Cartt.ca podcast: Ian Scott reflects on his tenure as head of the CRTC and what’s next

With nearly three decades of communications policy and regulatory experience under his belt, Ian Scott has quite a bit to say as he leaves his CRTC leadership post today. Listen in as Scott asserts his “vision” for the commission and what it truly means to serve the public interest.

Scott doesn’t hold back on accomplishments, such as narrowing the digital divide, consensus building, and the biggest challenges faced on the Canadian broadcasting and telecommunications fronts since 2017.

Scott, never a media-hound, is blunt and frank when addressing criticisms of his tenure. This is a no-holds-barred conversation that includes a few personal insights touching on the Zen of woodworking.

Sticking to his guns on evidence-based decision-making, and unpacking controversies surrounding hot-buttons like the Mobile Virtual Network Operator regime, bias favouring the Big Three telecom players (Bell, Rogers and Telus), the reasoning behind infrastructure-based outcomes, and tippling with Bell’s CEO Mirko Bibic, one gets the strong impression that Scott will be heard from again in due course — every exit being an entry somewhere else.

Scott also has plenty to say about both Bill C-11 (Online Streaming Act) and Bill C-18 (Online News Act); about the stress inherent in chairing the commission; and about why he prefers not to look at his CRTC tenure as leaving a personal legacy.

This is a conversation deeply respectful of his colleagues and staff at the CRTC, and one softly lamenting the public’s lack of awareness regarding the importance of the CRTC’s roughly 500 annual decisions and orders impacting the lives of all Canadians.

In closing remarks, Scott leaves an “imaginary letter” to the next Chairperson and CEO of the CRTC Vicky Eatrides, who takes over tomorrow.

So grab a coffee and settle in.

Podcast Transcript

00;00;00;01 – 00;00;30;09
Bill Roberts
Welcome Cartt.ca listeners. I’m Bill Roberts, contributing editor at Cartt.ca, and welcome to the New Year 2023. The Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, has a vitally important mandate to deliver it to all Canadians. Technology has fundamentally changed how we communicate, how we learn, how we create, and how we consume culture. The person at the heart of leading this accelerating change since I think it September 2017.

00;00;30;15 – 00;00;31;05
Ian Scott
That’s correct.

00;00;31;18 – 00;00;52;20
Bill Roberts
Has been Ian Scott Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the CRTC, and through his five year term through January 4th, are you January 4th, 2023? That’s correct. That’s correct. Ian Scott is here with us today on way to chat about these dynamic last five years in a special end of term conversation. Thank you for doing that.

00;00;52;29 – 00;00;54;02
Ian Scott
It’s my pleasure, Bill.

00;00;54;10 – 00;01;17;26
Bill Roberts
Ian, you came to the CRTC with over 25 years of policy and regulatory experience in broadcasting and telecommunications in both the public and the private sectors. I mean, it’s a long list, a partial list as Competition Bureau. Tell us. Tell us. KTA, Sprint, Canada, which I think a lot of people forget. It’s a pretty unique set of skills and valuable experience.

00;01;17;27 – 00;01;21;25
Bill Roberts
Why didn’t you apply for, you know, reapply for the CRTC chair?

00;01;22;11 – 00;01;48;28
Ian Scott
Oh, because my term has done the sign on the wall says five years. In fact, I was extended, which to my knowledge, is the first time a chair has ever been extended. And again, to my knowledge, no chairman of the CRTC has ever been reappointed. I think it’s expected that at the end of a chair’s term that the government will likely want a new person to fulfill the Chairman.

00;01;49;07 – 00;01;52;28
Bill Roberts
Sort of like a board of directors where there’s a limited number of terms.

00;01;52;28 – 00;02;04;07
Ian Scott
Or what the I don’t know about in the past, if it was technically possible, I believe it always has been. It’s over 50 years. And again, to my knowledge, no chairs ever been renewed.

00;02;04;11 – 00;02;27;16
Bill Roberts
Okay, Good to know. I’ve heard you say a number of times that the CRTC role is to regulate in the public interest to ensure that Canadians have access to a world class communications system. So as you supervise and directed that work for the last five years, what was the Commission’s biggest or most challenging or maybe even most time consuming item on the broadcasting side of your ledger.

00;02;27;22 – 00;03;06;22
Ian Scott
On the broadcasting side. The most challenging, I think, is to get ready for implementing Bill. What is Bill C-11 assuming it gets passed into law by parliament early this year? There is a tremendous amount of repertory work that went into getting ready for that. We’ll have to see its final form and so on. But the commission is ready to rock and roll once given jurisdiction, new tools and flexibility to regulate the broadcasting sector in its new fulsome context.

00;03;07;00 – 00;03;14;09
Bill Roberts
Well, we’ll get to that a little bit later. Just maybe dig into a few more details. Sure. What about on the telecommunications side of the commission’s ledger?

00;03;14;11 – 00;03;43;01
Ian Scott
I think the biggest thing has been the decline payment of our broadband fund and the impact that it’s had in communities. And I have to start by saying the commission has a broadband fund that was came into, if you will, theoretical for the structure was introduced, but it had to be implemented. And so early in my term we set out to finalize the framework and then started issuing funding.

00;03;43;18 – 00;04;15;08
Ian Scott
I say not us alone. We have a fund that is very important to recognize that the Government of Canada in particular, I said, has now directed an extraordinary amount of funding towards addressing the digital divide as the provincial governments, territorial governments, even municipal governments, and they are working in unison, which is a great thing. But for our part, we’ve connected something in the range of 205 communities that didn’t have service previously.

00;04;15;23 – 00;04;30;07
Ian Scott
About half of those are Indigenous communities where the digital divide is most striking something like 33,000 households, 500 kilometers, almost 600 kilometers of roads. So that’s been a big, big change.

00;04;30;25 – 00;04;34;07
Bill Roberts
Is there anything else you want to say about that? Because I think that’s a point of pride.

