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News | 05/01/2003 4:00 am EDT

Return to DOC on table in telecom ownership debate
A recent Parliamentary report could lead to the amalgamation of two departments with communications responsibilities into one superagency. On April 28, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology released Opening Canadian Communications to the World, which looked at foreign ownership limits in the telecommunications sector. Telecom is under the jurisdiction of Industry Canada. But committee members pushed the envelope, urging action on satellite and cable holdings, which fall under Canadian Heritage’s purview.
While the final report itself went beyond the scope of the committee’s mandate, the MPs went even further to advocate greater efforts when they discussed the study with reporters. Committee chair Walt Lastewka said he was in favour of creating a new department that would oversee all aspects of the field, similar to the Department of Communications (DOC) that existed in the 1970s.
“We’ve got two ministers. One is in charge of the CRTC, one isn’t,” he remarked. “If we had one person and department that had to look at all the issues for the good of Canadians, to me in the long run it would be good. We didn’t go that far, we simply are saying we should look at the governance.”

While the report dealt with foreign ownership levels, news of a potential return to the days of the DOC could well be welcomed by industry players dealing with conflicting agendas for the country’s copyright regime. Since Bill C-32 and continuing through the recent Internet retransmission battles, frequent rifts between the two departments that oversee copyright have been reported as the competing interests of cultural players and technology players surface at the Cabinet table. Such a move toward re-amalgamating communications responsibilities in a single department is likely years away, if ever, however.

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