Tag Archives: crtc

Canadian specialty channels urge CRTC to preserve diversity

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 Québec 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>

CRTC report on Internet vs TV

GATINEAU, Que. (CP) _ Canadians appear to be slowly switching off conventional broadcast media and logging on to the Internet _ including to watch and listen to conventional television and radio shows _ says a new report on broadcasting.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s eighth annual report on the state of the industry shows that Canadians have more choices in both television and radio media than ever before, but are watching and listening less.

But more and more Canadians have access to the Internet and high-speed Internet and using the relatively new technology for everything from research, to, ironically, watching and listening to shows they could have seen and heard on their TVs and radios.

About 70 per cent of Canadians now have access to the Internet, while the number with high-speed connections has increased from 51 per cent in 2005 to 60 per cent in 2006.

And they are connecting through their computers or on any number of devices, from cellphones to BlackBerrys.

"I think we can safely say that more Canadians are indeed switching on to the Internet, but I think we can also say that overall broadcasting in Canada is doing well in terms of diversity, and because radio revenues are up and also television revenues are up," said Diane Maisonneuve, the senior business analyst for the federal regulator.

The voluminous 144-page CRTC report found that while about 30 per cent of Canadians connected to the Internet in 2005, that was up to 48 per cent in the survey conducted last December. Internet usage was highest in British Columbia and lowest in Quebec.

The vast majority used the Internet for e-mail and to research information, but 29 per cent said they also watch videos, 22 per cent said they listened to radio, and six per cent said they watch television on the Internet.

The types of programs watched on the Internet include television shows, news, sports and the weather.

And advertisers have noticed. Advertising revenues on the Internet in Canada totalled $1 billion in 2006, says the federal regulator, as opposed to $562 million the previous year.

While Internet access and usage seems to be up, Canadians are still watching a lot of television and listening to radio, although the report finds slight drop-offs in both conventional media.

On average, Canadians watched 27.6 hours of television per week in 2006, down from 28.1 hours the previous year. This continues a trend since 2002 and overall television viewing has dropped a full hour in the past five years, most notably among teens and young adults.

As well, they listened to 18.6 hours of radio per week, compared with 19.1 hours in 2005.

Despite fewer eyeballs and ears attuned to their shows, total revenues for both traditional broadcast media improved in 2006.

Convention television stations earned $2.6 billion in revenue last year, as opposed to $2.5 billion in 2005. And revenues for pay, pay-per-view and video-on-demand services totalled $2.5 billion last year, a $300 million gain from 2005.

But the improvement was not always reflected in the profits for the sector. Convention television profits dropped from 11 per cent to four per cent in 2006, although profits for pay TV and video on demand, as well as specialty services, were up 26 per cent over the previous year.

Revenues generated by radio stations totalled $1.4 billion, a $76-million increase over 2005.

Both conventional TV and radio broadcasters spent more on Canadian content in 2006 than they had the previous year, the report says.

Quebecers were far more likely to watch Canadian programs than other Canadians. Seventy-one per cent of total television viewing in the province was Canadian, whereas in English-speaking provinces, domestically produced programs accounted for only 59 per cent of total viewing.

CRTC report proves Canada’s broadcasting system is broken

Toronto – The CRTC’s 2007 Broadcasting Report confirms that Canadian broadcasters are decreasing their spending on homegrown drama while rapidly filling our airwaves with foreign programming. Canada’s broadcasters spent $401,510,563 on foreign drama programming expenses in 2005 and $478,624,087 in 2006 – a 19.2% increase. Spending on Canadian drama programs have dropped from $82,226,776 in 2005 to $70,918,605 in 2006 – a 13.7% decrease.

“Our broadcasters have decreased their spending on Canadian drama by almost $12 million over the past year”, said Stephen Waddell, ACTRA’s National Executive Director. “Canadian private broadcasters bid against each other at the L.A. Screenings each May and spend more on U.S. programming in one day than they do on Canadian drama in one year. They are filling our public airwaves with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of U.S.-made drama programs and Canadian culture pays the price.”

ACTRA has been sounding the alarm about the crisis in Canadian television drama for years, and demands that the CRTC fix its disastrous 1999 Television Policy. At the CRTC’s review of the regulatory framework for Canadian over-the-air television ACTRA, on December 4, 2006, proposed that the CRTC set a regulatory minimum expenditure of 7% of revenues on English-language drama.

“The CRTC’s recent hearings are crucial for fixing the destructive policy that removed spending requirements for Canadian broadcasters. Clearly the CRTC recognizes the problem and must address it now.” said Waddell.

CTF acknowledges support from Canadian Heritage and CRTC

TORONTO, Feb. 13 /CNW/ – The Canadian Television Fund is pleased to acknowledge the important statements made today by Minister of Canadian Heritage Bev Oda and CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Minister Oda called on Shaw Communications and Videotron to resume their monthly payments to the CTF in order to restore stability to the industry. "The CTF would like to thank and acknowledge Minister Oda once again for her strong support to Canadian television production," expressed Douglas Barrett, CTF Board Chair.

