Posted in Opinion, TV

CRTC roundup: Cancon porn, TSN2 and the Rural Channel

Lots more fun out of the CRTC this week:

Insert “beaver” joke here

The biggest news (or at least the most titillating) is the approval of a new Canadian-based pornography channel. Called Northern Peaks (cute), it would feature 50% Canadian content (i.e. Canadian-produced porn) from various categories, including pornographic sitcoms and game shows (that actually sounds like fun, but it’s really just the company covering all bases, so to speak).

The 50% mark is actually quite unusual, and is well above what would normally be required for such a network. But apparently it was the applicant’s request, according to the National Post:

Mr. Donnelly said he was required to offer as little as 15% Canadian content to appease regulators.

But because he wants “to legitimately be Canada’s adult channel,” he started at half Canadian. He said there is a huge unfulfilled market in Canada for local porn. Beginning last year, he began getting calls from cable companies looking to license his Canadian productions.

“I’ve always found there’s a real turn-on to watching and knowing it’s people you could run into in the grocery store,” he said.

But with more than 200 titles (and presumably they can be replayed over and over again, since most viewers wouldn’t mind repeats of classic programming), he thinks he can do it.

Quoth the CRTC: “The Commission did not receive any interventions in connection with this application.” Really? Not even from the pizza guy? Or that nosy peeping-tom neighbour you’re just waiting to have sex in front of so they can masturbate to it?

Needless to say the media had a field day with this one, the National Post turning it into a front-page story (complete with photo) and an opinion piece that’s pretty tongue-in-cheeks (sorry) asking readers to comment and either denounce the channel or come up with some programming ideas for it. (A funny side-effect of the latter is offhand mentions of Sheila Copps and Avi Lewis, which means searches for these two under “related stories” brings up a comment about a porn channel they have nothing to do with.)

One comment posted to the Post:

When do the adults at the Post return from summer holiday?

Of course, it wasn’t just the Post. The Globe and Mail also had a lengthy article on it (about 12 inches), and the news was picked up by Canadian Press and Reuters and Agence France-Presse and reached news outlets all around the world (well, those two anyway). It also got a mention on an anti-abortion (but still pro-women) conservative website.

The channel is being run by Real Productions (apparently not this Real Productions nor that Real Productions, which appear lower in the Google raking and I’m guessing confused or offended at least a few potential customers), which is run by a man named Shaun Donnelly (but not this Shaun Donnelly, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East).

Due to the nature of the channel, it can’t be included in any channel packages and must be specifically requested by the subscriber. The network also promises to spend at least 25% of revenues on developing new programming.

Also of note is the 100% closed-captioning requirement, which may foreshadow a fight with Videotron concerning their demand that they not have to closed-caption on-demand video porn.

UPDATE (Aug. 18): The Globe has more on the channel, including an idea of what a broadcast day would look like. And then even more on the channel here. (They won’t let this story go, will they?)

UPDATE (Aug. 24): Farked. With suggestions on Canadian porn titles. Some of these people should write headlines for a living.

TSN “alternate feed” becomes TSN2

The other news to hit the papers this week was basically rewrites from the Globe and Canwest of a TSN press release saying that it would launch TSN2 (in standard and high definition) on August 29. The second TSN network has two purposes: To have an alternative channel for conflicting live sporting events, and to have a place to replay events for west coast audiences and anyone else who missed it the first time.

The digital network replaces the “TSN alternate feed,” which was used on a limited basis to get around regional blackouts.

The press release says that:

TSN2 will be operating pursuant to an authorization in the TSN broadcast licence from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

It’s kind of ambiguous: Does this mean they’re waiting for authorization here, or that they’ve gotten it? I only mention it because minutes of searching on my part has shown no such authorization from the CRTC (see below).

The story of the TSN alternate feed and TSN2 goes way back. TSN2 was first approved in 2000 as a “best of TSN” channel that specifically prohibited the broadcast of live sporting events. This was back when digital TV specialty channels were new and hip and everyone was applying for one. By 2003, the CRTC gave an extension to those who hadn’t launched yet (including TSN2 and dozens of other channels that never made the light of day like Global’s Quebec News Network). Since no such network launched, one can assume the authorization expired.