00;04;34;07 – 00;05;10;26
Ian Scott
If I say I come with a glass half full and the glass half full, as we are out now, over 91% of Canadians have access to the target amount, which is 50 megabit download speeds. The glass half empty was previously only originally about 40% of rural communities and 20% of indigenous communities had access. That number is now over 50 for rural communities and approaching 30 for Indigenous communities.

00;05;11;03 – 00;05;21;12
Ian Scott
So we’re making real progress. That doesn’t mean the work is done and affordable. It remains a challenge, but we’ve made tremendous progress in the last five years.

00;05;21;15 – 00;05;43;13
Bill Roberts
It sounds like a job really well done. As chair of the commission, you lead, but you’re still one vote among nine total votes when it comes to final decisions, is that right? That’s correct. So is there is there one vote that comes to mind where perhaps you regret losing a vote or even one that you one where you might have some element of buyer’s remorse?

00;05;43;13 – 00;05;44;07
Bill Roberts
In hindsight?

00;05;44;20 – 00;05;46;17
Ian Scott
Never. Well, first.

00;05;46;17 – 00;05;47;06
Bill Roberts
There’s a big.

00;05;47;06 – 00;06;16;06
Ian Scott
Word. You never know. First, I have to say that the commission’s deliberations and this applies to me now and in the future, as well as all members are, deliberations are private. That’s deliberative privilege that you don’t ask a judge how they you know, what conversations they have leading to their decision. But that said, no. My focus and my approach since my appointment has always been to drive towards consensus decisions.

00;06;16;16 – 00;06;43;05
Ian Scott
In my term, we’ve put out easily over 500 decisions in orders. Almost all of those have been unanimous consensus decisions. The few that haven’t been. Sometimes there are recorded votes where people disagree, and that’s fine. And on a rare occasion, there are dissents, as is the right of a member. If they disagree and want the public to know that they disagree and why they’re free to write a dissent.

00;06;43;05 – 00;06;48;19
Ian Scott
And I have no problems with that. But there have been very few instances over five years for that’s happened.

00;06;48;27 – 00;06;53;22
Bill Roberts
What was your proudest or most rewarding decision that the CRTC at the commission?

00;06;53;25 – 00;07;19;10
Ian Scott
Not one. It’s a collection because we’re doing good work for Canadian citizens all the time. We regulate to really important sectors and not everybody knows what the commission does, but everyone’s impacted by whether it’s because you do or don’t like your broadband service you do or don’t like what’s on television. You can’t find Canadian programs or you find too many.

00;07;19;18 – 00;07;40;12
Ian Scott
You know, people are never. Not all of the people are always happy all the time. But what we do is important and it’s the collectivity. I’ll give you an example. I kind of think of it as a three legged stool, broadcasting as one telecom to another, but the protection against unsolicited communications is the third, and that’s one that’s not understood very well.

00;07;40;22 – 00;08;04;20
Ian Scott
But something like 25% of all calls placed on the mobile network are not real calls. And many of those by parties attempting to engage in fraudulent activities and we’ve done a lot of work over this period of time to begin to bring in tools and take measures to reduce that. It’s always going to be a problem, but we’ve done great work in that area.

00;08;04;25 – 00;08;08;15
Ian Scott
So I don’t pick one over and. They’re all important.

00;08;08;25 – 00;08;36;15
Bill Roberts
When I think of leadership and I’ve been there before in true leadership in any high profile role in Italy, inevitably brings with it detractors and in regulatory decisions. I mean, I work at the commission. There are virtually always winners and losers. So with with your permission, I’m going to run through a few of those criticisms. One is, overall, the CRTC is responsible for the high rates Canadians pay for Internet services.

00;08;36;27 – 00;08;46;08
Bill Roberts
Some of the critics saying we keep losing independent competitors to take by takeover by huge incumbents, you know. What’s your pushback on that?

00;08;46;10 – 00;09;16;19
Ian Scott
Well, let’s start with facts. First, we don’t regulate ownership transaction other than ensuring that carry Canadian carriers are indeed owned controlled by Canadian. It’s the Competition Bureau that deals with concentration and in the marketplace and mergers and takeovers. Second, Internet rates, retail Internet rates have never been subject to regulation in Canada. A notable exception is in the north, where there was insufficient.

00;09;16;19 – 00;09;17;17
Bill Roberts
Northwest Territories.

00;09;17;17 – 00;09;50;28
Ian Scott
Right? Yes. The service areas of Northwest help where the commission implemented rate regulation because there was insufficient competition and uncertainty that required regulation. Otherwise, both wireless and internet rates. Broadband rates have never been subject to retail rating. To the extent that market forces work, we allow them to work where they don’t and price competition in both wireless and in broadband are areas that show that it’s not sufficient and not working.

00;09;51;11 – 00;09;54;22
Ian Scott
We’ve introduced measures to bring about a reduction in rates.

00;09;55;07 – 00;10;13;02
Bill Roberts
The next criticism, I think it was pretty high profile. One is that you shouldn’t have had a drink with Mirko Bibic. Bell CEO. And that it was a conflict of interest. And here I have to interject that personally I think the remedy there should have been that more drinks with more media leaders. If you’re if your liver could have stood up.

00;10;13;12 – 00;10;14;29
Bill Roberts
What what’s what do you say about that?

00;10;14;29 – 00;10;41;07
Ian Scott
It seems like got nothing to say about it that hasn’t already been said, to be quite candid. I have met with I’ve had an open door both internally at the commission and externally. Throughout my time I have met regularly with accessibility groups, consumer recruits with major stakeholders, minor stakeholders. I’ve traveled across the country. I’ve gone to small radio stations, community stations.

00;10;41;12 – 00;10;56;13
Ian Scott
I have met with everyone who wanted to meet with me and at all times have abided by the rules. And that was clearly agreed to and declared by the Ethics commissioner. And I really I have nothing else to add to that.

