The CRTC has granted direct-to-home satellite TV distributors Star Choice and Bell ExpressVu licence amendments that will not require them to do signal deletion on out-of-market television signals provided they fulfill other conditions (Broadcasting Decision 2003-257 and Broadcasting Decision 2003-258). The CRTC has modified a condition in an agreement proposed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and Bell ExpressVu (CCR, Nov. 22/02, Oct. 10/02, Jan. 18/02) and is requiring the two DTH operators to contribute 0.4% of their revenues to a new fund for local programming. There were three dissents. Below is an excerpt from the dissent of CRTC commissioner Stuart Langford. Half Measures The public notices and decisions issued today (July 16, 2003) propose compromise rather than solution, temporary and partial appeasement rather than final and comprehensive resolution, expediency rather than justice. The result is wholly unsatisfactory. It provides faint hope for some small, market independent broadcasters and no comfort to others. It encourages direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) to starve existing independent production funds in order to feed a new local programming subsidy. It treats a select few symptoms of some small market broadcasters’ distress, but completely ignores the real root cause of those symptoms. Optimists might call it a start; realists are more likely to brand it an exercise in half measures. Decline and fall In some markets, as many as 50% of viewers obtain their television signals via satellite. The movement from off-air and cable to DTH has had a profound impact on local and regional, small market, independent broadcasters in three ways: First, where once they were the exclusive or near-exclusive signal providers in their markets, now they must compete with dozens of other conventional broadcasters, some of whom offer exactly the same national and foreign programs as themselves. Second, distant signals beamed into their markets via satellite from earlier time zones, provide viewers in their markets with the option of seeing their favourite prime time shows before they are scheduled for local broadcast. Finally, a good many local/regional television stations’ signals are not carried by either DTH provider. ExpressVu and Star Choice subscribers in these markets cannot choose to watch their local station unless they go to the trouble of switching from DTH to a traditional antenna… Which Peter, Which Paul In order to relieve that pain and to attempt to compensate small market, independent broadcasters for its inaction on the key issue of distant signals,… the commission, by majority, decided to amend its criteria for establishing independent production funds to permit DTH BDUs to create a local and regional programming fund. Initially, such a fund had been proposed in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) negotiated between the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and DTH BDUs. ...This proposal was rejected by the commission which was unwilling to rob that Peter (CTF) to pay that Paul… Double Trouble Until now, ExpressVu and Star Choice have chosen to split their 5% contributions, as permitted, into two parts: 4% to the CTF and 1% to independent funds, the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund and the Shaw Children’s Fund. Under the new system, approved by the majority today, the 4% contributions to the CTF will continue but there is every likelihood that the 1% contributions to independent funds will be eroded. In order to make the newly required contributions to local and regional production, ExpressVu and Star Choice may utilize monies previously earmarked for their chosen independent production funds… Back to Basics The scheme proposed in today’s public notices and decisions is hopelessly flawed and is not one to which I can subscribe. ...It is now time to return to basics, to reactivate the commission’s sensible distant signals policy and, as much as possible, to guarantee the future viability of independent broadcasters in small markets. This will burden DTH BDUs with additional costs, true, but they are no longer struggling new companies and they are not without resources.