Decima Reader Survey, January-February 2002 A recent online poll of subscribers to Decima Publishing newsletters asked if newly-appointed CRTC chair Charles Dalfen is the right person for the job in the current environment. The results are mixed, with nearly as many unsure as those who endorse the appointment. CRTC decision puts kibosh on Amtelecom, Persona dealThe proposed takeover of Amtelecom Group Inc. of Alymer ON by Persona Communications Inc. has fallen through. News releases put out by both parties state that the major stumbling block was Persona’s interpretation of a CRTC decision on the regulatory framework for small ILECs – Decision 2001-756. Persona, formerly known as Regional Cablesystems Inc., says in a statement "that certain historical revenue streams of Amtelecom Inc. were likely to be adversely impacted by the decision". Amtelecom does not find the commission ruling as dire as Persona apparently does. "We thought the Regional deal made sense for both parties," Amtelecom president and CEO Stanley Stewart says. "It married up some networks that go all across northern Ontario and abut ours at Manitoulin Island and we could roll out some products they didn’t have like telephone and they could bring us some critical mass." Despite repeated phone calls, Persona president Brendan Paddick was not available for comment. The unsolicited offer for Amtelecom initially came last August (CCR, Nov. 9/01, Aug. 30/01). For more on this story, see the March 12 edition of CCR affiliate publication, Network Letter. Look continues to lose television subscribers in last quarterThe number of digital television subscribers of Look Communications Inc. fell from 74,000 in the third quarter to 60,000 in the fourth quarter ending December 31, 2001, according to financials released March 14 by the company. In the first nine months of fiscal 2001, Look lost 17,800 television subscribers. However, Look president and CEO Paul Lamontagne, said in a press release, "We have successfully restructured our balance sheet and significantly improved our working capital position, allowing Look to relaunch sales and marketing activities in the first quarter of 2002. As a result, we are now in a better position to defend our subscriber base against actions by competitors, something we could not do in 2001." He expects to lose customers in the first half of fiscal 2002, but not in the second quarter. On March 13, Look announced it was adding five new digital channels to its television offering in the southern Ontario market. The channels, offered in a package called Family Five Pack, are National Geographic, Showcase Action, Deja View, Biography and Leafs TV. CCTA opposes WTM’s bid for mandatory carriageThe Canadian Cable Television Association is asking Cabinet to deny an application by World Television Network/Le Réseau Télémonde Inc. (WTM) to refer back a CRTC decision. On December 14, 2001, the CRTC granted a Category 2 non-mandated digital license to WTM, but owner Dan Iannuzzi, wanting analog carriage, filed a petition to the Governor in Council in January (CCR, Jan. 31/02). "Mandatory carriage of WTM on analog could limit rather than increase diversity by removing capacity in cable systems that could otherwise be used to carry 10 to 12 digital programming services," writes CCTA president and CEO Janet Yale in a February 18 letter to the clerk of the Privy Council. Iannuzzi believes WTM deserves analog carriage as it is of "exceptional importance" in fulfilling the multicultural objectives of the Broadcasting Act. The CCTA, however, contends the CRTC is already undertaking numerous initiatives in furtherance of multicultural objectives. It cites the CRTC licensing of ethnic television stations in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver; the presence of 14 ethnic radio stations across Canada; the existence of five ethnic analog specialty services and the licensing of about 45 ethnic Category 2 specialty services; and the presence of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) as positive steps taken to fulfil those objectives. The CCTA also notes the call for applications for radio licenses in Toronto to serve diverse language groups, and the CRTC call to have the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) create a task force to look at how the broadcasting system reflects all Canadians – Public Notice 2001-88 (CCR Update, Aug. 8/01). See the Newsmaker in this issue for a related article. Viewers get say in U8TV castViewers will be voting on which of two lofters featured on U8TV will be ousted from the Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. reality television show. Online voting will occur at www.u8tv.com, between March 18 at 8:30 p.m. and March 21 at 6 p.m. The results of the vote will be announced live on television on March 21. A panel of producers will choose the two lofters being considered as candidates to leave the show. Once the vote is complete and the existing lofter leaves the house that is under 24-hour camera observation, a new person will join the household. CPAC asks CRTC for initial wholesale rate of 10 centsThe Cable Public Affairs Channel Inc. (CPAC) in its licence renewal application is asking the CRTC to grant it a wholesale rate of 10 cents per month for the first two years of its licence, increasing to 11 cents in the third year – Applications No. 2002-0127-8, 2002-0128-6. The wholesale rate would be divided into two parts: A proposed public service portion of 3 cents per subscriber per month would be paid by CPAC affiliates and not passed on to subscribers; and a proposed approved pass-through rate of 7 cents per month per subscriber in the first two years that would be charged to customers. The channel proposes that none of its programming contain commercial content, including commercial messages or sponsorships, except in relation to the provision of closed captioning. Under its current licence, CPAC cannot charge a fee to subscribers or broadcast commercial content (CCR, Feb. 15/02). CPAC also wants the CRTC to approve the channel for distribution on a dual basis and allow it to air long-form documentaries. The matter will be considered at a public hearing on May 6 in Hull QC – Broadcasting Notice of Public Hearing 2002-2. CRTC opens way for greater BDU competition in MUDsThe CRTC has proposed a fee of 44 cents per subscriber per month as a lease fee on the use of cable fibre in multiple unit dwellings. Setting a fee for other distributors to access the wires in apartment buildings is intended "to ensure that customers obtained the full benefits of competition in the distribution of broadcasting services by removing barriers to competitive access caused by cable ownership of inside wire" – Broadcasting Public Notice 2002-13. Comments on the matter must be submitted by April 8, with reply comments due April 22. Bell ExpressVu LP, Look Communications Inc. and Cable VDN have welcomed the news. "By proposing the rate, the CRTC has taken positive steps towards removing one of the last remaining barriers to open competition in condominium and apartment buildings," says Michael Beard, Express Vu’s VP of MDU and commercial business. "Although this proposed rate is higher than ExpressVu expected, it does provide a basis for a final decision." Men with Brooms sweeps box office in opening weekendThe Canadian Film Fund put an added emphasis on the promotion of Canadian films, and massive marketing of producer Robert Lantos’ Men with Brooms appears to be paying off. The Canadian romantic comedy opened to a weekend theatrical box office office gross of $1.04 million this month. That’s the highest opening weekend for an English-language Canadian feature in national release, according to AC Nielson’s Entertainment Data Industries. The movie opened in 207 theatres across Canada, the widest opening for a homegrown feature. The movie was heavily promoted, including in television spots aired during the Salt Lake City Olympics. Copyright portal announcedA consortium of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), Digital Content Management Services, and Calgary-based RightsMarket Inc. is the first to announce funding from Canadian Heritage to develop a copyright clearance portal. The portal will be used to clear music copyrights in Canada. Heritage is giving $787,392 in the first year of the project.