00;10;56;21 – 00;11;12;07
Bill Roberts
All right, let’s put that behind us. Another critique that I’ve seen in the press is that this last CRTC, CRTC term has done more for big telecom companies than it has for average Canadians. I think there was some writing or comments about predatory pricing by the big guys.

00;11;12;18 – 00;11;41;20
Ian Scott
I do disagree with the premise of the question whether or not there have you know, people are satisfied with pricing. To suggest that one side has has done better than another is simply ignoring over 500 decisions, rules and orders that have been issued. I think if people ask, everyone will point out decisions they hate or they consider that they lost as well as one.

00;11;42;01 – 00;12;16;17
Ian Scott
Most of those comments are around a couple of proceedings around broadband, wholesale rates and about wireless decision. You know, most commentators, frankly, have never read those decisions, but they’re repeating criticisms. I wish it were more informed criticism. I’m not you know, the commission is not perfect, but it makes its decisions based on principles of administrative law and fairness and based on the record that it develops and nothing else.

00;12;16;23 – 00;12;27;19
Bill Roberts
The next criticism I probably it’s just a riff on the one we just talked about is that the commission has neglected consumer and competition issues when it comes to wholesale Internet and mobile services.

00;12;27;27 – 00;12;52;03
Ian Scott
And again, I disagree with the premise. The fact of the matter and but I will go back to my proverbial glass half full and half empty. On the wireless side, you know, the commission some seven years ago looked at wireless and said no MVNO and no fulsome analysis of market power. We then did a fulsome proceeding where we looked at whether or not there was market power.

00;12;52;06 – 00;13;07;16
Ian Scott
And we made a determination that in essentially all markets there was either joint market power or even unilateral market power for that. So that was an extensive proceeding to reach that conclusion based on in a fulsome.

00;13;07;16 – 00;13;08;21
Bill Roberts
Report, evidence based.

00;13;08;26 – 00;13;34;24
Ian Scott
Evidence based, having made that determination. The question then is what do you do to offset that market power and the choices and the decisions without obviously in proper detail. We’re essentially regulate rates in a detailed way. Like go back to the 1970s and eighties, which choose your phone or the models of phone and the rates and the rate plans, which I don’t think anyone wants.

00;13;35;05 – 00;14;02;19
Ian Scott
Consumers are not interested in that. They’re interested in what they have already, which is good quality service and good coverage. They’re not happy with prices. And so we focused on wholesale rates and we established, again, based on evidence that the most effective way of reducing rates was to enhance the capacity of the regional competitors that were already having an impact in the market.

00;14;02;27 – 00;14;38;02
Ian Scott
Rates are declining and they’ll continue to decline. But the the competition was coming from a set of competitors and what we determined is they needed a MVNO, a virtual a mobile virtual operators agreement that would expand their impact had we, again, based on evidence done what some parties wanted and and we considered all of these options to have to mandate and I emphasize the word mandate, simple MVNO for anyone who wanted to enter the market.

00;14;38;18 – 00;15;03;09
Ian Scott
The evidence suggested that that would have a detrimental effect on the very competitors that were having an impact in the marketplace. And so based on that evidence, expert staff analysis and the votes of all the commissioners, we decided that this was the best model and it’s being implemented and it’s having the desired impacts. So that’s wireless On the broadband side, not as good.

00;15;03;27 – 00;15;24;18
Ian Scott
There was a regime also established about seven years ago before my arrival, and it hasn’t worked the way the commission anticipated it would work. And yes, there was an issue about wholesale rates. The rates never came into force. There were interim rates established for temporary rates for for those that don’t know what I mean when I say interim.

00;15;24;29 – 00;15;49;15
Ian Scott
There was a proceeding and the result was appeal. It was appealed to the courts, was appealed to cabinet, and it was appealed to us to something called a review. And very I don’t need to speak to either the courts or the cabinet process that’s there. That’s their processes. But for our part, when we receive an appeal, we have to look at the evidence again and determine whether an error was made and we found an error.

00;15;50;01 – 00;16;17;09
Ian Scott
And at that point there’s only one choice, and that is to correct the error. And so the rates were corrected, which was not beneficial to small wholesale based providers. And that’s understood. And the task for the commission now is to make a is to remake or or work on the regime such that it does produce the desired results which are to reduce broadband rates.

00;16;17;09 – 00;16;40;06
Ian Scott
And I will note and this is my glass half empty, that broadband rates are creeping up, not down. And that’s a problem. Absolutely. And the commission has seized of it and is working on it. And there are things to come out in the coming months that, you know, that I can’t speak to, but that will help us hopefully get back on the right path to ensure that those rates go down.

00;16;40;12 – 00;17;04;21
Ian Scott
And I would note look very different. I was at a conference in the U.S. recently and I listened to a large provider saying, oh, look, compare our rates to those for electricity, for water, for other utilities and let’s look at how many bits you got downloaded for that same amount of money. And they went they declared success and they said, we’re wonderful.

00;17;04;26 – 00;17;26;18
Ian Scott
Well, I don’t share that view. And I said so at that conference and say, no, we need to do better. We need to get broadband rates down and we need to continue to get wireless rates down. That’s what we do. Where if there is not sufficient competition in the marketplace, we enhance competition and we take measures to reduce rates to the benefit of consumers.

00;17;26;28 – 00;17;33;24
Ian Scott
And that’s what we’re trying to do. We always have we have during my term and we will in the future under my successor.

00;17;34;03 – 00;17;37;21
Bill Roberts
There’s only one more sort of that critique thing that I just only.

00;17;37;21 – 00;17;37;28
Ian Scott
One.

00;17;37;28 – 00;18;03;12
Bill Roberts
More hopefully going forward. But a couple of the smaller independent Internet providers have used language, something something like this, that the commission has weakened telecom competition in Canada, and one of them in particular cites that there’s been too much ability for the big three. So we’re talking Rogers Telus Bell to sell their flanker brands at cheaper rates than independents.

