Tag Archives: The-Weather-Network

CRTC Roundup: Hands off our InterTubes

The big news is the CRTC’s decision to extend its hands-off policy regarding regulation of content on the Internet. The decision, which is explained in some detail point-by-point, was praised by Internet providers and condemned by actors and writers unions (PDF), both for entirely self-serving financial reasons.

One thing the commission did decide to implement was a provision regulating “undue preference”, which is when a media company uses its power in one industry to help affiliated companies in another. For example, if Rogers were to arrange for Rogers Cable to carry Rogers SportsNet but dump TSN, or if Videotron were to give sweet deals to TVA and LCN, that would be considered undue preference.

The CRTC is looking for rules that would extend this to the new media environment, citing the walled gardens of wireless carriers as Exhibit A that the industry isn’t very good at self-regulating.

Michael Geist has more analysis.

Martial law: Weather Network in control

The CRTC has agreed to a scheme whereby Pelmorex, the company that owns the Weather Network and MétéoMédia, would become national emergency alert aggregators, providing emergency broadcast information to local broadcasters. This scratches an itch pointed out by Public Safety Canada, and satisfies the CRTC’s wish for an industry-based solution.

But, of course, there’s a catch. In exchange for providing this service, the CRTC agrees to require all digital cable and direct-to-home satellite providers to require mandatory carriage of the Weather Network and MétéoMédia for all subscribers, who will get charged the $0.23 per subscriber per month fee. Currently, the networks profit from mandatory carriage only on basic analog cable.

As more Canadians move to digital forms of television delivery, Pelmorex has been anxious to get the CRTC to force its channels (and fee) on subscribers. This is its second attempt at securing such an order. The first didn’t have the emergency alert component but did propose a modest decrease in per-subscriber fee in exchange. In both cases, Pelmorex talks of the danger to its business model if television subscribers are given the option to choose not to carry the networks.

The decision (which features some absurdities like nothing that the stations have “100% Canadian content” and make “a significant contribution to the development of Canadian expresson”) was not unanimous. Commissioner Len Katz was highly critical that a company that has a profit margin of about 25% could be in such serious danger.

The mandate is effective Sept. 1, 2010 and expires on Aug. 31, 2015, by which point Pelmorex will need to come to the CRTC to seek another order.

Welcome Current.tv Canada

The CRTC has approved an application from a company mostly owned by a company owned by the CBC to create a Canadian version of Al Gore’s Current TV. Like its U.S. counterpart, the network would broadcast short-form user-generated content.

The CRTC took issue with the fact that Current TV has a 20% interest, and forced the CBC-controlled company to make amendments to ensure the U.S. interest couldn’t assert any control over day-to-day operations.

The channel is a Category 2 digital specialty channel, which is what most new specialty channels are. That means it’s discretionary and won’t be on analog cable.

APTN wants Olympics exceptions

The Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network, which is part of the mega consortium of private broadcasters that will show the Olympics in Vancouver next winter, has asked the CRTC for some leeway on its obligations for the two-week event. Specifically, it wants to be relieved of its French-language, aboriginal-language and “priority programming” (i.e. drama) requirements for those two weeks.

The latter makes sense if they’re devoting those weeks to sports. Clearly they will be Canadian productions. But the language requests don’t make much sense, especially because CTV has argued that APTN would help in bringing French-language Olympics coverage to francophones outside Quebec.

TVA Sports, TVA Junior

Quebecor is looking to expand its cable channels with new uncreatively-named networks for sports and youth programming. The former would take advantage of recent loosening of policy restricting competition in sports networks, as well as provide an eventual outlet should Quebecor’s bid for the Canadiens be successful.

One pipe, one policy?

CRTC chairman Konrad von Finkenstein did some public thinking, wondering if a single policy encompassing both broadcasting and telecommunications isn’t the future of the commission. Of course, he says, that’s up to Parliament to decide.

Take your time

The following approved specialty channels have been given extensions to launch them:

Most of these channels were approved around 2006 and still haven’t launched yet. After a couple of extensions the CRTC forces you to start over from scratch. Expect most of these channels to expire before they ever see the light of day.

