A Montreal cable access channel?

The CRTC is currently accepting public comments in advance of hearings to be held on new broadcasting applications. Among them is an interesting proposal for a new television station out of Montreal.

Télévision communautaire Frontenac is an organization of about a half-dozen people who live within three or four blocks of the Frontenac metro station. They want to put together a low-budget cable access channel specifically for their neighbourhood (but also the city).

The application (ZIP file with PDFs) is for a French-language Category 1 specialty channel community specialty channel for Bell Canada’s ExpressVu satellite service, which is nationwide and doesn’t provide community channels. (UPDATED: See comment below for more details.) Videotron, the local cable provider, has a similar service in Canal Vox, which it runs.

The station’s plan is to broadcast 25 hours a week, with 60% locally-produced community programming, of which 1 hour every week is new. Naturally, because of the bare-bonedness of the operation, it would not provide luxuries like closed-captioning or descriptive audio.

Montreal currently has a few other low-budget non-profit over-the-air channels, though none seem to conflict directly with the proposal:

  • CFTU-TV 29 (Canal Savoir), an education channel run and produced by Quebec’s universities
  • CIVM-TV 17 (Télé-Québec), a provincially-owned network with a variety of shows but with emphasis on educational programming for children
  • CJNT-TV 62 (CJNT Montreal/E!), a CanWest-owned multicultural station that fills its remaining schedule with much-needed celebrity gossip shows and second-rate U.S. network programming simulcasts.

The hearing is scheduled for Oct. 30 in B.C. Though it’s mainly about which of a dozen applicants will get a lucrative FM radio channel in Kelowna, there are a few other interesting television applications:

  • Vanessa, a French-language adult pay TV service with emphasis on … oh forget the euphemisms. It’s porn.
  • Movie Trailer TV, a really stupid idea for a channel of movie trailers and making-of documentaries.
  • Short Form TV, from the same folks as Movie Trailer TV, and whose sole programming restriction is that its content is short in length.
  • The Christian Network, which is self-explanatory but would seem to overlap significantly with the multifaith Vision TV.
  • Arya Persian TV, which doesn’t yet meet CRTC requirements.

2 thoughts on “A Montreal cable access channel?

  1. Serge

    Category 1 specialty licenses are no longer being given out, and haven’t for some time. Before I clicked on the link I thought TV Frontenac was applying to bang its head against the wall. But if you look through their application — I did, but very very quickly — they are in fact applying as a community television station in a Class 1 serving area.

    (In the broadcast distribution world, Classes roughly correspond to the size of the market. They derive from the number of subscribers that the incumbent cableco has in a single serving area.)

    There are three kinds of community TV channel: community channels, digital community channels, and low-power community channels. Anyone who wants to can start up a digital or low-power channel. The local cableco has to carry your digital community channel. The low-power community channel gets transmitted over the air, of course.

    But the third kind, the community channel, is the main thing. Either the cableco can elect to provide one or, if they elect not to, a non-profit can supply it, and the cableco has to both carry it on basic cable, and finance it (up to 5% of gross revenues). Given this, almost every cableco creates its own community channel — they have to follow a whole set of rules to ensure some level of community participation, mind you, but they’re still administered by the cableco. If the cableco didn’t do this, they’d just wind up paying for someone else’s community channel, and without the benefit of being able to run some ads for their services.

    Now, DTH (ExpressVu and Star Choice) doesn’t have community channel requirements, because DTH has a national footprint. So they don’t supply their own community channel, and they can’t be compelled to carry any other community channel, either. (A recent report calls for changing that. Stay tuned in January.) From the quick moment I took to glance at TV Frontenac’s application, they don’t seem aware of this, and think they’re going to get ExpressVu to (1) carry their local signal all across the country, and (2) get ExpressVu to pay for it.

    Seems unlikely, given that they’re applying under the benefit of rules that don’t exist. But hey, maybe they have a few nifty arguments up their sleeves. Or maybe they will sit down and read the Broadcast Distribution Regulations, which are pretty clear on this point, and save themselves some time. An interesting aspect is that they seem to be an already-existing community TV channel within an apartment building complex, or something. Maybe they should go for low-power or digital. Would be nice to see.

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  2. Fagstein Post author

    Thanks for the clarifications Serge. I’ve updated the post.

    I agree that seeing them on ExpressVu is unlikely (Global Quebec isn’t even carried on satellite), but I wouldn’t mind seeing them on Videotron as a digital channel, or even just online as a web service.

    We’ll see what happens.

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