Minister Oda’s remarks were echoed by CRTC Chairman von Finckenstein’s statement, adding that the Commission would take action to ensure that monthly payments are resumed by Shaw Communications and Videotron.
"In order to minimize disruptions to the 2007-2008 production and broadcast cycles, it is critical that the CTF be able to announce funding allocations to the industry by the end of February as it had committed to," said Valerie Creighton, CTF President.

Accordingly, the CTF, through its legal counsel, has written to the CRTC to ask that the Commission urgently make a determination about how to most effectively enforce the obligations of Shaw Communications and Videotron to make contributions to the CTF and then to take necessary steps as it deems appropriate.

As clearly stated in its presentation to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, the CTF remains committed to working with the Department of Canadian Heritage, the CRTC and its stakeholders to work through the current challenges.

Over the past ten years, the CTF has contributed 2.22 billion dollars to support 4,470 productions. This has resulted in more than 23,000 hours of great television for Canadians and has triggered more than 7.4 billion dollars in production volume across the country.

CTF could be in chaos

TORONTO (CP) _ Videotron’s decision this week to stop making its monthly payments to the Canadian Television Fund makes it impossible for the agency to plan for the upcoming year and that could put thousands of jobs at risk, the fund’s chairman said Wednesday.

CTF chairman Douglas Barrett said the Canadian television production industry will become "chaotic" as the fund struggles with an impending $63-million budget shortfall after Shaw Communications (TSX:SJR.B) said last month and then Videotron announced Tuesday that they would suspend their contributions.

"This is tens of thousands of jobs," Barrett said in an interview from the Quebec’s Eastern Townships, where the fund’s board is holding a retreat until Thursday.

"If these productions don’t proceed, this has an impact on broadcast schedules and production companies in this country who are already in a fragile state."

The fund said Wednesday it will ask Canada’s broadcast regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, to take legal action against Shaw and Videotron..

"The CRTC has regulations and it’s their legal duty to enforce them," Barrett said. "And we’re going to ask them to do so."

Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B), which controls Videotron through Quebecor Media, is also demanding that Heritage Minister Bev Oda launch a review of the management of the fund, which is coming up for renewal in March.

The latest developments are "very concerning" and will have a "significant impact" on Canada’s television industry, Chisholm Pothier, a spokesman for Oda, said from Ottawa.

"We hope that the sides come to a quick resolution, but in the meantime, we’re going to monitor these events as they unfold and what action we take will be determined in the wake of what happens in the next few days," he added.

CRTC regulations require medium and large cable and direct-to-home operators to contribute to the fund, based on a formula which includes gross revenues and the number of subscribers.

The CTF invested about $264 million in Canadian programming in its 2005-2006 year and receives about $100 million annually from the federal government.

But the two cable distributors say they are frustrated with the CTF, which they say isn’t paying enough attention to the concerns of its private-sector contributors.

Quebecor also objects to the fund reserving 37 per cent of its production funding for the government-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and its French-language counterpart, Societe Radio-Canada, even though the CBC/SRC also receives more than $1 billion in government funding annually.

Videotron contributed $14.3 million to the fund in 2005 and estimates that its obligation will be about $16 million this year. Shaw’s contribution is about $56 million.

A spokeswoman for Rogers Communications, owner of the country’s largest cable distributor, declined to comment about the funding pullout, but said Rogers has contributed between $25 million to $29 million annually to the fund over the past few years.

Rogers estimates that its contribution to the fund will be about $34.1 million in 2006, but the company, like many who contribute to the fund, has the option to divert 20 per cent of their contributions to another CRTC-approved independent production fund.

Created in 1994 at the request of the CRTC, the CTF has helped fund such television shows as "Degrassi: The Next Generation", "Trailer Park Boys" and "DaVinci’s Inquest."

The fund’s board includes representatives from the Canadian television production and distribution community, Department of Heritage, Canadian cable and direct-to-home satellite companies and Canadian broadcasters. Board members are elected each year and at least five directors must be independent.

The fund’s board of directors is expected to meet in late January for a previously scheduled strategic planning session to establish the future direction of the organization.

But already, Videotron’s decision to join Shaw in withdrawing its financial support of the fund is sending shockwaves throughout the domestic television industry, whose could see project funding dry up within the next few months.

"The Canadian production industry would die a slow death _ maybe not such a slow death _ and the Canadian creators would no longer have work," said Pamela Brand, executive director of the Directors Guild of Canada, which represents over 3,800 people in the film and television industry.

"The Canadian voice would be completely gone, and the industry would wither and die. That’s what is at stake for us."

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