Some CRTC hearings currently open for public comment:
Videotron wants France 24
Videotron has made a request to add France 24, the European country’s answer to CNN, BBC World and Al Jazeera, to its digital cable network in both French and English.
Videotron wants to add the networks as Category 2 specialty digital channels, whose only real condition is that they don’t compete with protected-format Category 1 channels.
Considering we already have CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, EuroNews, BBC World and even Al-Jazeera (though with an unusual monitoring requirement) in this category, it’s unlikely the CRTC will reject the request.
Deadline for comments: Jan. 22, 2008
OUTtv is out of money
LGBT specialty channel OUTtv, which as you can tell from its Wikipedia page has had an interesting history, wants to reduce both its Canadian content requirements (from 65% to 50%) and its requirement to spend money producing Canadian programming (from 49% to 25% of its revenues). The reason: Its “precarious financial circumstances” are forcing it to run more profitable (and cheaper) American programming.
OUTtv is a Category 1 specialty digital channel, which means that all digital operators must carry it (though not necessarily make it part of their basic package) and no other digital channel can compete directly with it with similar format. In return, the category demands a minimum of 50% Canadian content.
Not knowing the nature of OUTtv’s “precarious financial circumstances” (and for that matter, never having watched the network’s programming) I can’t really comment on whether or not this is a good idea.
Deadline for comments: Dec. 19, 2007
Avis de recherche won’t get off that easy
The CRTC is reconsidering an earlier decision to offer a license to Avis de recherche/All Points Bulletin TV, a pair of wanted-by-police channels that were licensed as Category 2 channels, but with must-carry status, which requires not only that digital* cable companies provide the channel on their basic digital service, but that they pay a fee per subscriber to the network.
The reconsideration was mandated by the Governor-General, who under advice from the Minister of Canadian Heritage ordered a re-examination of the unusually low requirement (see Appendix 5) for spending on Canadian programming.
Despite agreeing to a 95% Canadian content requirement (the channel is, after all, nothing but public bulletins from Canadian police departments), it is required to spend only 20% of its revenues on Canadian programming. That was considered too low by the government.
It’s hard to disagree. With a few pennies from every cable subscriber in the country, and a requirement to spend only 20% of that on programming, the channel’s owner stands to profit greatly.
In response to the decision to reconsider, the channel proposed upping the spending requirement to 43% of revenues, but with an odd rollover clause (and reverse rollover clause) that would allow them to shift up to 5% of that from one year to the next. So they could spend 38% of revenues on Canadian programming one year, and 48% the next, and still be in accordance with their license.
I fail to see how requiring this supposedly essential channel to spend a large percentage of its revenues on producing its programming is out of line.
Judge for yourself: Avis de recherche is available on Videotron Illico digital TV on channel 46.
Deadline for comments: Dec. 17, 2007
*UPDATE (Dec. 18): This post originally didn’t make clear that the channel is must-carry only on digital cable. It has been updated to clarify. See comment below.
Shaw/StarChoice don’t want to simsub HD channels
The CRTC is conducting a hearing Jan. 15 over the apparent refusal of Shaw Cable and StarChoice satellite to follow simultaneous substitution rules for certain HD channels.
Simultaneous substitution requires Canadian cable and satellite providers to substitute American channels with local (Canadian) ones when the two are carrying identical programming (and the local network requests it, which they always do), so that Canadian consumers get all-Canadian commercials. We only notice the change during the Super Bowl, when those all-important multi-zillion-dollar American Super Bowl commercials are blocked out and replaced by a much-lower-budget Canadian equivalent.
The arrival of HD caused the scheme a hiccup for two reasons:
- Not all local broadcast networks have HD equivalents. Instead, most have just two HD channels, one for the East coast and one for the West. Since the East feeds come out of Toronto, cable providers in Montreal don’t have to substitute American channels for out-of-market Canadian ones.
- Substitution rules require that the signal being replaced is as good as or better than the signal it’s replacing. So they can’t replace a Fox HD version of House with a Global standard-definition version.
- The CRTC allows exemptions for small cable providers where the technical costs of substituting signals outweigh the benefits. (Neither Shaw nor StarChoice fit this definition of “small.”)
The Canadian Association of Broadcasters complained to the CRTC that Shaw and StarChoice were not performing their substitution duties for three stations:
- CTV HD Vancouver (Shaw and StarChoice)
- CTV HD Toronto (StarChoice)
- CITY-TV HD Toronto (StarChoice)
Shaw and StarChoice’s argument seems to be that HD presents unique technical challenges that makes it too difficult for them to substitute signals.
The word “bullshit” comes to mind, but I’ll wait until they present their argument at the hearing before I make any rash judgments.
If you’re interested in filing a written submission, the deadline is Dec. 13, 2007. The hearing is Jan. 15, 2008 in Gatineau.