April 2, 2003 Star Choice to add new channels; PVR receiver to be available in 2004Satellite TV operator Star Choice Communications Inc. has announced that it will be adding to its channel lineup some new local and specialty television and audio channels, as well as expanded HDTV programming. It will also introduce an integrated HDTV receiver with advanced program guide and an integrated personal video recorder (PVR) with HDTV receiver early in the first quarter of 2004. The additions mean that customers will have a choice of over 400 channels. The channels will be added over the next year, the company said. Among the channels that Star Choice will add is the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s Ottawa TV station. When Star Choice satellite TV rival Bell ExpressVu LP recently unveiled its new expanded channel lineup, CBC management complained that its Ottawa station wasn’t included (CCR, March 13/03). Discovery Wings, a science channel with a focus on air travel, will be added to Star Choice’s lineup, as will the local channels CKSA-TV Lloydminster, CITL Lloydminster, CFTK-TV Terrace Kitimat and CJDC-TV Dawson Creek. Those channels have already been added to the Bell ExpressVu lineup as part of a proposed deal on the distribution of out-of-market TV signals with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CCR, Oct. 10/02; CCR Update, Oct. 2/02). Star Choice also announced that it would add at least four, and possibly six, new HDTV channels. Further information on the channels will be released as the year progresses. CAB might appeal Copyright Board’s decision on reproduction of musical worksThe Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) is considering appealing the Copyright Board of Canada’s decision to require radio stations to pay for making reproductions of music for broadcast purposes. The association says it is "in the process of reviewing the decision and will determine if it will appeal the decision at a later date." It has been estimated that the new tariff will cost radio stations about $6.5 million annually, retroactive to 2001."While we believe that all creators are entitled to fair compensation for their work, we believe that this tariff is unfair, as there is no economic value resulting from the transfer of media and no royalties should be paid for it," CAB president and CEO Glenn O’Farrell said in an April 1 media release. "Radio broadcasters are simply doing their jobs, getting music to Canadians. They are employing emerging efficient technology. They should not be penalized for that." The CAB told CCR back in May 2001 that the issue made the private radio industry vulnerable, even though overall profits were up (CCR, May 10/01). TV producers lament that only 51% of requests to CTF will be filledCanadian television producers say they are alarmed by the March 28 announcement by the Canadian Television Fund (CTF) that it will only be able to meet 51% of funding requests. The fund’s high over-subscription rate means uncertainty not only for production companies, but also for broadcasters, the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA) said in a media release March 28. "We need a strategy to ensure Canadian TV programs get made, the whole industry – actors, writers, directors, broadcasters, and producers – must work with government and the CRTC to find a solution," said CFTPA president and CEO Elizabeth McDonald. The CTF announced that it had received 788 applications seeking $340.7 million in production funding support this spring. With $172 million available, after the government cut $25 million in its contribution (CCR, Feb. 28/03), the CTF estimates that it will be able to meet 51% of the demand. In the drama genre, there were 87 applications seeking $102.6 million under the Equity Investment Program (EIP), and 100 applications seeking $104.3 million under the Licence Fee Program (LFP). More details:http://www.canadiantelevisionfund.ca/pages/CTF_Newsletter.pdf Vancouver RCMP seize illegal TV dishes in raid on private homeThe RCMP in Vancouver seized 80 complete satellite TV systems, valued at about $50,000, from a private residence on March 27. The raid was made following a complaint by the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association (CMPDA) that a Richmond BC man was openly selling illegal TV satellite receivers and programming cards from his home-based business. Authorities say the 52-year-old, unnamed man will be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada. toronto/one headquarters to be based in Toronto’s east media districtCraig Media Inc. has announced that its new Toronto TV station will be based at 25 Ontario Street, near King and Sherbourne in Toronto’s emerging east media district. An existing building on the site will be transformed into a high-definition ready, all-digital broadcast facility. "The location is key to bringing forward our vision of toronto/one," station VP and general manager Barbara Williams said in a March 27 media release. "It’s new. It’s evolving. It’s exploding with business and residential development. It’s a location at the core of where our stories will originate. This site immediately establishes our position as the station committed to telling the new Toronto story." Earlier in the month, Craig Media announced that it had received $145 million in new capital, including a $110-million investment from Providence Equity Partners Inc. and a $35-million senior debt facility provided by RBC Capital Markets and BMO Nesbitt Burns. The financing will be used to launch toronto/one. Canadian Heritage to hold artists’ forum on the future of copyright Canadian Heritage minister Sheila Copps will chair a Forum on the Future of Copyright in the 21st Century on April 4 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. It is being held in conjunction with the JUNO Awards, which is being held this year in Ottawa on April 6. The forum won’t be open to the public. Vidéotron, striking technicians agree to new deal following bitter strikeQuebecor Inc.