Weather Network Twitter alerts need fine-tuning

The Weather Network has launched Twitter feeds to alert people to important weather information. It makes perfect sense, except there’s one feed per province. Quebec’s feed has alerts from Gatineau to Rivière du Loup. But I don’t care about the weather in these places. I care about the weather in Montreal.

The Weather Network should split these feeds (especially Quebec, Ontario and B.C.) into more, smaller regional versions.

CRTC roundup: broken television

Canadian television network breakdown

The big news this week is the release by the CRTC of submissions from major Canadian private television broadcasters whose licenses are up for renewal in August. This includes CTV/A, Global/E!, TVA, Sun TV, Citytv and OMNI. (TQS is the notable exception since it had its own dealings with the CRTC after it went bankrupt).

The CRTC has suggested having one-year license renewals (instead of standard seven-year ones) and dealing with the TV financial crisis in the meantime. The networks have gone along with that and are recommending status quo until August 2010.

The private networks (especially CTV Globemedia and Canwest) are re-repeating all of the please-give-us-money talking points they’ve been sending toward the CRTC for years now, including bringing up their pet project of forcing cable and satellite companies to give them money for putting their free over-the-air channels on their systems, mainly because they can’t find a way to make a profit off advertising and say the system is broken.

Among their other money-grabbing and money-saving ideas:

  • More access to the new Local Programming Improvement Fund (deigned to help with local programming at small-market stations) by expanding them to larger markets (Canwest even argues that CJNT Montreal should have access to the fund even though it doesn’t provide any local news.)
  • Having the ability to own their own production companies instead of being forced to use independent production houses
  • That the proposed 1:1 ratio of spending on Canadian vs. non-Canadian programming is “not viable” because it would mean cutting back on the very thing that is generating the revenue to keep the networks afloat (and besides, CTV argues, they’ve already signed contracts for the 2009-2010 broadcast year)

Canwest proposes a “5 and 10” rule that would require 5 hours a week of local programming for stations serving markets of under a million viewers, and 10 hours a week for stations serving markets of over a million. Since most Canwest stations already have local programming requirements far in excess of 10 hours a week, this would save it a lot of money. (It counts only four stations as being in large markets – even Global Quebec is considered small because it only counts English-speaking viewers, which means it would drop from 18 hours a week of local programming to only five)

Even Quebec’s TVA, which does plenty of local (or at least regional) programming, wants to cut back. It’s asking to reduce the amount of local programming at its Quebec City station from 21 hours a week to 12 UPDATE: They now say they only want to cut it to 18 hours a week.

Canwest even proposes going further than its continued demand for money from cable companies, and throw out some new ideas that nobody has suggested before, including:

  • Non-simultaneous substitution, which would replace U.S. signals with Canadiens ones showing the same programming, even if they’re not being broadcast on both channels simultaneously.
  • Banning commercial advertising from CBC
  • Government assistance for digital conversion
  • Tax cuts

UPDATE: More coverage from the Globe and Mail, which also looks at how much the networks are spending on Canadian versus foreign content.

Canwest wants Global Quebec to become Global Montreal

As part of its submission to the CRTC on license renewal, Canwest said it wants to convert only primary transmitters of its 15 major stations to digital by 2011, and as part of that it wants to convert regional networks Global Ontario and Global Quebec into local stations in Toronto and Montreal, respectively. CKMI-TV is actually based out of Quebec City (and also serves the Eastern Townships through a transmitter in Sherbrooke), but all its programming, including its newscasts, originate in Montreal.

The change wouldn’t affect programming but would allow CKMI to attract local advertisers, even though Canwest says they would not be taking advantage of this much.

CTV wants to pull the plug on CJOH-8

In its submission to the CRTC, CTVglobemedia put forward a long list of television transmitters it said it would not apply for licenses to renew past August. Included in that list is a retransmitter for CJOH Ottawa in Lancaster, Ont., on Channel 8. Montrealers and off-islanders with good TV antennas will note that this transmitter serves southwestern Quebec since it is just across the border. Shutting the transmitter down means those near the Ontario/Quebec border will have to tune into CJOH’s Ottawa transmitter or CFCF-12 in Montreal.

The Obituary Channel?

