December 11, 2002 Look, Bell ExpressVu, VDN tell Federal Court to dismiss Vidéotron's request for leave to appeal on inside wiring Look Communications Inc., Bell ExpressVu LP and Câble VDN inc. have asked the Federal Court of Appeal to deny a request by Quebec cable operator Vidéotron ltée for leave to appeal a CRTC decision on inside wiring (CCR Update, Oct. 17/02). The CRTC issued a mandatory order in October requiring a Vidéotron subsidiary to lease its wires in multiple-unit dwellings in Quebec to its competitors for 52 cents per subscriber per month (CCR, Oct. 10/02). Vidéotron says the CRTC ruling was beyond its jurisdiction and wants the court to look at the decision. For more information, see the upcoming issue of Canadian Communications Reports. Heritage committee hearings on broadcasting switch focus to cultural diversity The House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage shifts its focus this week to cultural diversity as part of its broad review of the Canadian broadcasting system. Due to appear before the committee on December 12 are Canadian Heritage director general of international affairs Denny Gélinas, and Barbara Motzney, director of international relations and policy development. Representatives from the Sectoral Advisory Group on International Trade for Cultural Industries (SAGIT), the International Network for Cultural Diversity and the Competition Bureau are also scheduled to make presentations. The committee announced before the summer recess that it would look at media consolidation, foreign ownership and cultural diversity when it reconvened in the fall (CCR, July 18/02). It has spent the last two weeks examining media consolidation and foreign ownership (CCR, Dec. 5/02). For ongoing coverage of the hearings, see the upcoming issue of Canadian Communications Reports. CCTA request for changes to winback rules unlikely as CRTC upholds policy on telecom side The Canadian Cable Television Association's (CCTA) bid to have winback rules dropped doesn't look promising as the CRTC has reiterated their importance on the telecommunications side (CCR Update, Nov. 28/02). In Telecom Decision 2002-73, released December 4, the CRTC ordered Bell Canada to comply with local telephone service marketing restrictions, ruling that the incumbent telephone company could not for a specific period of time try to win back customers who have cancelled service. It found that Bell had broken the winback rules in contacting a number of customers before their service was transferred to competitor Sprint Canada, which is owned by Call-Net Enterprises Inc. "With this decision, the commission is making it clear that the winback rules are an important aspect of the regulatory framework to encourage fair and sustainable competition in local telephone markets," CRTC chair Charles Dalfen stated in a media release. The CCTA has asked the CRTC to remove restrictions that prevent incumbent cablecos from engaging in direct marketing of former customers because it feels that the satellite TV business is now "well entrenched and would not be a risk if the winback restrictions were removed." OMNI Television to develop third-language programming Rogers Media's OMNI Television has announced that it will spend $50 million on developing and licensing third-language/ethnocultural programming and other multicultural initiatives. Development funding has been granted to projects that include a documentary on the Underground Railway (to be produced in three languages), a documentary on Russian women in the Diaspora, and a series on the Arab community in Canada. Alliance Atlantis announces 24 new series in winter 2003 on its channels Alliance Atlantis Broadcast Group says it will be launching 24 new series on its slew of specialty channels in 2003. Among the new series are HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm on Showcase, Debbie Travis' Facelift on HGTV, and Klondike: Quest for Gold on History Television. Bell ExpressVu ads TQS Estrie news show to its lineup Satellite TV distributor Bell ExpressVu LP has added the nightly news show of TQS' Estrie QC channel to its lineup. The regional news show is available on channel 104 at 5:30 p.m. and is being offered free to viewers in the Estrie region. Throughout the rest of the day, the TQS feed from Montreal is broadcast. Salem wants unused Thunder Bay radio frequency deleted Camarillo CA-based Salem Communications has retained Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP public policy advisor Sean Moore to obtain federal approval to delete an unused Thunder Bay ON AM radio frequency. Salem, which broadcasts Christian and family radio programming over a network of 85 stations in 35 markets in the United States, is seeking to boost the power of one of its stations on the American side. That would require Industry Canada approval due to cross-border agreements as the increased power could interfere with a Canadian operator at the same frequency. Teens spending less time watching TV: StatsCan Television viewing has remained stable among the overall Canadian population at 21.1 hours per week, but teens on average are watching two hours less per week and children one hour less, according to Statistics Canada. The decline among younger viewers has resulted despite increased access to cable and satellite transmission. Industry analysts attribute the decrease partly to greater use of the Internet. According to StatsCan, overall specialty and pay television stations continue to attract more viewing time. Canadians now spend 22% of their viewing time watching specialty and pay TV, up from 6% in 1992, and 10% watching U.S. channels, up from 3% in 1992. Persona restructures in hopes of saving $1.5 million annually Cable operator Persona Communications Inc. has announced that it will cut 28 positions in a restructuring of its Canadian operations. That number represents 7% of its overall workforce. Persona's Central and Northern divisions will be merged