The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Decima Reports.
The Canadian Association of Broadcasters is rallying against the cable industry in its bid to own more analog specialty channels, prompting one of its largest members to threaten to withdraw from the association. Rogers Communications Inc revealed earlier this week that it plans to resign from the association at the end of this month in response to a Feb. 2 intervention the CAB filed with the CRTC as part of a review of the rules governing cable ownership of discretionary channels (PN 2000-165). At the request of the CAB, Rogers was to meet Wednesday with the association.
Alliance Atlantis Communications has upped Phyllis Yaffe to CEO of the company’s broadcasting group from president. Mark Rubinstein, formerly managing director for Yahoo! Canada, and before that senior VP and general manager at ChumCity TV group, becomes president and COO. He will report to Yaffe. These two appointments are effective April 9. As well Norm Bolen, currently senior VP of programming at Showcase and History Television, was advanced to executive VP of programming at Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting. Barb Williams has been appointed senior VP of lifestyle programming. Williams will be responsible for programming for the launch of all new lifestyle channels, including the Health Network, while continuing to manage program development for existing channels HGTV, Life Network, and Food Network Canada.
Canadian Television Fund gets 1-year transitional renewal
Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps has given the Canadian Television Fund another $100 million and renewed its mandate for the 2001-2002 fiscal year. The fund, which was set to expire in March, was renewed for a year to "provide continuity in policy implementation," pending the government setting its next budget. The fund has enabled the creation of such Canadian shows as Da Vinci’s Inquest, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and Un gars, une fille. According to CTF manager of communications Phil Serruya, about 230 applications had been received by the Feb. 15 deadline for 2001-2002 funding for drama, variety, performing arts and children’s shows. The successful applicants are expected to be announced in mid-March. The deadline for documentary applications is March 15, and a second round of applications for documentaries and children’s programming is Oct. 3.
The CRTC is winning praise for its French-language specialty television policy, which takes into account not only the size of cable systems, but also their capacity to carry more channels. Under PN 2001-25, distributors serving more than 2,000 subscribers with digital capacity of 750 MHz or more will be required to carry all French-language Canadian specialty services and at least one pay TV service. The recently licensed Category 2 digital specialty channels and pay-per-view services are not included in the policy.
Despite a lukewarm reception by U.S. customers, Rogers Cable Inc is hoping to carve out a niche audience for its "interactive television." David Ellis, an analyst with Omnia Communications in Toronto, has dubbed Rogers’ product "WebTV in a beavercoat."
The Senate Committee on Transport and Communications will decide soon whether to release a report from hearings held last year on the state of Canada’s communications industry. The Sub-committee on Communications had just finished the first of a three-phase review of communications and competition policy before the federal election was called. Phase one of the review was related to Internet privacy and security, and how quickly Canadian businesses are embracing e-commerce. The sub-committee had directed staff to develop a draft report, but it was never approved.
The first round of Category 2 digital channels haven’t even launched and already the CRTC is embroiled in a bitter battle over whether it’s time to license more. The commission has received 16 applications for new digital specialty services, with Chum Ltd leading the pack with 13 bids, including channels devoted to soaps, world cinema, regional news, and relationships (PN 2001-3-1). A public hearing to review the bids will be held April 17 in Hull, PQ.