LaRocque, a former long-serving deputy minister of Canadian Heritage, will very soon be announced as the new vice-chair broadcasting at the CRTC by the federal government.

(UPDATE: Since our original report Sunday, the CRTC has since confirmed LaRocque's appointment. See below. Update #2: Click here for the official order-in-council.)

Cartt.ca has learned that LaRocque has been appointed for an initial six-month term – and that she will begin immediately as her hiring was expedited due to the French-language TV license renewal hearing beginning November 22 in Laval. According to our sources, she will be among the panel of commissioners leading the hearing (with CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais and Quebec commissioner Yves Dupras. It’s not yet known if Atlantic region and Nunavut commissioner Chris MacDonald, who was to be part of the panel, will remain on it.)

As we called attention to in a commentary piece last week, the CRTC was about to begin an important hearing in the province of Quebec with just two Francophone commissioners, which would have run contrary to long-standing Commission practice of having at least three Francophone commissioners oversee any hearing dealing with broadcasting in Quebec.

However, with this very late move, (it’s been over a year since former vice-chair broadcasting Tom Pentefountas announced he was leaving), the proceeding on the renewal of television licences held by large English- and French-language ownership groups with the French language broadcasters will now apparently meet the policy and have three Francophone commissioners, although LaRocque will surely have to get up to speed rather quickly, if our sources are correct. We have asked for, but have not yet received, official word from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

LaRocque, 60, has been a public servant her entire career and was appointed associate deputy minister of the Department of Canadian Heritage in 2000, under then-Minister Sheila Copps when Liberal Jean Chretien was Prime Minister. She was appointed deputy minister in 2002 and remained there until she was selected as Canadian Ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2010, where she remained until 2015.

Interestingly, her bio shows LaRocque was one of Blais’ bosses during his stint at Heritage, where he was assistant deputy minister of cultural affairs from 2004-2011.

Update #3: While there was immediate speculation today in Ottawa about whether or not LaRocque will succeed Blais as chair of the CRTC when his term expires in June of 2017, it appears likely this is just a six-month appointment only and that the government is still looking for a longer-term vice chair (not to mention an Ontario commissioner and a Saskatchewan/Manitoba commissioner when Candice Molnar departs in January). LaRocque told the Globe and Mail recently she is not interested in the CRTC chair job - and a Department of Canadian Heritage spokesperson said Monday she was appointed to to fill an urgent role and that the ministry is still searching.

Here is the announcement of the appointment in a staff note circulated today by CRTC secretary general Danielle May-Cuconato:

I am very happy to announce that Judith A. LaRocque will be joining the CRTC as Vice-Chairperson of Broadcasting from November 14, 2016 to May 12, 2017.

Mrs. LaRocque has held numerous positions during her career, including Secretary to the Governor General, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage, and Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris.

Her knowledge and experience will be invaluable to our work at placing Canadian citizens, creators, and consumers at the centre of their communications system.

Please join me in welcoming Mrs. LaRocque. I am confident that she will be able to count on your total collaboration.