00;18;03;12 – 00;18;05;05
Bill Roberts
I mean what do you say about that?

00;18;05;09 – 00;18;46;08
Ian Scott
Again, we make decisions based on the record of proceedings and parties if they believe there are matters that are under our jurisdiction are problematic, they should file an application, develop a record and render a decision. I would note, however, we don’t regulate the marketing practices of companies and yes, a competitive response to entry by the large players was to introduce flanker brands and it is had it has made for tough going for new entrants, just as the new entrants are trying to make a tough go for the incumbents.

00;18;46;18 – 00;19;15;04
Ian Scott
From a consumer perspective though, I look at that and go, so those are choices for consumers, and I’m assuming that there’s a lot of consumers that like those brands. I don’t disagree that it has been an effective competitive response by the big players, and that has reduced the impact, if you will, or competitive intensity. But they’re targeted at one part of the market.

00;19;15;06 – 00;19;33;08
Ian Scott
Right. And they’re all fighting for those new ads or those who are most likely to change. And there is vigorous competition. But obviously the big players can manage that vigorous competition better than a small new entrant. And that has been a challenge for those entrants.

00;19;33;11 – 00;20;05;02
Bill Roberts
You’ve mentioned MVNO or mobile virtual network operators, and I think for most Canadians, that’s what the heck does that mean? So for members of the general public who are paying a bit of attention or reading newspapers or getting information about their media services, it looks like the commission you’ve spoken to this already made a decision in 2019, I think flowing out of 2016 and 2019 on reduced wholesale rates for small Internet providers and then reversed it, as you say, based on the evidence in 2022.

00;20;05;16 – 00;20;12;07
Bill Roberts
But I think the impression out there is that that was done under pressure from those big three from Bell Rogers. And tell us sorry.

00;20;12;07 – 00;20;30;24
Ian Scott
Bill, I think we’re maybe confusing or conflating two different proceedings here. NBN owns relate to wireless. There was no previous decision that said yes to MVNO. MVNOs were a major part of our review of Wireless.

00;20;30;24 – 00;20;31;07
Bill Roberts
OC.

00;20;31;07 – 00;20;54;17
Ian Scott
Where numerous parties said just let and basically anybody should be able to come in and resell wireless and and it needed to be they wanted it to be mandated. And it’s important to draw that distinction. Yes, there are sadly only a few, but there are some MVNOs in the marketplace. There are many in the United States. And that’s what a lot of the evidence pointed to.

00;20;54;22 – 00;21;32;01
Ian Scott
None of the mandated they are agreements between the large providers and smaller players. There are probably lots of reasons, but there aren’t very many in Canada. So the point was, would we mandate that? And as I said earlier, after almost a year and a half hearing with lots and lots of evidence from a lot of players, including international analysis, looking at all the pros and cons, the commission made a determination that in simple open, anybody having an MVNO would result, in all likelihood in a very short, intense decrease in prices.

00;21;32;01 – 00;22;04;16
Ian Scott
And then a negative impact because the companies that would be most impacted were the regional competitors who are making a difference. If you look at the province of Quebec, for example, they have the lowest average wireless rates in the country. And the reason is because there’s a very successful regional competitor to their in the form of Videotron that has a known brand, that has a network that has customer relations, and they have driven the prices down in Quebec.

00;22;04;26 – 00;22;33;08
Ian Scott
They have been the most successful. That’s what we’re trying to encourage, along with any other form of competition. MVNO are prohibited, but this is not mandating them in an unlimited open way. And that was a very clear determination based on the evidence that we saw. So we firmly believe that the framework that is in place will continue to reduce rates and is the best framework thus far.

00;22;33;10 – 00;22;46;01
Ian Scott
Things change and the Commission can and will look at it again as the market evolves. But based on the evidence of that proceeding over a good year and a half, that was the right analysis.

00;22;46;01 – 00;23;13;02
Bill Roberts
Well, let’s look maybe we have completed this as well, It looks like to many people that I you know, neighbors, friends, former broadcasters, even, it looks like the commission is committed to some kind of infrastructure based competition where you got to build your own costly infrastructure to get a kind of MVNO status at a time when much of the world like with the U.S. you mentioned the U.S. the U.S. has over 150 MVNOs in my understanding.

00;23;13;02 – 00;23;43;04
Bill Roberts
And they don’t have infrastructure requirements. They access existing infrastructure networks and then pass savings along to consumers. But it looks like with our current infrastructure based approach, that’s pretty difficult for smaller players. And I saw something in the financial post maybe a couple of months ago arguing that that results in double what the Financial Post claim was the U.S. $25 average monthly fee paid by consumers in 22 other developed countries.

00;23;43;04 – 00;24;07;21
Bill Roberts
So, you know, it seems on the surface anyway, and please unpack this if we’ve got it wrong or I got it wrong, like an entrenched oligopoly, basically. Bell Rogers and tell us and even this week I think it was in Karnataka where I read that the commission is looking at bills and pushing back on, on the commissions, collecting broadband fund moneys, which you pointed out was a big success and rightly so.

00;24;08;03 – 00;24;09;23
Bill Roberts
What am I and others missing here?

00;24;09;28 – 00;24;35;08
Ian Scott
Well, there was a lot packed into to that question or questions. Let’s start with the last point. Dell has recently filed an application. We have an established a process to deal with it. Yet, as as I understand it, I have not read the detailed application at this point. That’ll be for others to focus on rather than me. But about the amount being collected in the amount being spent or sent out in any given year.

00;24;35;11 – 00;25;04;04
Ian Scott
So let’s leave that aside. It’s an open process. Dell’s made an application. The Commission will establish a process and develop a record and render a decision. Facilities based competition is one form of competition. We have a long tradition in government. Broadly, the Competition Bureau generally points to it as the most meaningful and efficient form competition we’ve had at the industry department.

