Tag Archives: HDTV

Videotron expands HD lineup, but still has a long way to go

On Wednesday, Videotron added three new high-definition channels to its digital cable lineup: Canal Savoir (622), TLC (665) and History (674). This is another small step in the improvement of Videotron’s HD offering, but still leaves it well behind competitors Bell and Shaw.

There are two reasons why Videotron’s English-language HD channel lineup is so far behind: First, because most of its customers are francophone, it puts a priority on French-language HD channels. (And, indeed, it’s hard to justify investing in an HD offering in this province unless you have carriage on Videotron.) That’s why it has VRAK.tv and not YTV; MusiquePlus and Musimax but not MuchMusic; LCN but not CTV News Channel; Canal Vie, Moi & Cie and CASA but not Slice; TFO but not TVO, etc.

The second reason is that Videotron is still supporting an analog cable system, which uses as many as 54 6 MHz channels, limiting how many new HD channels it can add. While Videotron stopped selling new analog cable subscriptions to residential customers a year ago, it hasn’t begun dismantling the network yet. Once it does pull the plug, those 54 channels can translate into as many as 162 high-definition channels (or more likely some mix of HD channels, SD channels, video on demand channels and more bandwidth for cable Internet).

In the meantime, it’s rearranging channels, expanding into higher frequencies and doing other things to squeeze in a few more HD channels every few months as it launches new services and upgrades some existing channels.

So what should be next on Videotron’s list? Here are the channels that are available in HD and that at least one competitor has added to its HD lineup:

Movie channels: Hollywood Suite (WB, MGM, AXN, Sony)*, Movie Network channels (MExcess, MFun, MFest) Movietime, Sundance Channel, SuperChannel* (it’s coming soon), Turner Classic Movies, W Movies

Entertainment channels: ABC Spark, Bold, Cartoon Network, CMT, Comedy, Cosmo TV, Game Show Network, Lifetime, OutTV, MuchMusic, Teletoon (En/Fr), W Network

Educational/reality channels: Animal Planet, Discovery Science, Documentary, E!, EQHD*, HiFi*, H2, Investigation Discovery, NatGeo Wild, OLN, radX*, Slice, Travel + Escape, TVO, Wild TV

News and information channels: Bloomberg TV*, BNN, CTV News Channel, HLN, MSNBC

Sports channels: Big Ten*, CBS Sports*, Fight Network, NFL RedZone*, Sportsnet 360, Sportsnet Ontario/West/Pacific, Sportsnet World, TSN Habs*, World Fishing Network

Family/children’s channels: Family, Disney Jr. (En/Fr), Disney XD*, Nickelodeon*, Treehouse, YTV

Canadian superstations: CHCH*, CHEK*, NTV

U.S. superstations: Peachtree, WGN, WPIX, WSBK, KTLA

Third-language channels: OMNI

*Channels aren’t carried in SD either

I’ve been told that there’s a plan to add SuperChannel to Videotron’s lineup soon, in SD and HD. (SuperChannel must be distributed by providers outside Quebec, but there’s no obligation here, despite SuperChannel’s previous complaints.)

Here are my personal top 10 (in no particular order) for HD channels Videotron should be adding soon:

  • Movie Network Channels: Right now Videotron distributes only the main Movie Network feed and HBO Canada in HD, while most of its competitors also carry the three other feeds. Considering how expensive TMN is on cable bills, this should be a priority.
  • Hollywood Suite: Adding this package of channels would go a long way toward improving Videotron’s HD movie lineup
  • Sportsnet 360: The channel formerly known as The Score is among the most requested to add in HD. And Videotron has said repeatedly it plans to do so soon. It’s even added a channel to its system, but for some reason it’s not live yet.
  • Sportsnet World: Like with The Movie Network, this channel deserves an upgrade if only because of the high price of subscribing to it.
  • TSN Habs: Is there really any doubt that you have customers that want to watch Canadiens games in English? I don’t know if this is Bell’s fault or yours, but it’s time to bury the hatchet.
  • The Comedy Network: Comedy was a bit slower than movies and drama to make the transition to HD, but it’s there now, and there’s enough content that it’s worth upgrading Comedy to HD. When The Colbert Report moves off of CTV in the fall and goes “Exclusive to Comedy”, expect demand to grow.
  • MuchMusic: The fact that this isn’t already in HD is very surprising. Both MusiquePlus and Musimax have been in HD for a long time now. It’s well past time.
  • YTV: Similarly to MuchMusic, this is one of Canada’s oldest specialty channels, has a lot of original programming and has provided an HD feed for more than two years now.
  • CTV News Channel: It’s the only Canadian all-news channel that Videotron doesn’t carry in HD, and though it was slow to upgrade to HD (only launching in 2012), it provides enough original HD content to justify an HD channel.
  • At least one CW channel: Whether it’s New York’s WPIX, Chicago’s WGN or Los Angeles’s KTLA, which Videotron distributes in SD, the network produces a good enough block of original programming to qualify. And while some of that programming has been picked up by Canadian stations, much of it hasn’t.