Meanwhile, TSN, beset by annoying regional blackouts of live programming, got the CRTC to give them permission to split their feed regionally (for up to 10% of its broadcast schedule), so that everyone would still get something and not a blank screen. When cable companies started carrying two feeds of TSN to give customers choice, Rogers SportsNet complained and got the CRTC to tell TSN to stop. Very quickly, TSN came back and asked to setup a special digital channel which would allow regional programming.

Despite protests from Rogers SportsNet, Canwest and the CBC, the channel (or technically, the license amendment) was approved, “in a single region on a digital-only basis.”

Considering all but the conclusion of the CRTC decision makes it seem as if the 10% limitation would still apply, expect these competitors to get mad that TSN is setting up a new channel with this “alternate feed.”

The decision is confusing, since it says earlier that:

While the Commission has considered the possibility that TSN Inc. could use the additional flexibility to outbid other licensees for the rights to high profile sports events, it notes that the amount of unique programming on TSN’s second feed would be limited to 10% of its quarterly schedule, thereby minimizing any negative impact on the competition for sports programming rights.

It then proceeds to remove that limitation without explanation from TSN’s license.

Whether or not the limitation still exists, the other one, that the feeds be regional, remains. This means that TSN2 (assuming it’s running under this license) would have to have “regional” programming (much like Rogers SportsNet must have “regional” programming), which would presumably be different across the regions. Since their first event is the U.S. Open, I don’t see how that can be considered “regional programming.”

I’ve asked TSN for clarification on their license for TSN2 and will update if I get a response.

UPDATE: TSN’s response in its entirety apparently assumes that I’m an idiot who can’t read, and simply repeats a part of the press release:

TSN2 will be operating pursuant to an authorization in the TSN broadcast licence from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

No word yet on whether Videotron plans on carrying the service. Unlike TSN’s main feed, digital TV providers are not required to carry TSN2 and so must choose to add it to their lineups.

All-baseball channel coming soon

The CRTC approved an application from Rogers Communications (owner of Rogers SportsNet) for Baseball TV, which would focus on baseball-related programming. The approval is for both standard-definition and high-definition versions of the network.

Part of the question over this channel was whether it would compete with protected cable networks TSN and SportsNet (the latter being somewhat ironic). But the commission appears to be following precedent here set by the NHL Network and Raptors TV, arguing that more specialized channels won’t compete with the general networks.

Nevertheless, this meant a condition of license that live programming must be limited to 10% of the broadcast schedule. That doesn’t sound like much, but it still means six baseball games a week, which is about what SportsNet offers now.

Much as I understand the CRTC’s policy on protection of classic, format-protected specialty TV networks, the fact that TSN and SportsNet have both requested and received separate channel licenses I think shows that for sports networks it’s no longer necessary. The entire point behind having separate networks is to allow for more live programming. Placing a 10% restriction doesn’t serve the viewer.

Also of note here is that Rogers tried to weasel its way out of the 100% closed-captioning requirement, citing “technical issues” (does Rogers not have an engineer on staff?). The CRTC saw through this transparent attempt to save money and is forcing them to comply with the requirement.

Telelatino expanding

Telelatino got mixed results at the CRTC from its proposals for four new specialty channels, all of which would provide 100% English programming destined for Canadians from particular ethnic groups:

  • APPROVED: Pan Desi Life TV, for Canadians of South Asian origin. Also allowed a limited amount of local/regional advertising (presumably directed at that same ethnic group). But the CRTC poo-pooed the company’s request to get an excuse card out of 100% closed-captioning on the grounds that they just didn’t want to pay for it.
  • DENIED: Eurolatino, Italian Television and Spanish Television. The CRTC determined their proposed programming of all three proposed networks was too broad for approval. Because the programming would be in English, it would compete with existing protected cable networks.

