September 24, 2003  Shaw asks CRTC to ensure “fair and sustainable” competition in Internet marketShaw Cablesystems has filed a Part VII complaint with the CRTC against Telus Corp. alleging that it has an anti-competitive pricing policy for DSL Internet services. “Over the past five months, Telus has offered at least 18 different promotions for Internet access service to customers in Alberta and British Columbia. These promotions are priced well below Telus’ cost of service and extend beyond reasonably accepted periods of time for promotions,” Shaw Communications president Peter Bissonnette said in a media release. Shaw wants the CRTC to order Telus to stop offering promotional pricing for its Internet services at below-cost rates for periods in excess of three months. It also asks that the CRTC prevent Telus from offering competitive service bundles that include local telephone service in contravention of CRTC regulations. Fellow cablecos Rogers Communications Inc. and Vidéotron ltée have already made similar requests on bundling to the commission.CTV withdraws application for changes to BCE-CTV benefits packageCTV Inc. has withdrawn its application to the CRTC to redirect some public benefits associated with BCE Inc.’s purchase of CTV away from documentaries because the proposed move, in tandem with changes to the Canadian Television Fund, would adversely affect production in the genre. CTV had proposed diverting $5.5 million from documentary events and companion documentaries in the BCE-CTV benefits package to the heroes, champions and villains dramatic programming benefit stream (CCR, Sept. 18/03). Proposed changes to the CTF guidelines affecting documentary producers include the removal of the regional and small/medium producer bonuses. “As a result of these expressed concerns (by producers), we feel that it would be appropriate to withdraw this application at this time and to monitor the CTF funding situation and its effects over the coming months,” CTV president Rick Brace said in a media release.CRTC approves deregulation of Vidéotron cable systems after long processThe CRTC has granted a request by Vidéotron ltée to deregulate the basic cable rates for CF Câble TV inc. (Montreal) and Vidéotron ltée (Saguenay and Sherbrooke), according to a September 19 letter, after a long process. The CRTC suspended the cableco’s application for deregulation in these systems as it waited for further information about the subscriber numbers that the cableco provided to the commission (CCR Update, Oct. 2/02).Toronto 1 carried outside Ontario’s capitalCraig Media Inc.’s over-the-air Toronto television station, Toronto 1, which launched at 7 p.m. on September 19, can be viewed outside the Greater Toronto Area by Cogeco Cable Inc. and Bell ExpressVu LP subscribers. The channel is available on Cogeco’s cable systems in Oakville, Burlington and surrounding areas on channel 8, and in Hamilton, St. Catharines, and Niagara Falls on channel 16. The station has been placed on channel 224 on Bell ExpressVu. Rogers Cable Inc. carries the station on channel 15 in the Greater Toronto Area.Rogers Digital Cable adds high-definition TSN signal in Ontario, New BrunswickRogers Cable Inc. announced September 19 that it has added TSN in high-definition to its cable systems in Ontario and New Brunswick. Rogers also announced that it plans to add HD Discovery and HD time-shift channels of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS to its digital cable offering in the coming weeks. The addition of a high-definition version of TSN marks the second high-definition sports channel now available on Rogers. It launched Rogers Sportsnet HD on September 1 (CCR Update, Sept. 10/03; CCR, Aug. 22/03). Customers who want HDTV signals require an HDTV-capable digital cable set-top box, which Rogers rents for $14.95 a month.Rogers adds CoolTV to digital lineupRogers Cable Inc. has added the jazz-themed Category 2 digital specialty TV channel CoolTV to its digital cable lineup. The channel, owned by CanWest Global Communications Corp., is already being carried by such distributors as Bell ExpressVu LP and Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. (CCR, Sept. 4/03).Green Party to ask CRTC for formal decision on exclusion from TV debateThe Green Party of Ontario will ask the CRTC for a formal decision on its complaint regarding its exclusion from a September 23 televised debate relating to the Ontario provincial election. “After the commission itself makes its decision, we will review it and consider what additional legal avenues we will be pursuing, which could include launching suits for damages against the CRTC and the broadcasters,” said Green Party legal counsel Peter Rosenthal. The party announced September 12 that it had filed a complaint with the CRTC asking the commission to inform broadcasters that its leader