But those are just my suggestions. What are your priorities? Which channels are you pissed off they haven’t added or upgraded yet?

CTV Montreal making final push toward HD newscasts

CFCF HD camera

One of the HD field cameras being used by CTV Montreal cameramen.

After what has seemed like eons since its competitors made the switch, CTV Montreal has announced that it’s making its final push toward launching a high-definition broadcast, which should begin in the spring or early summer. But it’s not all good news – technological change will mean a slight reduction in the number of technical staff at the station, management and its union have confirmed.

The station issued an update via its Facebook page last week, explaining that it had just put new HD studio cameras in place (viewers might notice a slight difference in colours or crispness in the studio shots during newscasts), and is building a new control room that will be HD-capable.

Other steps toward the conversion had already been taken earlier. New field cameras have been acquired, new editing suites installed, an upgrade to digital storage completed, and a new studio has been constructed that has the proper wiring and the level of detail necessary to work right in HD.

CBC and Global made the upgrade a long time ago. Both first moved to a 16:9 upconverted SD system, which masked the fact that they weren’t yet HD. CTV did not make a similar move due to a company policy that HD not be faked like that. CBC Montreal went through an upgrade that cost around $1 million that made it the first English CBC station in Canada to be fully in HD. Global’s conversion was a lot easier because it doesn’t have a control room – Global Montreal’s newscast is directed and controlled from Edmonton, leaving only the field cameras, studio cameras, edit suites and high-speed data connections to upgrade.

Continue reading

Bell TV adds CBC Montreal in HD

Bell announced today that its Bell TV satellite service (formerly Bell ExpressVu) will be adding CBMT (CBC Montreal) HD to its channel lineup as of June 10.

It is also adding high-definition versions of some other channels that have setup HD feeds within the past six months:

  • CFCN-TV (CTV Calgary)
  • CICT-TV (Global Calgary)
  • CKXT-TV (SUN TV, Toronto)
  • TV5

And Bell is adding CBOFT (Radio-Canada Ottawa) to its lineup in both standard and high-definition versions.

Those hoping they might find some room for even a highly-compressed standard-definition version of Global Quebec’s CKMI are unfortunately out of luck again.

Télé-Québec fires up digital transmitter

Télé-Québec HD

Télé-Québec’s CIVM-DT Montreal transmitter went on the air Monday afternoon, according to some hard-core spotters, making it the latest station to join Montreal’s digital over-the-air broadcasting family.

The list is going to grow pretty quickly over the next couple of years as Canadian broadcasters will be forced to switch to digital in 2011. U.S. broadcasters have already started up digital operations to meet a deadline of next month, even though it looks like that deadline might get extended.

Television stations currently broadcasting in digital here (totally plagiarized from this list at Digital Home) are as follows:

  • Callsign: Station identifier as recognized by Industry Canada/CRTC and FCC. Digital transmitters have a -DT suffix.
  • Network: Programming the channel carries
  • Location: Primary location of station’s offices. Montreal stations transmit from Mount Royal, Burlington stations from the top of Mount Mansfield (just east of the city)
  • Analog #: Current analog channel
  • Digital #: Assigned digital channel. Digital TV supports remapping of channels, so they should appear under the analog number (i.e. even though it’s broadcasting on Channel 19, Radio-Canada should appear as Channel 2)
  • Subchannels: DTV supports having separate subchannels with different programming from the main (the main channel is high-definition, and subchannels standard-definition, unless otherwise noted).
Callsign Network Location Analog # Digital # Subchannels
CBFT Radio-Canada Montreal 2 19.1 None
WCAX CBS Burlington, Vt. 3 53.1* WCAXtra
WPTZ NBC Plattsburgh, N.Y. 5 14.1 Weather+
CBMT CBC Montreal 6 20.1 None
CIVM Télé-Québec Montreal** 17 27.1 None
WVNY ABC Burlington, Vt. 22 13.1 One subchannel
WETK PBS Burlington, Vt. 33 32.1 SD channel
CJFP TQS Montreal 35 42.1 None
WFFF FOX Burlington, Vt. 44 43.1 CW
WCFE PBS Plattsburgh, N.Y. 57 38.1 SD channel

*WCAX will switch from channel 53 to channel 22 (currently occupied by WVNY) after the analog shutdown.