00;25;04;15 – 00;25;36;07
Ian Scott
A pretty consistent policy to try and have four wireless carriers in all the major markets rather than just the three. That assumes you get a spectrum license and are operating, but the commission itself has always used resale or third, whether it’s third party Internet access, whether when I was at Sprint and call that we fought for and got unbundled local loots, we got the ability to resell long distance services.

00;25;36;11 – 00;26;05;00
Ian Scott
You know, these are there’s a whole bunch of services that have been done through either unbundling or resale dating back to 1990. And on the broadband side, we have around 12 years of a system of both wholesale access as well as encouraging people to build. So it is a balancing act, but we have always supported both forms, all forms of competition.

00;26;05;12 – 00;26;34;15
Ian Scott
I take issue with the premise, but there obviously is a focus on facilities because it’s the most meaningful form and I’ve been challenged on that previously saying that that means I didn’t have an open mind. I do. We have both sports facilities. Face competition is an important part. Wholesale is an important part. We’ll use every tool available to try and enhance price competition.

00;26;34;26 – 00;26;43;13
Ian Scott
But it is a balancing act because we also want people to build to areas where service is not there. Everyone wants broadband. Everyone wants fiber.

00;26;43;13 – 00;26;44;20
Bill Roberts
Such as Prince Edward County.

00;26;45;10 – 00;26;59;26
Ian Scott
And, well, somebody has got to build it. And then we can have wholesale and retail of those services, but we also need to get the stuff built. So this is a balancing act and it will always be that.

00;27;00;11 – 00;27;29;08
Bill Roberts
You know, maybe even what people the general public is now thinking about is that the market seems to consumers to be over concentrated. We should see that in letters to the editor and opinion pieces and things like that. And the tone there is that larger players use our regulatory system to frustrate smaller companies. I think it was just a few months ago, September, maybe that distributable was bought or being acquired by by Dell.

00;27;29;08 – 00;27;46;20
Bill Roberts
And this morning’s Globe and Mail has a piece. The title of the headline goes Last year, meaning Large Wholesaler Tech Savvy Faces Tough Market Conditions. So it just there’s a sense out there that there’s overconcentration. But what you’re telling me is we’re doing our best to change that.

00;27;46;24 – 00;28;00;03
Ian Scott
Well, the we there is the big one. It’s not just the CRTC. The industry cannot regulate spectrum. The Competition Bureau. Remember now, not the CRTC deals with mergers. And so when we talk about in.

00;28;00;04 – 00;28;00;18
Bill Roberts
Mergers and.

00;28;00;18 – 00;28;39;29
Ian Scott
Acquisitions and acquisitions, so when we talk about those, that is the territory and legislative responsibility of the Commission or Competition Bureau, but not the CRTC. Do we have large dominant carriers in this country? Yes. Do we have large dominant broadcasters? Are they vertically integrated? Yes. Are they big compared to Netflix and Amazon and Apple and. No, you know, depending on what market you want to look at and what product you’re talking about, big and small are all relative concepts.

00;28;40;06 – 00;29;15;08
Ian Scott
What I think you’re referring reflecting is the difficulty that small competitors or newer competitors have competing with these large entrenched companies with powerful brands. And I get it. I was one of those competitors. I know I, I fought those battles. I saw the tactics that were used to delay or extend proceedings. And it can be very frustrating. No one’s without fault here.

00;29;15;08 – 00;29;40;21
Ian Scott
The proceedings could take a long time. You know, competitors also look for extensions. Competitors look to change the scope of proceedings. They seek further disclosure. I mean, there everyone contributes to the complexity of those proceedings. But I go back to first principles. What does the commission do with all of that? Well, they run evidence based proceedings. They’re constituted digital.

00;29;40;25 – 00;30;07;03
Ian Scott
They ensure administrative law, fairness, you know, procedural fairness to all parties, which means they all get an opportunity to file their evidence, to test their evidence, to ask for information, and then. Perfect. And it takes a long time. But I don’t know of a better model to ensure a fair and reasonable outcome. You know all that under the rule of law.

00;30;07;22 – 00;30;34;15
Bill Roberts
Let’s change gears a bit. All right. All right. You’ve spoken a few times, and in my view, very well, very well about the importance of Bill C-11. And you alluded to it earlier in terms of the preparation stages of the commission and the changes it proposes to modernize C-11, proposes to modernize Canada’s broadcasting legislation, and to give the CRTC, as you referred, to adequate tools to successfully engage the digital environment.

00;30;35;10 – 00;30;40;06
Bill Roberts
For our listeners, what new powers in C-11 does the Commission need and why?

00;30;40;12 – 00;31;06;19
Ian Scott
Boy, can we do a series of podcasts starting over. Sure, it’s going will be a guest contributor. It’s a long road. Look, fundamentally and first I know this isn’t listeners to this aren’t likely to go rushing to the CRTC website but there’s a report on there called Harnessing change was issued for it’s almost four years ago now three and a half.

00;31;06;29 – 00;31;35;11
Ian Scott
And it was at the direction of the federal Cabinet asking us very early in my mandate to report effectively on the future of Canadian broadcasting. And it’s an interesting report because it talks. I think that was the first place where it was said rather bluntly. Platforms who are deriving significant revenue for in the Canadian Broadcasting System ought to be making a contribution to that system, which really is the basis of steel and C-10 before it.

00;31;35;12 – 00;32;07;12
Ian Scott
What it says is where broadcasters are active, they’re doing broadcasting as defined in the act. They ought to be subject to the same regulation as the traditional players in Canada. When I say same, I don’t mean exactly the same rules or approaches. Those are the very things that the commission has to look at. I think I mentioned earlier the CRTC has been regulating broadcasting for over 50 years and it’s gone through a number of iterations and fundamental changes over that time.