should be included in the debate or “be given extraordinarily widespread coverage in other public affairs broadcasts in order to meet the balance requirement.” The CRTC asked TV Ontario, CanWest Global Communications Corp., the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., CTV Inc., CHUM Television, Canadian Public Affairs Channel (CPAC), and OMNI-TV to respond to the complaint and outline how much coverage it had given the Green Party. The Green Party contends that its exclusion from the televised debate contravenes the requirement to provide equitable coverage during the provincial election campaign. But in their responses, the broadcasters pointed out that years of litigation have established the principle that broadcasters are entitled to exercise their judgment in determining participation, format and timing of the leadership debates during an election. CRTC legal counsel William Howard wrote in a September 19 letter to the Green Party: “On the basis of the record before us, we do not believe that there is any action that we should take in this regard at this time. Wishing to provide you with an expeditious response, and consistent with its past practice in such matters, commission staff has issued this opinion. Should you wish the commission itself to consider the matter, you may so request. A response, however, may not be possible until after the debate has taken place.”Persona Inc. receives offers to acquire the companyPersona Inc. stated September 18 that it has received informal offers to acquire the company, either in whole or in part. The cableco, which serves mostly rural communities in Canada and also has assets in the Bahamas, said TD Securities Inc. had received “non-binding preliminary expressions of interests” and that the unnamed buyers are now going through due diligence. Persona said earlier this year that it was seeking a buyer or merger partner to maximize shareholder value.CEP vows to fight foreign ownership changesThe Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), which represents some broadcast technicians, is lobbying the federal government to keep restrictions on foreign investment in the telecom and communications sectors. CEP’s statement was made as leaks from the federal government indicate it is prepared to drop foreign ownership restrictions for cable and satellite TV companies after bureaucrats study the issue further. The federal government is expected to reply to the parliamentary Industry committee’s recommendations on foreign investment in these sectors this week (CCR, May 8/03).80 Canadian production companies represented at upcoming MIPCOMEighty Canadian television production companies will be attempting to sell their programming at Canada Pavilion, the Telefilm Canada-sponsored booth at MIPCOM 2003. The number is up from the 65 represented at MIPCOM 2002. “The Canadian television industry is in full swing, producing high-quality programs on rich, diverse subjects,” said Telefilm Canada executive director Richard Stursberg. “Our success in helping to forge closer bonds between Canadian programming and Canadian viewers also involves increasing the global competitiveness of Canadian companies by facilitating strategic partnerships and increasing export opportunities. The Canada Pavilion is the ideal venue for players to make connections on an international and national level, which could translate into future working relationships, as well as the creation and promotion of Canadian cultural products.” For a list of Canadian production companies attending, click here.CINAR management fires back at foundersCurrent management at animation and children’s production house CINAR Corp. has called allegations made against them by company founders Micheline Charest and Ronald Weinberg “defamatory and misleading.” In a lawsuit seeking to remove CINAR chair Robert Després as trustee administering their controlling stake in the company, Charest and Weinberg allege that the company has spent “substantial sums” on unusual professional fees under Després’ tenure. “The allegations of Ms. Charest and Mr. Weinberg are a reckless collection of self-serving half-truths that clearly distort reality,” CINAR president and CEO Stuart Snyder said in a statement. “They imply that CINAR acted irresponsibly in spending $23.5 million in professional fees since 2000, when those fees had to be incurred to pay forensic accountants, lawyers and other professionals to address the enormous problems caused by the scandals that occurred while they, themselves, were board members and the joint CEOs of the company.” Charest and Weinberg, who would like the company to be sold, also claim that the company’s current board isn’t doing enough to ensure its sale.CTV announces record audiences for Canadian IdolCTV Inc. announced September 17 that 3.6 million Canadians watched