The diversity of the Canadian television system depends on preserving a place for small, independent specialty services, according to a submission to the federal broadcast regulator filed jointly by a group of these channels.
The broadcasters have called upon the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to require that cable companies and other broadcast distribution undertakings (BDUs) continue to provide a mandatory "basic" package in the digital television universe – one in which independent Canadian channels have "must-carry" status.
The members of the independent specialty services group are: the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Channel Zero Inc., Ethnic Channels Group Limited, Fairchild Television/Talentvision, Stornoway Communications LP, S-VOX Trust and TV5 QuÃ©bec Canada.
The independent broadcasters made their joint submission as part of the CRTC’s review of BDUs and specialty television.
As the result of a CRTC ruling in July 2007, several channels operated by members of this group will lose their basic status in the digital universe – an outcome that will significantly reduce revenues and may put their survival at risk.
In their submission, the broadcasters note that the CRTC has licenced independent channels to meet the needs of under-served audiences and address the Broadcasting Act’s goal of diversity in Canadian television programming.
In a television system increasingly dominated by "a few large, horizontally integrated broadcasting companies" and "even fewer vertically integrated large BDUs," the submission says, the presence of independent services is more essential than ever to ensure the continued provision of diversity.
"There is a link between the diversity or plurality of ownership and the diversity or plurality of voices," the submission says.
"The vast majority of Canadians receive their television services through a small number of very large BDUs, some of which also have channels of their own that they are committed to protecting,"
said Bill Roberts, President and CEO of S-VOX Trust (which operates the multi-faith analog service VisionTV as well as two digital channels). "The playing field is tilted against independent niche channels, which lack the resources and negotiating clout of large broadcasting conglomerates."
If independents cease to be viable, Mr. Roberts added, the breadth and variety of programming available to Canadians could be greatly diminished. In the digital universe, he cautioned, consumers may find themselves paying higher prices for a less diverse offering.
The CRTC is slated to commence its public hearing on specialty services and BDUs in February 2008.
<font size=1>Source: S-Vox press release / CNW Group</font>