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Posted in Radio, TV

CRTC Roundup: Details on CJNT/CHCH sale

The CRTC has called a hearing for Aug. 24 to hear Channel Zero’s proposal to buy CJNT Montreal and CHCH Hamilton. The application includes some goodies we didn’t hear about in the announcement in June.

The purchase price for both stations is $12, specifically:

  • Land $3.00
  • Buildings $3.00
  • Other Fixed Assets $3.00
  • Goodwill $3.00

The stations would be financed through a loan of $4 million from CIBC and Brian C. Hurlburt, and $3 million from Channel Eleven. That would go to increasing the size of CHCH’s newsroom and creating a new production facility at CJNT, plus eventually changing both stations to digital.

Canwest can pull out of the deal if CRTC approval is not given by Aug. 31. Channel Zero expects the CRTC will make a decision on the same day as the hearing, I guess.

The proposed programming grid for CHCH would be as follows:

  • Weekdays: News and local progamming from 5:30am to 7pm, followed by two movies, news from 11-12, a repeat of the prime-time movies and a really-late-night movie from 4am to 5:30am
  • Weekends: News and local programming from 6am to 1pm, followed by two movies, a one-hour 6pm newscast, two more movies, a one-hour 11pm newscast, and then three repeats of movies shown that day

The proposed programming grid for CJNT would look like this:

  • Local ethnic programming in the morning and during the evening supper hours (four hours a day total)
  • Music videos during the day
  • International ethnic movies during prime time
  • Movies (it’s not clear if this would be ethnic or not) overnight

On how they’ll bring the stations to get rich quick modest profit:

A short answer is that we will, if the application is approved, focus each of these stations on their core competency; news and local programming at CHCH and relevant and local multi-cultural programming at CJNT. We will not be relying on expensive first run U.S. programming and therefore we can bring the stations to modest profitability in a relatively short time frame.

A table of financial projections optimistically shows CJNT showing a profit as early as fiscal 2011, mainly due to the assumption that local advertising sales will have more than tripled by then, from $1.2 million a year to $4.3 million, despite the fact that they’re replacing first-run U.S. shows by less-expensive movies in prime-time.

Similarly, ad sales at CHCH are expected to recover to $43 million a year (on par with pre-recession levels, optimistic since more than 80% of that advertising came from non-news programming which Channel Zero would be getting rid of), which combined with spending $30 million a year less on programming expenses, and the CRTC’s new taxes on cable companies, would result in seven-figure profits beginning in fiscal 2012. Without its projected $4 million a year from fee for carriage (it predicts a “75% likelihood” for that “by 2011″), the station would stay in the red until 2014.

Channel Zero is also asking for changes to the licenses for CHCH and CJNT. Among them:

  • Deletion of a requirement for CHCH to have a minimum level of “priority programming” (things like Canadian dramas and news magazines). It argues such requirements are not asked of small stations, only of large broadcast groups.
  • Deletion of a requirement at CHCH for an independent monitoring committee, since these are related to Canwest’s cross-ownership of various media which Channel Zero does not have
  • Deletion of a requirement for CHCH to air four hours a week of described video (with the understanding that the station would use described video where available)
  • Removal of a requirement for CHCH to have distinct programming from Global’s CIII-TV Toronto, which becomes moot if CHCH isn’t owned by Canwest.
  • Deletion of a requirement for CJNT to make sure 25% of its films are Canadian (Channel Zero argues there aren’t enough foreign-language Canadian films to make that feasible – and it will abide by other Canadian content requirements)
  • Deletion of a requirement for French-language non-ethnic programming. Canwest twice asked to be relieved of this requirement, and was turned down twice by the CRTC. Channel Zero argues the station must focus on one market for non-ethnic programming, and the French market is already saturated here. It’s hard not to agree with that logic.
  • Increase in minimum requirements for local ethnic programming from 13.5 hours to 14 hours per week

The Canadian Media Guild’s Lise Lareau looks a bit skeptically at Channel Zero’s plans for CHCH in Hamilton, notably the requested license amendment to remove the requirement to air Canadian dramas and movies in prime time.

UPDATE: The CHCH union, which has agreed to support the sale in principle, is grieving Canwest’s plan to wind up its pension plan before the sale.

Campus/community radio review

The CRTC is undergoing a broad-based review of its policies for campus and community-based radio stations. Among the questions it’s asking:

  • Should campus and community stations be treated differently?
  • Should high school stations be licensed?
  • What kind of programming requirements should they have?
  • Should low-power “micro” radio stations be licensed or exempt from license?
  • How much advertising should they be limited to?

The deadline for comments is Sept. 11. The hearing is Nov. 30 in Gatineau.

Not so bold

After being slapped on the wrist for violating terms of license, the CBC has made good on its promise to request an amendment to change the nature of its specialty channel known as Bold. Formerly called Country Canada, the channel was licensed as a network for rural Canadians from a “rural perspective”, but since its transformation into bold (they don’t capitalize the B, so as to remain edgy or something) it’s basically been a network to throw leftovers at. It airs everything from drama reruns to soccer games.

The CBC’s argument for the change boils down to this:

There is insufficient programming from a “rural perspective” to program the service.

Sorry farm people, but you’re just not interesting enough for a whole channel, even with Heartland and Corner Gas.

New programming categories

Since the CRTC announced that it would allow specialty networks access to all programming categories when asked, they’ve gotten some requests for exactly that.

Astral Media is asking for access to all programming categories for Canal Vie, Canal D, Historia, MusiMax, VRAK.tv, Ztélé and MusiquePlus

TVA has received approval for Les idées de ma maison to air up to 10% animated programming. Argent and Mystère have access to a slew of new programming categories, everything from religious programming to feature films and music videos, so long as they fit with the channels’ themes and don’t compete with other networks and don’t go above 10% of the broadcast day. Prise 2 also gets categories added (see below)

Prise 2 must keep its CanCon

Prise 2 can now air TV programs that are as little as 10 years old (the previous minimum was 15) and movies as little as 15 years old (previously it was 25), as well as access more programming categories (documentaries and live sports, limited to 10% of the broadcast day). A request to reduce their CanCon requirement from 35% to 30% was denied.

Télé-Québec, Canal Savoir stay on the air

While the major networks (TVA, CTV, Global) got one-year license renewals as they sort out that fee-for-carriage thing, the smaller non-profit networks are being renewed for the full seven years.

CFTU (Canal Savoir) has been renewed for seven years with no changes to its conditions of license (except a reminder that it will need to transition to digital by August 2011).

CIVM Montreal (Télé-Québec) and its retransmitters across Quebec were also renewed until 2016, with some considerations about representation of minorities but otherwise no changes.

Corus gets more steamy

Corus Entertainment has come to an agreement to buy Sex TV and Drive-in Classics, two specialty channels, from CTVglobemedia. The next day Corus reported a $145-million quarterly loss. Last year Corus bought CLT from CTV and rebranded it VIVA.

In other news:

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.

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