CBC calls for stable, multi-year funding

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, CBC brass called for increased, stable five-year funding. On October 28, CBC president and CEO Robert Rabinovitch repeated a similar message before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. Below is an excerpt from his presentation.

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CCR People

Felix (Fil) Fraser has been appointed as a member of Telefilm Canada. Fraser, an adjunct professor of communications studies at Athabasca University, is past president and CEO of VisionTV. He also founded the Alberta Film Festival in 1974, and the Banff Television Festival in 1979.

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CCR Short Takes

CRTC dismisses Wagg complaint against Shaw
The CRTC has rejected a complaint by Wagg Communications related to Shaw Communications Inc.’s refusal to distribute its exempt real estate channels (Broadcasting Decision 2003-518). The commission found that Shaw did not contravene section 21(3) of the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations or section 9, which deals with undue preference. Wagg complained on Nov. 30, 2001 that Shaw had informed it that it would not carry the real estate channels on its systems in Sault St. Marie ON, Fort McMurray and Red Deer AB, and Courtenay BC. Wagg contended that Shaw was contravening section 21(3), which states that if a licensee distributes one or more analog channels (sic) the programming services of an exempt programming undertaking of which the licensee or an affiliate, or both, controls 15% or more of the total shares, then it must make available an equal number of analog channels for the distribution of programming services of third-party exempt programming undertakings. Wagg considered that Shaw’s carriage of the exempt Shaw TV Listings Channel and The Shopping Channel (TSC) triggered the requirement set out in section 21(3). However, the CRTC ruled that the provincial legislature channels that Shaw carries qualified as third-party exempt programming, and hence Shaw was not in breach of section 21(3). The CRTC also noted that TSC, while owned by Rogers, which is considered "a similar type of entity" to Shaw. But Shaw successfully argued that there was no cooperation or collusion between it and Rogers. The CRTC found that it was clear that preference had been given to Rogers, but that the preference or disadvantage was not undue.

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Land-use authorities must respond in a timely manner to tower requests: CAB, CBC

Broadcasters want Industry Canada to force land-use authorities (LUAs), generally municipalities, to respond within two months to tower requests. Both the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) argue that a policy incorporating strict timelines is necessary, particularly as broadcasters move ahead with the digital transition, which will require either the construction of new towers or additions to existing infrastructure.

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UBS poised to take charge of Look Communications; Craig shifts legal battle to Ontario

Unique Broadband Systems Inc. (UBS) appears to be winning the battle against Craig Wireless International Inc. for control of wireless cable operator Look Communications Inc., having received conditional approval from the CRTC last week to increase its stake in Look from 29.99% to 51.06%. But the battle against Craig Wireless International, which also wants control of Look, continues on the legal front to prevent UBS from gaining control of the wireless cableco. The legal action that it initiated in Manitoba has been discontinued, but Craig Wireless president Boyd Craig says that the case will be re-filed in Ontario.

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Shaw eyeing VoIP, Quebecor downplays adding telephony in fight with telcos

Two giants in the Canadian cable market are singing different tunes about the potential of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as a way for cable to battle telcos on their own turf. In a reversal of its previous direction, Shaw Communications Inc. announced this month that it was looking at VoIP as part of a year-long process to review its options for introducing telephony. CEO Jim Shaw said during a conference call with analysts on the release of the company’s fiscal 2003 fourth-quarter and year-end financials that he was "cautiously optimistic" about VoIP, seemingly favouring it over circuit-switch deployment.

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Government’s proposed amendments to Radiocomm Act deficient, lawyer says

A lawyer active in fighting television signal piracy warns that changes the government is proposing to the Radiocommunication Act don’t go far enough, and ignore the huge leaps in technology available to those engaged in the trade. While encouraged that the government has finally indicated a willingness to amend the statute, Bill McKenzie, a senior partner with Crawford, McKenzie, McLean, Wilford, Anderson & Duncan LLP, cites a number of problems with the direction the government is taking.

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CNM Update

Court overturns Internet-as-broadcast decision
The Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned a controversial decision by a lower court that, for the purposes of libel law, the Internet is broadcasting. On October 22, the court ruled 3-0 that Ontario Superior Court of Justice judge Helen Pierce was wrong in her April 2 decision determining that, for the purposes of Ontario’s Libel and Slander Act, the Internet is the equivalent of a regular newspaper or television station (CNM, May 1/03). In rendering its decision, the appeal court writes that “the experts’ opinions conflicted on a number of issues, including whether the word ‘dissemination’ can properly apply to information distributed by internet and whether internet publication is immediate and/or transient. Summary judgment applications are not a substitute for trial and thus will seldom prove suitable for resolving conflicts in expert testimony particularly those involving difficult, complex policy issues with broad social ramifications.” The full decision is available at http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/decisions/2003/october/bahliedaC39974.htm.

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