00;32;07;24 – 00;32;41;19
Ian Scott
It has until recently said that regulating broadcasting that was delivered over the Internet, you know, it was a long time ago, a small part of the broadcasting system and didn’t merit that same kind of supervision. Well, it isn’t the small part of that system anymore. Right. It’s almost supplanting it. Glass half empty, half full. The wonderful thing is Canadians have access to a plethora of content from all around the world in multiple languages, from multiple places, including in Canada.

00;32;42;00 – 00;33;20;08
Ian Scott
And that’s a great thing. The problem is the old regime where cable operators have to contribute 5% of their revenues to the Canada Media Fund and Canadian broadcasters. Traditional broadcasters have to spend like 30% of their revenue on original Canadian content. None of these rules apply to the other players, right? So we have an inequity. And so what’s needed is a new regulator regime, which is what the commission will be doing, assuming the law passes in the coming months to establish one where we have an equitable arrangement.

00;33;20;17 – 00;33;45;11
Ian Scott
And and I use that term, you know, intentionally, it’s not going to be the same, or at least I don’t anticipate it will be. You’re not just going to go, oh, what we do now will just apply because their lines of business are different. You know, the traditional broadcasters produce original French language content. They produce quality news. Netflix doesn’t do news and Netflix doesn’t have channels.

00;33;45;19 – 00;34;13;16
Ian Scott
Amazon Prime is also a delivery service. There are lots of complexities. And by the way, Canadian platforms crave to TV and others are also not subject to commission regulation at this point. So we need to come up with a new framework that takes into account the fundamental changes that have taken place in the marketplace, make a fair and equitable regulatory system, and that’s what I’m confident the Commission will do.

00;34;13;25 – 00;34;27;19
Bill Roberts
And there’s other stuff, other good stuff in C-11, I think I mean, subject to you confirming, you know, there’s reference to discoverability to diversity, to indigenous indigenous official languages, minority communities. I mean, those are all pretty they.

00;34;27;19 – 00;34;51;16
Ian Scott
They are progressive. 510. I mean, I think we’ve always done those things. I tend to try and simplify when people say, What did you do in broadcasting? What is broadcast regulation? I tend to try and describe it as making sure that Canadians stories are told. So if you want written that produced, they’re distributed and ultimately they can be found.

00;34;51;27 – 00;35;25;06
Ian Scott
And that language is discoverability. I mean, it’s not telling Canadians what to watch, but it’s helping Canadians find Canadians stories when they want to. And Canadians stories are just Hollywood stories. They include indigenous stories. They include are multi-ethnic and, you know, and multiracial culture. Our melting pot. It includes original French language material. And the system needs to continue to ensure that those things happen.

00;35;25;06 – 00;35;44;27
Ian Scott
Right. And that’s what C-11 is meant to do. And ultimately, it’s the will of parliament. What’s in it at the end of the day, and what the commission will be asked to do, which is to make sure that system of a regulatory framework produces those outcomes. That’s what we’re after.

00;35;45;00 – 00;36;03;11
Bill Roberts
Okay. So that’s your glass half full part. I’m going to go to your glass half empty part. Those are all good and welcome things in of them. But I think I heard you reference maybe before the Senate that there were some aspects of C-11 that the commission might find problematic. What was that about?

00;36;03;11 – 00;36;26;27
Ian Scott
What are we’re simply pointing out? Look, I want to be very, very clear. Legislation is the responsibility of the government. We are arm’s length from government. We have no role other than what we have done, which is publicly contribute. And I have appeared before the House and the Senate on more than one occasion to share our views. But they’re our views as an arm’s length independent regulator.

00;36;27;02 – 00;36;43;14
Ian Scott
At the Senate, I pointed out some things that we would prefer to see amended. I think generally speaking, we can talk about it as unintended consequences. There’s a provision in there, for example, that says we should all of our decisions would be reviewed after seven years.

00;36;43;15 – 00;36;44;20
Bill Roberts
There would be a few thousand of them.

00;36;45;13 – 00;37;07;14
Ian Scott
We average over 500 decisions a year. Does that make sense? And would it make sense? It’s not I’m sure it’s not what the government intended. What they want to be sure is that if asked, the commission can review and justify certain decisions and that can be done a number of ways. We think there are better ways than the way it’s worded in the legislation.

00;37;07;20 – 00;37;40;17
Ian Scott
I’ll give you another example. The legislation sets out that platforms will negotiate in good faith with programs on the linear side on traditional television. We have the ability to mediate and ultimately engage in arbitration to impose an agreement if they can’t come to an agreement. The legislation does not give that authority to the commission with respect to platforms, even it’s expected that the outcome they’ll negotiate in good faith and talks.

00;37;40;26 – 00;37;44;13
Ian Scott
So I think these are questions of unintended consequences, and.

00;37;44;13 – 00;37;48;21
Bill Roberts
I think it was another one about consultation, rigid consultation. Was that something that you referred to?

00;37;49;01 – 00;38;14;17
Ian Scott
Any time the government sets out sort of requirements, not the the intentions or valid or important or audible, but they may not understand the mechanics. So saying that when we should do something in a certain time frame, well, that impacts the Commission’s work. And so we’re not going to do something else in that time frame. Those things should be left to the arm’s length regulator.

00;38;14;23 – 00;38;23;25
Bill Roberts
And what about bills C 18, respecting online communications platforms and news content available? Any comments, thoughts on that?

00;38;24;07 – 00;38;55;15
Ian Scott
Well, early days, although it is progressing through the parliamentary process, again, I have appeared on behalf of the Commission before Parliament. I think it’s a new area, but it’s not a new area. So the Commission is being asked to oversee and administer a process quite a lot, and that makes sense if you think about, well, who else could or should it be?