In brief

  • Approval of The Rural Channel, an English channel that would focus on rural life and agriculture. (The Post highlighted the porn channel but not this? Come on!)
  • Approval of eScapes, an English channel that would show nothing but nature scenes and landscapes and stuff. Most interesting is that they plan to have no audio besides nature sounds. It’s like Fireplace TV, which I’m sure someone’s going to setup at some point. (The CRTC said that even though moot, they should still have a 100% closed-captioning requirement, just in case someone says something)
  • Approval of Cuisine, a French channel that deals with food-related programming. Owned by Serdy Inc. (the people behind Canal Evasion), the channel would be able to show most kinds of programming, provided it was food-related. This includes sitcoms, so I guess that means Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place is OK but Two Guys and a Girl isn’t.
  • Approval of Radical Télé, a French channel that would focus on “extreme” sports, including “snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding, wakeboarding and FMX (freestyle motocross) and to the lifestyle associated with these extreme sports (fashion, social events and places where these sports are practised).”
  • Approval of HD versions of the Discovery Channel (Discovery HD had previously been approved under a provisional license and had more freedom to have separate programming from its standard-definition counterpart) and RIS Info Sports, RDS’s sports-headlines sister station. Like other stations that have HD versions, 95% of content must be the same on both channels, and the remaining 5% must be entirely HD on the HD stations.
  • CBC is applying to have its bold network (formerly CBC Country Canada) add a matching HD service.
  • LCN is applying to increase its allowed analysis programming from 12% to 19% per week. I guess this means more Franchement Martineau and Claude Poirier.
  • As if to exemplify why you should always ask for more categories of programming than you need, AdrenalineHD’s Rush HD outdoor sports channel is applying to add feature films to its allowed programming up to 15% per week. Ditto Treasure HD, the museum/flea market channel, and Oasis HD, the nature channel.
  • Télé-Québec has applied to add a digital transmitter for its CIVQ Quebec City station, which would provide local digital programming to the three people in Quebec City using a digital over-the-air receiver and don’t want that crappy CIVM Montreal station.
  • RNC Media, which runs affiliate stations of TVA, TQS and CBC in Gatineau, Rouyn-Noranda and Val d’Or, wants an exemption from having to provide programming logs since the stations it runs are essentially retransmitters with the bare minimum of local news. It instead wants to provide quarterly reports of its activities.
  • Digital Home Canada (which, if you’ve read this far into this post, should really be in your feed reader) reports that Rogers Cable in Ontario has dropped TSN from its basic analog cable package for new customers, forcing them to get digital cable in order to access it. This is part of Rogers’s move to phase out analog cable. If I were a conspiracy theorist (like some people), I might point out that TSN’s competitor, Rogers SportsNet, is unaffected and will remain on analog cable. But I’m not, of course.
  • And in what little radio news is interesting for us here, Radio Ville-Marie (CIRA 91.3) wants to add a retransmitter in Rimouski for its Montreal programming on 104.1 FM.

10 thoughts on “CRTC roundup: Cancon porn, TSN2 and the Rural Channel

  1. Ed Gilchrist

    TSN aren’t commenting on exactly who have signed on to carry their signals, from my understanding, Bell TV (ExpressVu), Shaw and Rogers are all upset with CTVGlobemedia, after CTVGM pulled their pllugs to the TSN Alternate feed when they refused to sign carriage agreements on TSN2. Maybe TSN2 won’t be seen in most regions of the country, that makes me wonder how TSN can pull off LIVE broadcasting rights deals with F1, NASCAR etc and then only broadcast the live coverage on a feed less than 30% of the population could possibly view .

    Reply
  2. Gill Avila

    We need to come up with some titles for the porn stuff. How about:
    Northern Sexposure
    Royal Canadians Mounting Police
    When Harry Ate Sally
    The XXX Files
    XXX Men

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Fagstein » Farked.

  4. Marshall Pomroy

    Unlike many Canadians who seem to want to become Americans, I love
    Canadian Football and have followed it since 1955. Am I dating myself? I have been around the block a few time and am not an old prude but by God they have literally destroyed a wonderful medium viz: (hope people know the meaning of that) Television. Tney could take a page out of the PBS book but then that would not be profitable would it? Has anyone ever counted the number of commericals during a movie presentation? Thank God for DVD players, I may be 86 and a retired teacher but I am not an electronic ‘dummy’. I have been building elctronics since 14. A computer is child’s play.If I have to pay Star Choice, my present provider, extra for TSN2, then bye bye Canadian
    football and bye bye Star Choicel I have an antenna on a rotor and I can get 42 channels off air and 7 of them are HD. The HD will increase during 2009. How much is enough and where doe the GREED and little or NO competition end?

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Fagstein » When is a channel not a channel?

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