How to get a TV licence in Canada: laws to know

This article will discuss the general process and requirements in applying for a TV licence in Canada, which includes a broadcasting licence or certificate
How to get a TV licence in Canada: laws to know

Broadcasting services in Canada is not just a source of entertainment but is also important for information and public safety. As such, the government has prime interest in its regulation, including who are the personalities that must be granted a TV licence.

What is a TV licence in Canada?

TV licences allow broadcasters, companies, or other entities to broadcast their audio or audio-visual content over a specific area and for a specific period.

Under Canada’s laws, a TV licence would involve a broadcasting certificate and a broadcasting licence. While its requirements may be like the other media like radio, some of the processes in its registration or application also differ.

Laws on TV licences in Canada

In Canada, the issuance of a TV licence is under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The Commission or the CRTC was established through enactment of the CRTC Act.

The most relevant law governing TV licences in Canada would be the Broadcasting Act. The Act provides for:

  • the powers of the CRTC in relation to broadcasting and issuance, amending, renewing, and suspending or revoking of a licence
  • the continuation and organization of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
  • the offences and penalties related to broadcasting and licensing

Through the Act, and by the power it vested on CRTC, the following Regulations related to TV licensing have been created to serve the Act’s purposes:

A recent law, Bill C-10, was passed which amended the Broadcasting Act. To know more about this new legislation, watch this video:

To know more about this new law, consult with a telecommunications lawyer in your area. If you’re from Toronto or Ottawa, contact one of the best telecommunications lawyers in Ontario as ranked by Lexpert.


There are certain exemptions from the licensing requirements under the CRTC:

  • Services that broadcast over the internet or any other content on the internet
  • Discretionary TV services
  • Hybrid Video-on-demand (VOD) services
  • Terrestrial broadcasting distribution undertaking

What is the process of applying for a TV licence in Canada?

We've outlined below the general process of applying for a TV licence in Canada. However, it’s still best to consult with a telecommunications lawyer.

Lawyers would be able to assist licence applicants in dealing with the CRTC, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), and other related regulatory bodies.

This process may be different from licences for other media (e.g., radio).

Apply with the CRTC for a licence

Applications with the ISED for a broadcasting certificate and with the CRTC for a broadcasting licence must be done at the same time.

Apply with ISED for a certificate

The next step in applying for a TV licence is to apply with ISED for a frequency and broadcast certification.

Applications may be sent either:

  • Online: through the Spectrum Management System of the ISED’s website
  • Email: through ISED’s email ([email protected])
  • In person: by submitting the documents to any of the ISED’s District Office

By a qualified engineer

ISED requires that the application be carried out by a professional engineer. This includes:

  • Planning and designing new broadcasting undertakings
  • Implementing changes to existing systems
  • Preparing engineering briefs submitted in support of applications for designs or design changes

The ISED may waive this requirement for low power and very low power stations.

Application for call signs

Applicants must also apply for a call sign by writing to the ISED. They can choose from a list online of available call signs.

After selecting a call sign, it shall be reserved for the applicant while the period of application is considered active.

Documentary requirements

Here are the documents that must be submitted to the ISED in an application for a broadcast certificate. As to its specifics and necessary formats, contact a telecommunications lawyer who can help you with these documents:

  • Letter of Intent to the land-use authority
  • Form IC-2430 (Radiocommunication and Broadcasting Antenna Systems Attestation)
  • Form ISED-ISDE3050 (Application for a Broadcasting Certificate for a Regular Power Undertaking)
  • Antenna pattern file
  • Electronic contours
  • Engineering brief

Requirements for new antennas

In addition to the documentary requirements, the ISED requires some specifications for all proposed antenna structures. This applies whether the antenna structure is a modified one, or whether it operates in low or full power. These requirements also include its integral mast.

These specific requirements are outlined in CPC-2-0-03 — Radiocommunication and Broadcasting Antenna Systems of the ISED.

Here's a general overview:

  1. Investigate the sharing or use of an existing infrastructure before proposing a new antenna-supporting structure with the ISED
  2. Contact the appropriate land-use authority to determine local requirements regarding antenna systems
  3. Undertake public notification and public consultation process (using either the local land-use authority’s requirements or ISED’s default process)
  4. Comply with ISED’s general and technical requirements on antenna structures
  5. Complete the construction within 3 years of conclusion of consultation

If the public and applicant cannot reach an agreement in a consultation process, the ISED will step in to conduct a dispute resolution process. Here, ISED will decide on behalf of the parties involved.

In addition to the above-mentioned process, the applicant for an antenna structure must also comply with these additional requirements:

  • Comply with Health Canada’s Safety Code 6, which is the radiofrequency exposure guidelines
  • Comply with EMCAB-2 — Criteria for Resolution of Immunity Complaints Involving Fundamental Emissions of Radiocommunications Transmitters
  • Send notifications to nearby broadcasting stations
  • Comply with environmental laws (e.g., Impact Assessment Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, etc.)
  • Ensure that proposals for an antenna system are reviewed by Transport Canada and NAV CANADA for aeronautical safety responsibilities

On-air testing

After the construction of approved facilities is completed, the applicant may now proceed to the on-air testing procedure. This procedure ensures that:

  • the broadcasting undertaking will operate in accordance with the approved technical brief
  • the required protection is given to broadcasting undertakings

If you have questions about applying for a TV licence in Canada, seek advice from any of the Lexpert-Ranked best telecommunications lawyers in Canada.