under the restructuring, which is aimed at saving $1.5 million annually. Its Montreal office, home to the Central Division, will close, with a revamped operation in Sudbury, the headquarters for the Northern Division. CRTC approves Category 2 channel aimed at Tamil community The CRTC has approved an application from Network Television International Inc. for a Category 2 digital specialty television channel aimed at the Tamil community - Broadcasting Decision 2002-403. Any English-language programming on the service, referred to as ITBC Television Canada, must be strictly directed towards the Canadian Tamil community and cannot include coverage of sports. Historia, Canal Z, Canal Vie get licence amendments allowing them to broadcast game shows The CRTC has granted a request by Astral Broadcasting Group Inc. and Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc. to allow their French-language specialty channel Historia to broadcast game shows - Broadcasting Decision 2002-396. The broadcasters had indicated that the amendment to Historia's licence was necessary because game shows were removed from program category 5b when the commission revised its program categories. Astral also received a licence amendment that will allow it to broadcast game shows on its French-language specialty television service Canal Vie (Broadcasting Decision 2002-397) and its French-language specialty channel Canal Z (Broadcasting Decision 2002-399). A number of other specialty channels have also recently applied to have game shows added to their condition of licence (CCR, Dec. 5/02). CHUM gets approval for lower Cancon quota on oldies station CHUM Ltd. has received approval to broadcast 30% Canadian music content on its oldies radio station CKPT Peterborough - Broadcasting Decision 2002-398. CRTC radio regulations require commercial radio stations to broadcast a minimum of 35% Canadian popular music over the broadcast week and between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. But the commission also stated that it would be flexible for radio stations with "oldies" music formats. Revenues up at CanWest's Australian station CanWest Global Communications Corp.'s Australian station Network TEN has reported its highest quarterly television revenues and earnings ever for the three months ended Nov. 30, 2002. Earnings before EBITDA grew by 24% to A$74.7 million. The increase was attributed to Network TEN's ratings success in 2002. It increased its national commercial share by 9.7%. CBC, Australia's public broadcaster back mini-series The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) have agreed to broadcast a mini-series being produced under an international co-production agreement between Canada and Australia. The series, called Answered by Fire, consists of four one-hour shows featuring a Canadian and an Australian police officer serving as UN peacekeepers in East Timor. It is being produced by Montreal-based Muse Entertainment Enterprises, another Canadian production company Mindless Entertainment, and Australia's largest independent TV drama production company, Beyond Simpson Le Mesurier. Shooting is expected to take place in 2004 in Australasia. INTERNATIONAL NEWS Echostar, Hughes terminate proposed merger agreement EchoStar Communications Corp. and Hughes Electronics Corp. announced December 10 that they had reached a settlement to terminate their proposed merger. Under the agreement, EchoStar will pay Hughes US$600 million in cash, and Hughes will retain its 81% ownership in satellite carrier PanAmSat. EchoStar faces a write off of about US$700 million in the fourth quarter to cover the merger breakup fee and other related merger expenses. The merger was axed because it could not be completed within the timeframe set out under the agreement. That was due to government action to stop the merger and the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) decision to send the matter to a hearing, the two companies stated in a media release. Fourteen U.S. telephone companies unite to offer cable TV service over VDSL Fourteen Minnesota-based telephone companies have united to share the costs of building a single, digital headend to offer a television service over VDSL (very high-speed digital subscriber line). In Canada, Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. (MTS) is offering a TV service over VDSL (CCR, Dec. 19/01). The U.S. group calling itself Broadband Visions LLC is also jointly attempting to negotiate programming contracts. The group says it already has 14,000 customers receiving over 130 TV channels. Adelstein sworn in as member of Federal Communications Commission Democrat Jonathan Adelstein was sworn in as a member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on December 3. The swearing in came after months of stalling as Senate Republicans, feuding with the Democrats over judicial nominations, placed anonymous holds on Adelstein's nomination. Adelstein was approved in July in a floor vote by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. He fills the uncompleted term of former FCC commissioner Gloria Tristani, which ends in June. More details: Broadcast Engineering articles Mobile Radio Technology magazine VOD hailed as cable saviour at Broadband Plus Video-on-demand (VOC) was hailed as the saviour of the cable industry, which is facing increasing pressure from satellite TV distributors, by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts at the Broadband Plus conference in California last week. Roberts said VOD would allow cablecos to regain their status as television's technology innovators. Motorola unveils end-to-end VOD solution The Broadband Communications Sector of Motorola Inc. has unveiled a new end-to-end video-on-demand (VOD) solution with digital ad insertion capabilities. The Motorola end-to-end VOD solution is designed to provide the stream processing horsepower, scalability and resource management to efficiently run an on-demand service.