00;38;56;00 – 00;39;38;03
Ian Scott
We do already regulate news, broadcast news, which is a significant part of the news industry. Obviously, we don’t regulate print media and there’ll be much to learn for the commission to learn about how that marketplace works. We are familiar with the platforms that will be more familiar with them in the coming months and years, and we do do mediation and arbitration with respect to programmers and distributors where you have an unequal power, if you will, or negotiating strength, all of which are relevant to overseeing a regime about remuneration for news.

00;39;38;09 – 00;40;04;27
Ian Scott
So I think the Commission is the right choice. We’re doing our first preliminary work getting ready for legislation. The Government has given us some interim funding and we’re setting up the plumbing, so to speak, within the commission. But at the end of the day, we need to see what Parliament passes, if anything, into law, and then and then we’ll act on it as we have when given other responsibilities, the past.

00;40;05;08 – 00;40;21;19
Bill Roberts
I might be inaccurate, but it sounds like it’s a big thing for the Commission in its discretion to exempt a code of conduct, imposing monetary penalties, maintaining a list of digital news intermediaries. It’s all a lot of stuff.

00;40;22;05 – 00;40;24;11
Ian Scott
There is a lot of work in that regime. Yes.

00;40;24;17 – 00;40;49;18
Bill Roberts
Ian, you said earlier that you made yourself available to anyone who wanted to come and express an opinion or had, you know, stakeholders, which is really laudable and good for you for having done that. But I have to say, I never got the impression of you being an actual media hound. You’ve done all these consultations, you know, one on ones, etc., meeting with folks over your five years as CRTC chair.

00;40;49;18 – 00;41;06;20
Bill Roberts
But unlike many and you know, I worked at the commission under two or three chairs and you didn’t seek out public attention for yourself personally. You didn’t chase interviews. And I think you probably have done fewer interviews like this than than many, if not all of your predecessors. So why is that?

00;41;06;27 – 00;41;31;26
Ian Scott
That’s a great question. It’s not a strategy. It’s if you think back to when I was appointed and I was asked what was my vision? I answered, Well, it’s not the right question because it shouldn’t and isn’t about the chairman. It’s about the institution. For me, it was, well, we’ll do our job. We’ll do it as best as we can.

00;41;32;12 – 00;42;01;02
Ian Scott
I can, based on the record, ensuring fairness for all participants, and then in my view, the decisions then speak for themselves. So I didn’t think it was either necessary or desirable to go out and say we issued an important decision and this is what it says and this is what it means. And we did party X and we think Party X did a great job and party Y didn’t do so well.

00;42;01;14 – 00;42;26;08
Ian Scott
And that’s not the record speaks for itself and the decisions speak for themselves. So no, I didn’t do press conferences and the like. When we have issues and there is media interest, I’ve always been willing to do media interviews to answer questions. I’ve never shied away from that. But you’re quite in saying I haven’t gone to seek it because it’s not about me.

00;42;26;21 – 00;42;50;02
Ian Scott
It’s not about the chair, it’s about the institution. And I truly believe that. I think it’s a wonderful, important institution in Canada that does good and important work. And the chair is accountable and responsible for what goes on at the commission. I’ve never seen the need or the reason to have it focused on me as an individual.

00;42;50;10 – 00;43;07;20
Bill Roberts
Just a little follow up on it was I read a piece, I forget where I read it, but it was the person chatting with You talked about legacy and you seem to have indicated that you’re kind of downplayed leaving a CRTC commission regulatory legacy. Why is does that seem to me exactly the.

00;43;07;23 – 00;43;43;29
Ian Scott
Same, same reason? You know, if asked what is my legacy, I think I don’t really have one. I’ve done the best job that I could as a chair of the commission. Most importantly, has done a very good job in difficult times. You remember half of my term has been through COVID and the Commission fulfilled its mandate well and responsibly and turned on a dime to, you know, to work at home and continue to render its decision to develop all those proceedings and records and so on.

00;43;44;10 – 00;44;15;13
Ian Scott
And they deserve credit for that. And we’ve done really important things over those five years. We have done things on unsolicited communications. We got the 1988 suicide prevention framework in place. We’ve already talked about broadband. We’ve made serious and meaningful efforts to towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples to changes to some of our processes. We’re developing an Indigenous broadcast policy.

00;44;15;21 – 00;44;42;16
Ian Scott
We’ve changed some of the approaches that we traditionally take in a telecom hearing for the telecom in the north proceeding, reflecting again an importance of consulting with Indigenous people. We have prepared well for C-11. We’ve continued to do our work in that area. So I just look across the board. We’re we’re gathering better data and making it available to the public open data.

00;44;42;23 – 00;44;56;29
Ian Scott
We’re reporting more quickly. We’re looking forward and not just reporting on metrics from a year ago or 18 months ago. So the commission has made lots of important decisions. It’s not about me. All right. The commission.

00;44;57;09 – 00;45;21;13
Bill Roberts
On a personal level, I mean, you’ve had some big jobs before being the chair of the commission, but I’m guessing that this was or at least could have been the most stressful job you’ve had so far anyway. I mean, you had to deal with some pretty partizan calls for things like your resignation, of all things. Lots of grumbling about something you’ve already talked about, the MVNO wholesale rate stuff to be personal.

00;45;21;13 – 00;45;24;14
Bill Roberts
How did you cope with all that stress and how did it impact you?

00;45;25;00 – 00;45;53;15
Ian Scott
Well, the short answer is, you know, take the high road. I don’t respond to personal attacks. I’ll just consider where they come from. I don’t run the commission. I’m not responsible for the decisions, as we’ve already discussed. And they develop a record. We have expert staff giving us advice and nine members deciding. But I am I am the chair and the CEO, and I take full responsibility for what we do and accountable, accountable parliament.

00;45;53;27 – 00;46;15;04
Ian Scott
Personal attacks don’t belong there and you simply take the high road. What do I do to deal with stress? I try and as best as possible, leave it at the office. I’ve traditionally put in a pretty honest day’s work. I think even during COVID, I still came to the office because I’ve sort of a long lifetime of habits.

