The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Canadian government broadcast regulator, intends that the growing rate of media concentration in Canada merits public debate.

The CRTC announced on Tuesday (March 13) that it will launch a proceeding to review issues relating to the Canadian Broadcasting Act's objective of ensuring that the country's broadcasting system provides Canadians with a diversity of voices.

The scope of the proceeding will be set out in a notice of public hearing to be issued shortly. A public hearing will follow in the fall of 2007.

"The current wave of consolidation in the Canadian broadcasting industry, and the possibility of more major transactions in the future, raises important questions relating to the diversity of voices in Canada," said Konrad von Finckenstein, the recently named chairman of the CRTC in a statement. "Holding a public hearing will allow us to give these issues the thorough and in-depth study they deserve."

Meanwhile, the CRTC emphasized that transactions recently announced by CanWest MediaWorks Inc. and Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc., and Astral Media Inc. and Standard Radio Inc., as well as the CTVglobemedia Inc./CHUM Limited transaction and any divestiture agreements emanating from it, will be assessed in light of its existing regulations and policies.

Therefore, the CRTC has also decided to withdraw any review of its common ownership policy from the public hearing on the CTVglobemedia Inc./CHUM Limited transaction, which is scheduled to begin on April 30, 2007.

The Commission expects to issue its revised policy guidelines regarding diversity of voices toward the end of 2007.