Broadcasting and managing the transition to digital: A North American perspective

As the CRTC begins wading through submissions from industry groups on a proposed over-the-air digital TV policy, Michael McEwen, secretary-general of the North American Broadcasters Association, told an international audience of broadcasters and regulators about North American broadcasters’ point of view on the transition to digital. McEwen was the keynote speaker at the 2001 International Broadcasting Convention, held Sept. 14-18 in Amsterdam and attended by some 36,000 people. Below is an edited excerpt from his address, delivered on Sept. 15.

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CCR People

André Bureau has quit as president/CEO of Astral Broadcasting Group. He will keep his title as chair of the board of Astral Media Inc. A former CRTC chair, Bureau has been with Astral since 1990. No replacement has yet been named. Bureau’s decision to relinquish an operational role in favour of industry and government relations comes as the organization shifts its management reporting structure.

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CCR Short Takes

Groupe Vidéotron ltée pulls out of CCTA to save money
Le Groupe Vidéotron ltée has pulled out of the Canadian Cable Television Association (CCTA) as a cost cutting measure. "It’s a matter of cost," says Luc Lavoie, spokesperson for parent company Quebecor Inc. He notes that Vidéotron will save just over a million dollars by dropping its membership in the cable association. Janet Yale, CCTA president and CEO, says that despite the loss of Vidéotron as a member, "it’s business as usual" at the cable association. "For this year, we had some staff departures fairly early in the year, and as it turned out have not replaced those people, so have simply decided not to replace them. On the staff side, we’re smaller but we’re fine, and we’ll cut some of our discretionary research projects and some initiatives we might have otherwise have done," she says. "But in terms of the core work that we do, it’s really business as usual for the balance of the year." Lavoie adds that Quebecor has not yet looked into the possibility of withdrawing subsidiary TVA Group Inc from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. However, it seems to be a possibility given the huge debt that Quebecor took on with its $4.9-billion acquisition of Groupe Vidéotron. It also paid $241 million to Rogers Communications Inc to abandon a deal that the cableco had previously cemented to purchase Vidéotron.

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Pachul ‘stands mute’ in low-key CRTC hearing on Star Ray’s illegal broadcasting

Jan Pachul had promised a media circus at the CRTC hearing on Sept. 19 in Hull PQ looking into his illegal broadcasting activities. But what actually transpired was quite different – a subdued, quiet process in an almost empty hearing room in which the pirate broadcaster responded simply, "I stand mute" to many of the questions posed by CRTC legal counsel.

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Shaw says cable customers don’t want automatic access to PrideVision

Shaw Communications Inc hopes to show that public support is on its side with a new survey showing that most of its customers approve of how PrideVision is being offered. The recent survey of 650 Shaw cable subscribers reveals that 89 per cent prefer having the new gay and lesbian channel distributed on a "request only" basis.

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Senator Gauthier pushes ahead with private bill to amend Broadcasting Act

Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier’s failure to change a recent CRTC broadcasting decision through the courts has prompted him to use what he knows best – the political process – to bring about changes in Canada’s broadcasting regulatory system. Gauthier’s recent unsuccessful attempt to convince federal courts to overturn the CRTC’s tfo decision is the main reason behind his push to steer a private bill through the Senate and eventually Parliament (CCR, July 4/01).

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