-owned Vidéotron ltée and members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 2815 have agreed to a new deal that will end a 10-month labour dispute. The Quebec cableco backtracked on plans to transfer about 650 Vidéotron technicians to another company, Entourage Solutions Inc. The cableco has also agreed not to relocate its Montreal call centre. The unionized employees agreed to a wage freeze in the first three years of the five-year contract that is retroactive to Dec. 31, 2001. They will get raises of 2.5% in 2005 and 2006. As well, the CUPE members will be working 37.5 hours a week, up from 35 hours, for the same pay. However, about 260 jobs will be eliminated, primarily through voluntary retirement and buyouts. CanWest offers US$200 million in unsecured senior notesCanWest Global Communications Corp. subsidiary CanWest Media Inc. has placed a private placement of US$200 million (or about Cdn$294 million) in unsecured senior notes. The notes carry a coupon rate of 7 5/8% and have a ten-year term. The company said in a March 31 media release that about Cdn$275 million of money raised through the offering will be used to retire a portion of the 12 1/8% subordinated debentures held by Hollinger International Inc. and Hollinger Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership. The move is intended to reduce CanWest’s consolidated interest expense by about Cdn$12.7 million annually. Earlier in March, CanWest announced that it had made amendments to its senior credit facility that provide it with "increased flexibility to retire junior subordinated debt issued to Hollinger in November 2000." Under the deal, lenders eased restrictions on repayment of some of the broadcaster’s $3.6-billion debt. NFB inks partnership deals with National Geographic, Film Australia and France 2The National Film Board (NFB) has signed international partnership deals with National Geographic, France 2 and Film Australia. The NFB-National Geographic agreement allows the two organizations to distribute each other’s archives in their respective markets. The NFB can license 500 hours of National Geographic footage per year in Canada. National Geographic represents NFB productions in the United States and the United Kingdom. There are options for additional hours. The NFB and Film Australia agreement encompasses research and development, co-productions, application of new technologies to the management and distribution of audiovisual archives, and professional exchanges. The NFB and France 2 have partnered to co-produce two feature-length France/Canada documentaries for prime time. Canada, Iceland to allow "twinning" on co-productionsCanada and Iceland have amended a 1997 co-production agreement to allow "twinning." That means that producers from the two countries can use a single contract to secure two audio-visual productions of the same type and same length. "With this change, the agreement will increase the opportunities available to Canadian and Icelandic producers," Canadian Heritage minister Sheila Copps said in a March 28 media release. HGTV unveils new look focusing on its hosts/ideas for springSpecialty channel Home and Garden Television (HGTV) unveiled an "ideas" promotional campaign on March 21 that focuses on its hosts as the best source of creative ideas. The promotional campaign integrates HGTV hosts with the icon of a light bulb. The campaign includes on-air TV spots, magazine and outdoor billboard advertising in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. CAB stresses ties between private radio broadcasters and Canadian music industry in lead up to JUNO AwardsCanadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) president and CEO Glenn O’Farrell will highlight the role that private broadcasters play in promoting and developing new Canadian talent at a National Press Club breakfast on April 3. As well, to pay tribute to the relationship between radio stations and artists, the association is holding an invitation-only Rock the Hill event, which includes live music. Rock the Hill will be held on April 2 at Zaphod Beeblebrox in Ottawa. Telefilm Canada backs five French-language featuresFive French-language feature film projects have received the green light for funding support under Telefilm Canada’s selective component of the Canada Feature Film Fund (CFFF). The five projects are Camping sauvage, directed by Guy Lepage; Dans l’oeil du chat, directed by Rudy Barichello; La Lune viendra d’elle-même, directed by Marie-Jan Seille; La Vengeance d’Elvis Wong, directed by Pierre Falardeau; and La Vie avec mon père, directed by Sébastien Rose. The next deadline for submitting French-language projects to the CFFF’s selective component is April 28, 2003. Rogers asks for revocation of Calgary Flames radio licenceRogers (Alberta) Ltd. has received regulatory approval to have its licence revoked for an English-language radio network authorized to broadcast the hockey games of the Calgary Flames (Broadcasting Decision 2003-105). INTERNATIONAL NEWS PVR sales remain modest: In-Stat/MDR reportAnnual worldwide shipments of personal video recorders (PVRs) finally surpassed the one-million mark in 2002 – reaching 1.5 million – but sales of the product remain modest, according to a recent In-Stat/MDR report. However, the research firm expects demand to grow to over 11 million units in 2005. It also found that North America accounted for 80% of worldwide PVR shipments so far in 2003, but it expects the percentage to drop to 55% in 2007 as demand for PVR products increases in Europe and Asia. Motorola close to taking full ownership of Next LevelMotorola Inc. will likely succeed in buying the 26% of Next Level Communications Inc. it did not already own after the Next Level board recommended shareholders accept the company’s increased offer. Having been rebuffed in January, Motorola sweetened its offer to US$1.18 per share, a jump of 13.5% from the original offer. Shareholders now have until April 11 to accept the offer. On April 1, it was announced that Next Level Partners LLC had tendered its shares under the offer. Next Level supplies Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. with VDSL equipment for its digital TV service, which launched commercially in a small area of Winnipeg in January (CCR, March 13/03). Cablevision and Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network deal back onAfter stalled negotiations that threatened to deprive Cablevision’s almost three million subscribers of seeing New York Yankees games, the cableco and Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network (YES) came to terms earlier this week – just in time for the first pitch in the Yankees’ season opener against the Toronto Blue Jays. The companies announced the deal late on March 31. Cablevision has agreed to add the YES network to premium packages at no extra charge, and it will also be part of a sports package. Yankees fans who were subscribers to Cablevision didn’t get Yankees games last year because YES insisted on being offered as a basic cable channel. Cablevision wanted customers to pay more for the channel. More details: Sports Business News Newsday The Boston Globe New York Post Qwest Communications International abandoning TV plans over VDSLDenver-based Qwest Communications International is abandoning plans to offer its TV service via VDSL (very high rate digital subscriber line) and is looking at other options, according to Rocky Mountain News. The telco has found that VDSL costs too much. In Canada, Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. (MTS) is using VDSL for the rollout of its TV service in Winnipeg (CCR, March 13/03, Dec. 19/01).