CRTC: Videotron doesn’t have to distribute ICI on analog cable

In what would be a precedent-setting decision if anyone was still launching over-the-air television stations, the CRTC has decided that Videotron does not have to make room on its analog cable TV service for ICI, the ethnic television station that launched in Montreal last year.

The TV distribution regulations require distributors to include local television stations, which would normally mean that Videotron must distribute ICI in analog and digital to subscribers in the Montreal area. But Videotron is in the process of phasing out its analog cable system to make room for more digital channels and more bandwidth for video-on-demand and Internet service.

Videotron told the CRTC that fewer than 7% of its Montreal residential subscribers are still on analog cable, though that number is higher if you include institutional customers like hotels and hospitals, and those residences that have digital and analog on different TVs.

Quebecor had argued that the CRTC’s recent decisions to allow analog to continue its decline, by not licensing any new specialty channels for analog TV, for example, makes it clear that the transition to digital is more important than squeezing in another analog channel which would only disappear within a few years anyway as the analog network is dismantled.

ICI argued against the application, saying it would “result in ongoing and serious harm to ICI,” which is still struggling to develop an audience:

It has become apparent to ICI since its launch that ICI’s potential audience frequently consists of individuals that subscribe to Vide?otron’s “Classic Cable” service, which is the analog service. These potential viewers do not currently receive ICI. Vide?otron’s decision not to distribute ICI in accordance with the Regulations in not in the interests of subscribers as Vide?otron suggests. These subscribers would need to pay more to receive ICI, and make the transition to a more expensive digital service far ???sooner than they might otherwise choose – and even while many other services continue to be offered on an analog basis.

ICI pointed out that Videotron’s analog service in Montreal, which is much smaller than it used to be, still carries many U.S. signals, including two PBS stations.

And it said that while 7% may be small, it is still significant for a station that relies solely on advertising for revenue, and the fact that Videotron is still offering an analog service means it does not view this number as trivial.

It also said at least one program producer “decided not to purchase airtime on ICI due to the fact that the members of the target audience and multiple advertisers have advised the producer that they cannot receive ICI on their cable service.”

Videotron countered that it has received no requests from analog clients to get access to ICI, and its contractual obligations prevent it from removing other channels from analog.

In the end, the CRTC sided with Videotron, judging that its interpretation of the commission’s intention to encourage the phasing-out of analog cable is correct. It also cited the lack of opposition from people unconnected to ICI, as well as the substantial assistance the station is receiving from Rogers as a result of the sale of CJNT, in its decision.

Videotron has already begun the process of shutting down its analog network. After dismantling the network in Gatineau, it has started in Montreal with the Ahuntsic region.

8 thoughts on “CRTC: Videotron doesn’t have to distribute ICI on analog cable

  1. It's Me

    I don’t know in what way, but Quebecor is in some way got it in with the CRTC. This, and its recent jaw dropping decision to deny the category B broadcasting licence to Canal 50+, just goes to show that something isn’t right here. The CRTC’s reasoning for denying the cat B licence was that it’s nature of service was to broad because it focused on programming for an age group and they are requesting to broadcast programming from a large group of categories.

    For one, the applicant proposed a 10% limit on broadcasting programming from the categories listed which is standard for the industry really, but it even went further saying that it would accept a condition of licence limiting 10% on every program category, not just some of them. Not many channels accept a 10% limit on every program category.

    And most importantly, there are several channels with a nature fo service focused on a age group. Look at DTOUR, its nature of service is pretty much exactly what Canal 50+ was proposing. This is DTOUR’s nature of service form its recent licence renewal so its current “The licensee shall provide a national English-language specialty Category A service consisting of programs of particular interest to adults over 50 years of age.”

    Something coming from the CRTC stinks, and it is something even worse than the usual stench coming from that hole.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I don’t know in what way, but Quebecor is in some way got it in with the CRTC.

      If Quebecor had somehow bought off the commission, it would have denied the Bell-Astral deal, it wouldn’t have denied Sun News’s bid for mandatory distribution, and it wouldn’t be processing a complaint against MAtv.

      Also the denial of Canal 50+ has nothing to do with Quebecor.

      1. It's Me

        Videotron/Quebecor, its the same thing essentially. And Videotron was critical to Canal 50+’s denial as it was Videotron who intervened and without it I guarantee it Canal 50+ would have been approved. It’s ridiculous to think the CRTC should have denied Canal 50+’s licence request; they approved just about anything and simply because Videotron comes in to intervene with a non-issue which other channels have been licensed on, they deny it, and now this precedent setting decision to allow an OTA station to not be distributed on analog system in its local area is very dangerous, even if analog is on the way out.

        As for the other issues you bring up: They may have denied Sun’s mandatory carriage deal but they changed the entire rules for cat c news channels because of them essentially and in the end gave them mandatory carriage, not on basic, but mandatory carriage nonetheless, and didn’t even provide the same deal to any of the unlaunched news channels that could have benefited from it, like Glassbox News, assuming they even wanted to launch it.

        Processing a complaint against MAtv is not a big deal, that’s standard practice. The decision is what will be interesting.

        For the Bell/Astral deal, first off, they denied the entire deal in the first time around, and required a lot of sell-offs the second time around for it to be approved until it got under its ownership threshold, which would make it hard to deny again.

        And just as a general rule, just because it doesn’t go in Quebecors favour a few times doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on, but even so, from the examples you mentioned, there isn’t too much evidence of even that.

        1. Fagstein Post author

          And just as a general rule, just because it doesn’t go in Quebecors favour a few times doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on

          And just because some rulings do go Quebecor’s way doesn’t mean the fix is in. I see no evidence that the CRTC’s rulings are more favourable to Quebecor than they are to any other major player.

          The Canal 50+ ruling is curious for the reason you mentioned. It may also become irrelevant if the CRTC goes ahead with a proposal to eliminate genre protection rules for specialty channels. But it’s hardly proof of corruption.

  2. ATSC

    Wrong move on the part of the CRTC.

    CFHD-DT 47.1 (ICI) is a local Montreal station. It should be placed on Videotron’s Classic Analog Cable service.
    I believe on Channel 18 (Western Part of the Island), all they do is run ads about Illico. They could place it there for now. If the plan is to phase out their Classic Analog package, the placement of CFHD-DT would be temporary anyway. But it may add up being huge to the new station.

    CFHD-DT 47.1 should look at boosting their over the air signal, and start to advertise in local ethnic papers about the channel being over the air for free. Once they connect a antenna and see what they can get for free, it may end up costing Videotron more in the long run as people cut the cord.

  3. Dilbert

    It’s sort of a non-story in the end. Videotron is shutting down analog, and any changes to it are sort of meaningless. ICI seems to have spent a lot of effort here for very little real return. If anything, they should be encouraging Videotron to move more quickly in their target market areas to phase out analog so it’s no longer an issue.

    The CRTC however should be pushing Videotron to move more quickly on the transition as well. Leaving everything hanging for a few years is a waste of time for everyone, and yes, Videotron can afford to make the change more quickly.

  4. Chris

    It has been over a year since this shutdown has supposedly started. In the west area I still have about 50 analog channels. Up north, Cogeco completely shut down analog last winter.

    Is there any update as to when Videotron will shut down their analog channels in the west area?

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Is there any update as to when Videotron will shut down their analog channels in the west area?

      It’s coming. Laval has been shut down, and Montreal is being dismantled neighbourhood by neighbourhood.


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