To regulate interactive TV or not: now it’s Washington’s turn to decide

Canadians hankering for a little déjà vu need look no further than Washington these days. The Federal Communications Commission’s current review of interactive TV plays like a re-run of the CRTC’s landmark 1998 hearing into whether or not to regulate new media (CNM, May 20, 1999). Many of the arguments presented by the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) in its March 19 brief to the FCC were made three years ago by many on this side of the border.

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CCR People

Michelle Marion has been named to the newly created position of director of Canadian independent production for Astral Television Networks’ The Movie Network and Moviepix. She has previously worked in communications and strategic planning at Astral.

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CCR Short Takes

Quebec court prosecutes grey market dish dealer
A Quebec provincial judge has found a Hudson QC businessman guilty of selling U.S. grey market satellite TV services to Canadians. The March 15 ruling by Justice Claude Prevost is the latest in a series of cases that have used the Radiocommunications Act as the legislation of choice to crack down on grey market dealers (CCR, Jan. 17/01). In this case, Charles Pearlman, who owns New Advanced Technologies, sold the receiving equipment, arranged for Canadians to have a false U.S. address, and acted as the broker for all billing between the customer and the U.S. satellite TV company. The judge sided with the Crown, agreeing that section 9(1)(C) of the Radiocommunications Act makes it illegal to decode a subscription programming signal or a network feed unless it is done with the authorization of a lawful Canadian distributor (i.e. Bell ExpressVu or Star Choice Communications Inc). The sentencing decision was not available at press time.

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CRTC and Industry Canada meeting could set course for freeing up radio slots in GTA

Officials from Industry Canada and the CRTC will meet in early April to discuss the feasibility of re-jigging frequency bands to make room for more radio stations in the congested Toronto market. Industry Canada’s Spectrum Information Technologies and Telecommunications branch has spent the last month reviewing a report presented to the Cabinet by the CRTC in January, detailing possible solutions to the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) spectrum shortage (CCR, Feb. 14/01).

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Market demand will decide if new satellites are used more for broadcasting or Internet

Bird Satellite Communications Inc says it will provide broadcasting capacity on its proposed new satellites, despite reports that the company is wedded to an Internet-only strategy. Scott Gibson, Bird’s VP legal and regulatory affairs, says if Industry Canada approves its March 15 licence application, the first of two satellites to launch will include 24 C-band transponders on which Canadian broadcasters will have right of first refusal.

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Telesat urges broadcast clients to support its exemption from paying phone subsidies

Telesat Canada’s president and CEO is rallying broadcasters to support its appeal of a telecom ruling on local phone subsidies that could result in higher fees for satellite users. In his annual address to the Canadian Satellite Users Association conference on March 21, Larry Boisvert explained that the CRTC’s new contribution regime for subsidizing the cost of local phone service now applies to Telesat, and that those costs will be passed onto broadcasters and specialty channels, which comprise about half of its customer base (CCR, March 14/00).

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Broadcasters and distributors still at odds over how to launch digital channels this fall

Disagreement over how to launch new digital channels this fall isn’t expected to delay their rollout, but it will affect how the retail revenue is divided between the services and broadcasters. Contract talks hit a roadblock this month when the various parties were unable to reach agreement on a joint code of conduct outlining equitable terms for carriage.

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