CRTC Roundup: Shaw seeks CNN International license

Shaw Communications has asked the CRTC to add CNN International to the list of eligible channel imports for Canadian cable and satellite companies. Canadian viewers’ exposure to CNNI is currently limited to the British-sounding people they sometimes hear behind an anchor desk during a noon-hour show or when breaking news happens late at night. The programming is distinctly different from CNN’s U.S. channel, and obviously focuses much less on U.S.-specific stuff.

The CRTC’s notice suggests it is ready to approve the channel, since it doesn’t compete with Canadian networks and is unlikely to have any program licensing issues.

No HD for you

Also from the CRTC this week is a denial for a new channel called Canada HD Network, which I mocked back in July. Back then I suggested the CRTC would likely deny the request unless it got much more specific about programming. Otherwise it would compete with conventional general-interest broadcasters.

Sure enough, there were objections from CTV, Canwest, Rogers, Astral Media, The Score and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, and Canada HD Network was shown the door. Similar decisions were made against its Diversion channel in high-definition and standard-definition (which were for some reason filed separately)

New HD channels coming

The CRTC has approved high-definition versions of the following CTV-owned specialty channels:

  • CTV Newsnet
  • Business News Network
  • MTV Canada
  • Comedy Network
  • travel+escape
  • Outdoor Life Network

This is only the first step in the process. The HD channels must now be created and CTV must negotiate with carriers to have the HD versions added to their lineups.

Good news, bad news for CMT

CMT Canada (Country Music Television) had a few requests for amendments to its license:

  1. It wanted to make changes to the categories of programs it can air, by adding animated programming and improv/stand-up comedy, by increasing (slightly) its cap on drama/comedy programming and by removing restrictions on the number of feature films it can air (though those films must still feature country music artists). All programming would still have to fit in with the country music theme and fit existing limits on non-music-video programming. Since no opposition was voiced and the proposed changes are not huge, the requests were approved.
  2. CMT wanted to change the criteria by which videos are deemed “Canadian” to judge only the music and not the video itself. For music video television stations to consider a music video as Cancon-compliant, not only must the music be produced/written/performed by a Canadian (similar to the criteria radio stations use), but the video itself must have been produced by Canadians. This means that a Shania Twain music video wouldn’t be Cancon if it was entirely produced in the States, even though the song itself counts as Cancon for radio stations. This request was denied because it would change policy across the board.
  3. CMT wanted to change its required financial contribution minimums. Currently it must spend 22% of gross revenues, half on creating new Canadian country music videos and half on creating new (original) programming. It wanted to shift the balance toward programming and away from videos. Partly this is because CMT is less of a music video station (its requirement dropped from 90% to 50%), and partly this is because it would have to spend less of that remaining 78% on original/Canadian programming to meet CRTC requirements if it could shift that budget over. This request was also denied, as the CRTC pointed out that CMT’s revenues have gone up and the network is hardly in a financial crisis.

3 thoughts on “CRTC Roundup: Shaw seeks CNN International license

  1. Cris

    I for one don’t like Shaw Cable or the CRTC, I get American signals through Dish Network. Until we completely destroy this monopoly driven commission that our taxes pay then we can start enjoying TV again. I speak Spanish and therefore like watching Spanish programming, Univision, and Galavision isn’t available in Canada because the CRTC believes that it we love Telelatino which is nothing more than Italian TV and maybe one or two Spanish shows a week. And for this reason I will always pay for this American service where competition decides prices unlike this country were monopolies not only occur but are encouraged and heavily protected.

  2. Stevie Blunder

    Forty years ago, in my hometown in Northern Alberta, I was appalled by the people who preferred the trash on the new private network TV station (CTV), over good old CBC TV. So I understand the, perhaps Victorian, attitude of the CRTC. And I have seen Canadian Government mandates like Petro-Can and Canadian content requirements lead to some very good things. I live in the US now and I know the Canadian made media that we get here would not exist if the Canadian entertainment industry did not have government support.

    However, your discussion on channels rejected by the CRTC reminds me of efforts by the red Chinese government to block certain Internet addresses. Do you have a page/link describing the mandate of the CRTC? For example, do they “regulate” cable channels or are cable networks considered private and not under CRTC jurisdiction?

    Most OTA digital channels here in the US are carried on UHF. There were very few UHF channels in Canada 11 years ago when I left. Is that still the case? I take it that Canada decided on the OTA digital standard ATSC? It seems that the European DVB/T standard works much better than ATSC in urban environments, although perhaps urban viewers are largely the domain of cable systems.

    The US government mandated transition to digital seemed a bit force fed like the Canadian government mandates above, but I have to say it has stimulated the industry to move in a positive direction it would not have taken left alone. Digital TV is complicated, as evidenced by the fact that even my cable company (Comcast) has not really mastered it yet. The technology, like the issues of content regulation, seems to tax the limits of human intelligence. Hopefully, time will make things clearer.

    US TV is like it’s people, a mix of the best and the worst. I think it’s a mistake to enforce our personal taste on others. If we support those who produce quality material, viewers will gravitate to it and there is no need for heavy-handed “regulation”.
    Ultimately, digital media convergence will make cable and OTA TV systems obsolete and these issues irrelevant. Will the CRTC then attempt to regulate the Internet like red China?

    1. Fagstein Post author

      The CRTC regulates both over-the-air and specialty cable channels.

      Canada’s digital TV, whose changeover is scheduled for August 2011, will use the ATSC standard just like the U.S. Until then, the stations use their existing analog channels, many of which (in large urban areas or places near the U.S. border) are in the UHF band.


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