00;46;15;04 – 00;46;49;00
Ian Scott
So I’d typically be in the office about 30, and I leave that at 630, and I’ve done that throughout my term. So I try and get everything I can that needs to get done, done while I’m in the office and then I go home and try and leave it behind. And that goes for staff too. I generally not try to not send out emails to staff in the evenings and so on, so that they too can have a work life balance and manage the pressures that go with some of these big files and important work that the Commission does.

00;46;49;16 – 00;47;09;24
Ian Scott
I guess the only other thing I would add is that I engage in some of my hobbies. I enjoy photography. I do a lot of woodworking, you build things and usually people don’t tell me I did it wrong when I built. And so carpentry and woodworking is at the cottage in particular is one of the places, I guess, to take refuge.

00;47;09;24 – 00;47;35;16
Ian Scott
Stop using your brain and use your hands. Then you just feel like you’ve you’ve actually produced something and that’s that’s useful, constructive in a short period of time. You can see the tangible results very quickly. So anyway, I have some habits and obviously I have a family that is the most important thing in my life and they are also very part of managing the role.

00;47;36;01 – 00;47;58;04
Bill Roberts
Already and we’re getting close to the end of our Cartt.ca
conversation. I have to ask because it’s, I think, expected of both of us. What’s next for you? Do you have a plan? Will you be taking a big time off or retiring from this scrimmage that we spent the last hour talking about? Or I had a meeting godmother who used to tell me that, you know, life is like a book.

00;47;58;04 – 00;48;01;04
Bill Roberts
So is there another couple of chapters in your book coming up?

00;48;01;14 – 00;48;26;15
Ian Scott
I’m sure there are. I don’t know what they are yet. You’re I’m sure you’re well aware and listeners may not be, but the Government of Canada has post-employment restrictions quite properly. They are in place. Some of them are for a year lobbying restrictions for five years. So we have a set of statutes that deal with post-employment environment that of course I will fully respect.

00;48;27;02 – 00;48;44;03
Ian Scott
It makes it very difficult to even have conversations before you term’s over. So I have no immediate plans, but I’m interested in doing some teaching, I’m interested in doing some writing. I’m not retiring, so I don’t know what it will be. But there are chapters to come.

00;48;44;06 – 00;48;45;19
Bill Roberts
You’re going to keep on keeping on.

00;48;46;03 – 00;48;46;20
Ian Scott
Indeed.

00;48;46;29 – 00;49;11;22
Bill Roberts
Okay, so Minister Rodriguez has appointed Vicky Cheers as the next chair and CEO of the CRTC of the Commission and Mr. Treaties have said. Mr. Treaties has said that she wants to make a tangible difference for Canadians, that she has a passion for delivering lower prices and more choices for consumers. And all that seems to imply she’s focusing on lower prices that we’ve talked about for telecom services, more choice, more innovation.

00;49;12;07 – 00;49;35;11
Bill Roberts
I recall that American presidents I remember I think I first learned about this from Barack Obama stepping away from the presidency. But American presidents leave a personal letter in the Oval Office desk for their successors, their incoming successor as president. If you were to leave a similar note for Ms.. Treaties, what made it, say or perhaps even touch upon?

00;49;35;16 – 00;50;03;15
Ian Scott
Well, I think it would be a short note, Miss. The treaties is, I’m sure and confident, will be a very capable leader of the CRTC and she’ll figure it out for herself. But I think my short note would be advice that I’ve learned more from my mother than anywhere else. Leave the place better than you found it. I hope I’ve done that and I would expect no less from her as the next leader of this organization.

00;50;03;26 – 00;50;21;21
Bill Roberts
This is the most important question. In some ways, it’s certainly the last one for you. What have I forgotten to ask you about? What have I left out of this important end of term conversation? And what do you really absolutely want Cartt.ca
listeners to take away from this podcast today?

00;50;21;27 – 00;50;52;12
Ian Scott
I don’t know that you’ve missed anything, but I’d like to go back to talk about the institution again. You know, we talked about why is it not about me? Because it’s about the CRTC as an institution. I think Canadians don’t. Not enough Canadians know enough about the scare, as you said, that it has its detractors and they typically revolve around a few key decisions and people who are unhappy or sometimes and static about them.

00;50;52;12 – 00;51;22;02
Ian Scott
And and that gets into the news cycles and gets repeated and so on. But as I said, the commission could get over 100 decisions a year. Most of them are unseen and unreported on, but they’re all important because they contribute to what you hear on the news and what you hear on the radio. And the development of Canadian artists and the development of Canadians stories and the health of the industry and getting broadband delivered, you know, to rural and remote areas are improved.

00;51;22;16 – 00;51;55;09
Ian Scott
It goes on and on and on. I guess I wish there was more awareness about the commission and not just in the context of a few proceedings because there’s almost 600 staff or soon will be that are dedicated professionals and they make a huge difference in the lives of Canadians every day. And I don’t think the commission as an institution is as well known and well understood as it should be.

00;51;55;21 – 00;52;20;20
Ian Scott
We’re among the top agencies in the government annual survey we place. I think last result was six know among some 200 departments and agencies. People love what they do and they know what’s important. And I just wish Canadians broadly were equally well informed about the good things that the CRTC does in their public.

00;52;20;27 – 00;52;46;16
Bill Roberts
Well, he and I think this conversation, this podcast, will contribute to raising that up. Thank you. Ian Scott, thank you so very much for your time in our enlightening conversation today. I appreciate you unpacking some of my conclusions. That was very good for all of us. And thank you, really, thank you for your incredible dedication and public service as chairperson and CEO of the CRTC, the Commission over the past five years.

00;52;47;01 – 00;53;01;08
Bill Roberts
I wish you and yours, Ian, all the very best in the New Year and far beyond that, I’m Bill Roberts, contributing editor at Cartt.ca, and wishing all our listeners a healthy and prosperous 2023 Cheers.