the last 30 minutes of the final episode of the realty TV show Canadian Idol. According to Nielsen Media Research numbers, the series had an overall average audience of 2.06 million viewers per episode. That makes it the most watched Canadian-produced series ever. It topped the ratings for the 1989-90 season of television series Road to Avonlea, which aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., and had an average of 1.97 million viewers.CCTA, CAB among founding members of newly formed Balanced Copyright CoalitionThe Canadian Cable Television Association and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters are among the founding members of the Balanced Copyright Coalition, which was formed to represent broadcaster and Internet service provider interests in the current Copyright Act reform process. The coalition says it believes strongly that the public interest and the rights of consumers need to be considered and protected as the Copyright Act is being amended to accommodate technological changes. The coalition is opposed to the adoption in Canada of a law similar to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Its position is outlined in a September 15 letter to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.CBC files report on employment equity for 2002 to Human Resources Development CanadaThe Canadian Broadcasting Corp. has filed its annual report on employment equity with Human Resources Development Canada for 2002 that indicates that the representation rate for women in permanent positions continued its steady growth, reaching 41.9% compared to 40.6% in 2001. The report also notes that the hiring rate for persons with disabilities was below its representation rate in CBC’s workforce, whereas the promotion rate was above its representation rate. As well, the 2002 representation rate for aboriginals was similar to the 2001 rate.CRTC approves three more Category 2 licencesThe CRTC approved three more Category 2 digital specialty TV licences on September 23. Licences were approved for The Crime Channel to Learning and Skills Television of Alberta Ltd. (Broadcasting Decision 2003-472), Silver Screen Classics to a numbered Ontario company owned by the operators of the short film channel Movieola (Broadcasting Decision 2003-473), and FW TV, a how-to programming channel to help educate young urban Canadians as they make the transition from school to work, to Jonathan Bogo, on behalf of a corporation to be incorporated (Broadcasting Decision 2003-474). Bell ExpressVu LP announced early this month that it would be adding Silver Screen Classics to its lineup, and the channel will also be carried by NorthwesTel Cable in Yellowknife NWT, which is launching digital cable using signals received by affiliate Bell ExpressVu.Source Cable receives CRTC approval not to carry OMNI.2 on channels 2 to 13 on basicSource Cable and Wirelesss Ltd., formerly Southmount Cable Ltd., of Hamilton ON has been granted CRTC approval not to carry OMNI.2 Toronto in its basic package on the basic band of channels 2 to 13 (Broadcasting Decision 2003-468). The Class 1 cableco has agreed to carry the ethnic TV channel on basic outside the basic band but below channel below 23.OMNI.2 adds Turkish programming to its TV scheduleRogers Media’s ethnic TV channel OMNI.2 has announced the addition of Turkuaz TV, an independently produced Turkish-language program, to its TV schedule. The 30-minute program airs on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. and Mondays at 11 a.m.Calgary Flames launch free online channelThe Calgary Flames hockey team has launched a free online channel that can be accessed at http://www.jetstreammedia.com/flames/flamestv/frames.html. The channel is a joint venture of Flames Venture and Calgary-based media streamer Jet Stream Digital Media Inc. “Our fans are going to enjoy this new avenue of Flames information,” said Ken King, president and CEO of the hockey club.CRTC approves numerous ownership changes On September 19, the CRTC approved a number of ownership changes, without issuing a public notice in advance, to streamline the process (Broadcasting Public Notice 2003-50). INTERNATIONAL NEWS FCC adopts rules for digital “plug and play” cable compatibilityThe Federal Communications Commission this month adopted rules for digital “plug and play” cable compatibility, a move it says will boost the transition to digital television. With “plug and play,” consumers can plug their cable directly into their digital TV set without the need of a set-top boxDecreasing costs boosting sale of direct-to-home digital boxesManufacturers continue to add new features and produce digital direct-to-home set-top boxes at lower cost, leading to increased shipments, according to an In-Stat/MDR report. The report states that 18 million boxes were shipped in the FTA/CI segment in 2003.