The recession has affected consumer confidence, corporate coffers, and investment attitudes. Now, it's even affecting broadcast regulatory hearings. On Friday the CRTC said it would review the scope of the licence renewal hearings for private TV stations "to determine how the focus can be significantly narrowed or reduced....The review is being conducted in light of the concerns raised by conventional broadcasters about the challenges of the broadcasting environment, as well as the current economic climate," reads a press statement from the commission. A CRTC spokeswoman wouldn't explain the "concerns" mentioned in the statement, or expand on the effect of "the current economic climate" on the proceedings. But she did say part of the reason for the narrowed focus is the ensuing switch from analog to digital broadcasts. Scheduled for August 31, 2011, the change will see over-the-air stations move to the more efficient broadcast technology. But it's a big shift that could impact TV stations significantly in terms of the equipment needed to send the signals, and the equipment viewers need to receive the transmissions. Sources tell Canadian Communications Reports that the CRTC has been trying to streamline its review processes for quicker decisions. They also say that like many businesses, private broadcasters are feeling the effects of the economy. Advertising revenues have fallen in line with the global financial meltdown, causing broadcasters to cut costs. In November, Canwest Global Communications Corp. said it would cut 560 staff members - 210 from the broadcast side - for cost savings. Last week, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters cut its staff by half and cancelled plans for its November national convention. Whereas licence renewal hearings sometimes call on broadcasters to undertake expensive changes to their content and advertising mix, "the CRTC seems to be saying, ‘In this economic climate we recognize that more is not doable,'" said one source, who requested anonymity. The changes in the hearings will affect private TV station operators - Canwest, CTV Inc., Rogers Communications Inc., and TVA, the CRTC spokeswoman said. The hearings are scheduled for April. The CRTC said it would make public the results of its review on February 16. This is just one of many shifts in the renewal-hearing paradigm for private broadcasters. Originally scheduled for April 2008, the hearings were delayed to allow the CRTC and the industry to discuss fees for carriage, whereby BDUs such as cablecos and satellite operators would pay broadcasters for the right to carry the broadcasters' programming. Broadcasters argue they need this fee for carriage to maintain a healthy revenue stream. BDUs largely decried the idea, noting that it would place a price on transmissions that are offered free over the air. The CRTC said no to carriage fees in October, 2008, prompting further arguments about the TV business's revenue framework. Broadcasters had mixed reactions to the CRTC's Friday press statement. A CBC spokesman says his organization is watching developments closely to see how they might affect the public broadcaster's own licence renewal hearing, scheduled to take place closer to the end of summer. Jon Medline, Canwest's director of regulatory affairs, says the press statement didn't strike him as particularly unusual - there are so many things broadcasters and the commission can go over during licence renewal hearings that sometimes it simply makes sense to narrow the focus of the discussion, he explains. Paul Sparkes, executive VP of public affairs at CTV, is withholding judgement. "We prefer to reserve comment until the results are released on February 16," he says.