**CIVM broadcasts from the top of the Olympic Stadium tower

Stations which haven’t started broadcasting yet:

Callsign Network Location Analog # Digital #
CFCF CTV Montreal 12 21*
CFTM TVA Montreal 10 59*
CFTU Canal Savoir Montreal 29 27
CJNT E! Montreal 62 69
CKMI Global Montreal 46 51

*CFCF-12 and CFTM-10 will move their digital signals to their former analog channels after the analog shutdown.

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.

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.

Continue reading

CRTC roundup: CTV wants everything in HD

Some interesting developments at the CRTC concerning TV specialty channels:

The CRTC held a hearing yesterday on applications for new specialty channels, though no questions were asked and the meeting lasted 10 minutes. The following are being considered:

  • CBC SportsPlus, an “amateur sports” network. This one has proved controversial since rumours first started about it in January, since amateur sports would comprise only 25% of programming. The rest would seem to be for overflow from Olympic and other sports coverage where CBC television and the Bold channel would be insufficient. CTV and Rogers have already complained about competition with their sports networks, while the Canadian Olympic Committee argues its 100% amateur sports channel proposal should be approved instead. (The Globe argues both channels should be approved) (UPDATE: The Tea Makers has some analysis of this proposed channel)
  • AfroGlobal Television, a general interest network about Africa and African culture
  • Diversion HD, an HD movie network for the post-PPV sloppy seconds
  • Diversion SD, the same thing in standard definition
  • Canada HD Network, a general interest HD channel which seems to want to compete with U.S. based HDNet (to the point where it actually refused to have 15% limitations on music, movies and other categories that would compete with existing services). Its suggested programming grid includes an unusually large amount of Fresh Prince of Bel Air and McMillan & Wife reruns, especially for an HD channel
  • EqualiTV, a disability issues network which sounds a lot like the Accessible Channel
  • YTV OneWorld, a youth network with emphasis on foreign programming (let’s hope “foreign” doesn’t mean “American”). The channel had already been approved in 2000, but never made it off the ground.
  • YTV POW!, a comic book/action youth network with foreign programming, which was also initially approved in 2000
  • Sportsnet 2, a soccer/cricket/rugby sports channel that has been approved in principle but had not met certain legal requirements for a license

Expect Diversion and Canada HD to get denied unless they become more specific about their programming, and EqualiTV to explain how it differs from the Accessible Chanel.

Meanwhile, CTV has applied to the CRTC for HD versions of the following cable channels:

  • RIS Info Sports (RDS’s sister station)
  • The Discovery Channel*
  • CTV Newsnet
  • Business News Network
  • MTV Canada
  • The Comedy Network
  • travel+escape
  • Outdoor Life Network

*The Discovery Channel already has an HD version, which was approved on a temporary basis before the CRTC had a proper framework for such channels. This application is to have an HD channel under the new framework, which would require 95% of all programming to be the same between the SD and HD versions of the same channel (and the remaining 5% to be all-HD on the HD network).

CTV also wants to expand the programming of two of its channels, ESPN Classic Canada and Book Television, to include “general entertainment and human interest”. They cite as examples profiles of Hall of Fame athletes and Giller Prize awards coverage, respectively. The paranoid part of me thinks the likelihood of anyone complaining of these types of shows is extremely small, and that adding this category may be more about other kinds of shows they’d like to air that have less to do with the channels’ core mission.

Industry is at fault for HDTV confusion

CBC.ca has a story* about an industry-commissioned survey that shows Canadians don’t quite understand everything about HDTV. Sharp, which commissioned the survey, pulls right out of its ass the theory that “jargon-laden tech reports” are to blame for the problem, especially among women. It’s the media which is not doing a good job explaining HDTV’s technical intricacies to consumers.

While technology articles in newspapers and tech segments on TV news are, indeed, either confusingly jargon-laden or condescendingly over-simplifying, I don’t think they’re the reason for all the misinformation about HDTV.

Instead, I blame the industry itself:

  • An industry that defines “HDTV” as anything above NTSC standard, which could mean a bunch of different formats because the industry couldn’t set a proper standard.
  • An industry that compresses video signals over digital distribution systems to cram more channels in, making some digital signals better than others.
  • An industry that combined HDTV with a change in aspect ratio that served to confuse people into thinking the two were the same.
  • An industry that can’t agree on an optical media format for HDTV.
  • An industry that uses terms like “1080p” which means nothing to people like me, and then tries to develop brand names like “Full HD” which makes even less sense. (Is there a “Partial HD?”)
  • An industry that has developed five different types of cable connectors for video
  • An industry that uses closed, proprietary protocols so that consumers are forcibly tied to cable boxes forced on them by their cable or satellite companies instead of being able to buy televisions with digital tuners built-in.
  • An industry that converts HD to SD to HD, or SD to HD to SD, resulting in black bars all around images once they’re actually shown on TV screens.