The CRTC has granted approval for a regional Quebec cable channel called Je me souviens, which will be devoted essentially to obituaries and related public notices. The CRTC did not agree to a request to carry local advertising in addition to the obits, however.

The channel (which is a private venture unconnected to the major broadcasting companies) is interesting because it’s an original idea and because it’s a regional network (most cable networks are national in order to reach as broad an audience as possible).

But if Astral Media couldn’t keep its TATV shopping channel on the air, does a regional channel of nothing but obituaries stand a chance?

UPDATE: I see CJAD reads this blog.

Pay up, CFAV

The CRTC has denied a request from Laval radio station CFAV 1570 AM, which wanted to be excused from the $8,000 a year it has to pay to promote Canadian artists. Its excuse is that it’s not making a profit. The CRTC says rules are rules.

Rogers wants carte blanche on OLN

Rogers has asked for some very radical amendments to its license for the Outdoor Life Network (OLN). Among them, it wants to be able to use sitcoms, comedy shows and animated shows, reduce its restriction on televising live sports, and reduce requirements for Canadian content. The proposal was so radical it caught the eye of the Globe and Mail.

TVA wants carte blanche on specialty channels

Speaking of radical amendments, TVA has filed requests to add more programming categories for three of its specialty channels: Mystère (mystery), Argent (financial news) and Idées de ma maison (home/living). While some might make sense in a world where various forms of programming blend together (say, a game show about science), it’s hard to see some of these categories as being requested solely so that TVA can stretch the envelope and provide programming that has only a tenuous connection to the mandate of the channel.

Among the categories they’d like to add:

  • Religion programming
  • Professional and amateur sports, including live sporting events
  • Drama, sitcoms, comedy programming, animated programs
  • Music videos

I’m all for flexibility, but can you imagine a program that has music videos about mysteries? Or a sitcom about financial news?

The Weather/Emergency Network

Pelmorex, the strangely-named owner of the Weather Network/MétéoMédia, is asking for the CRTC to require that all cable and satellite companies operating in Canada have the networks as part of their basic digital services (it’s already required on analog cable). In exchange, the networks will act as “a national public alerting aggregator”, distributing emergency information.

To sweeten the deal, Pelmorex gives idle threats about how their existence will be in “jeopardy” if they can’t force that $0.23 per subscriber out of us, even though most Canadians already (happily) get the Weather Network by default.

Still, having the Weather Network distribute emergency information makes sense, if only because many such emergencies are weather-related and TWN already deals with emergency weather alerts.

The only problem is: Shouldn’t it be the broadcast networks (like, say, CBC/Radio-Canada) who distribute emergency information, so it’s over the air where everyone can receive it?

HD vs. SD

While Canal Évasion wants to start an HD version of the channel, the owners of three HD-only networks – Oasis HD, Treasure HD and Equador HD – want to distribute those channels in standard definition. This isn’t the first request of this kind I’ve seen, and is probably a reflection of the fact that while most Canadians have cable or satellite service, the number with HD service and sets is not as high as they had expected by now, and offering a downgraded SD signal will allow them to reach a larger audience.

And finally

The CRTC has approved a request to add five networks, all of third-language programming originating from east and southeast Asia, to the list of eligible channels for satellite providers.

Weatherbabes need recognition

The Weather Network and its French equivalent MétéoMédia are useful cable TV channels which provide weather information 24/7. Trying to decide what to wear? Switch the channel, check out the weather, and then turn off the TV.

But these networks (and for that matter any TV news program that presents weather) realized that ratings would go up when female meteorologists would gesture at weather systems on screen. One could only imagine what so many teenage boys were doing alone in their rooms and why they were so interested in the national weather maps.

This breakthrough in TV weather development has led to managers milking this for everything it’s worth. (Goodbye Don McGowan, hello Lori Graham.)

Now, finally, there’s a website out there devoted to fanning the flames of passion the country has for some of these very talented female meteorologists. Miss Météo is a discussion forum for MétéoMédia weathergirls, with different boards for each one.

I was always an Isabelle Lalonde kind of guy myself. I also grew up a lot with Michelle Therrien… in a purely platonic sense of course.