But I don’t expect Sharp to bring that up when they’re busy masturbating over how great they are.

Another example of investigative journalism

*Dear CBC: If you’re going to rewrite a press release, maybe you should make it slightly less obvious that you’re doing so. For example, you could change the headline. Or you could find another source to quote. Or you could not copy and paste half the press release into your article.

For example:

The knowledge gap persists despite a truly healthy market for flat panel TVs. Overall, the market grew by 72 percent last year, with sales of LCD TVs growing by 84.4 percent. For 2008, projected sales figures from the Consumer Electronics Marketers of Canada (CEMC) indicate a market demand of 2.75 million units.
The poll reports Canadians have a basic understanding of the differences between flat screen technologies – 53 percent prefer LCD to plasma screens – yet few Canadians feel themselves to be truly knowledgeable about the technology.
Women are especially unaware of HDTV features; almost 60 percent said they were not at all knowledgeable about the latest advancements, compared to less than 40 percent of men polled across the country. The jargon-laden language of tech reports may be an issue, with 29 percent of Canadians getting their information about new models from TV ads and programs, compared to only 20 percent from print media and 16 percent from weblogs and product websites.

That was from the press release.

This is from the CBC story:

The knowledge gap persists despite a truly robust market for flatpanel TVs, according to the findings from Nanos Research, commissioned to do the survey by Sharp Electronics of Canada.

Overall, the market grew by 72 per cent last year, with sales of LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) TVs growing by 84.4 per cent, Sharp said. For 2008, projected sales figures from the Consumer Electronics Marketers of Canada (CEMC) indicate a market demand of 2.75 million units.

The poll reports Canadians have a basic understanding of the differences between flat-screen technologies — 53 per cent prefer LCD to plasma screens — yet few Canadians feel themselves to be truly knowledgeable about the technology.

Women are especially unaware of HDTV features, the survey suggested. Almost 60 per cent said they were not at all knowledgeable about the latest advancements, compared to less than 40 per cent of men polled across the country.

The jargon-laden language of tech reports may be an issue, with 29 per cent of Canadians getting their information about new models from TV ads and programs, compared to only 20 per cent from print media and 16 per cent from weblogs and product websites.

Notice some similarity? (I’ve bolded all the changes the CBC made.) I’m just going to go ahead and assume the CBC did not, in fact, check to make sure these statements were true.

(And another thing: “weblogs”? If people don’t understand what a blog is, what makes you think they’ll understand “weblogs”?)

Habs bring ratings boost to HNIC

The Globe and Mail, at the end of a longer article on a possible new TV channel for CBC Sports, reports that the audience for Hockey Night in Canada actually went up last weekend when they telecasted the Habs game nationally instead of the Leafs, in every region except British Columbia. The increase is modest, and it doesn’t include Ontario (because they still got the Leafs game), where almost half the audience resides.

Still, a ratings increase speaks to CBC’s bottom line, so expect more nationally-telecast Habs games in the future.

The other part of the Globe article says the CBC is in the initial thinking phase of a new amateur sport TV specialty channel. They aren’t even close to going to the CRTC yet, so this is still a long ways off. It might also conflict with the Canadian Olympic Committee, which is also thinking of an amateur sport channel. (UPDATE: The Globe discusses some of the hurdles such a channel might face in getting regulatory approval)

Meanwhile, the CBC has applied to the CRTC for a license amendment allowing CBC Newsworld to setup an HD channel. It’s unlikely to face any opposition, so we could see CBC Newsworld HD within the next few months.

CRTC specialty channel digest: Everyone wants a break from CanCon

Some CRTC hearings currently open for public comment:

Videotron wants France 24

France 24Videotron 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

OUTtvLGBT 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

Avis de recherche TVThe 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. CTV HD Vancouver (Shaw and StarChoice)
  2. CTV HD Toronto (StarChoice)
  3. 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.

RDS now in HD


RDS’s HD channel launched today with the first regular-season game of the Canadiens (we won, by the way). The network plans over 1,000 hours of HD programming in the first year (an average of 3 hours a day for us idiots who can’t do basic math), including full HD coverage of the entire Habs season and playoffs.

The channel is available on:

  • Videotron Illico HD channel 633
  • Bell ExpressVu channel 863
  • Cogeco cable channel 540 (only in Quebec)
  • StarChoice channel 266