Specialty TV bringing French-language choices to Quebec viewers: Astral’s Roy

Pierre Roy, president of Les Chaînes Télé Astral, praises the success that specialty channels (he didn’t address the failure of any Category 1 licensed French-language digital services launching) have had in delivering French-language programming to Quebecers. But speaking November 6 to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, he also criticized the fact that most government funding goes to the public broadcaster. Below is an excerpt of his address.

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CCR People

Paula Pettit has joined the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA) as the national director of industrial relations in the association’s Toronto office. She joins the CFTPA from the Writers Guild of Canada. When she left the writers guild, she was manager of agreement administration.

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CNM Short Takes

HD predicted to take hold by early 2005: Switzer
The head of CHUM Ltd. says that the broadcaster is now able to acquire more high-definition (HD) TV programming, and he thinks it will really take hold with consumers by 2005. "The high-definition experience is clearly the real deal. We have our own projections, and our own team has done their own curves, and if you look at the price points and the price points continue to drop," CHUM president and CEO Jay Switzer says. "The price point will come down after this Christmas to what will be about $1,800 and we think $1,300 or $1,400 next year. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but it’s not a lot of money for your main set. …We think January or February 2005 will be the turning point where it will move from the early adopters into many, many homes." He adds that CitytvHD is now able to acquire more strands of HD programming. At the Canadian Satellite Users Association (CSUA) conference earlier this year, Elaine Baine, director of programming at CHUM Television’s Citytv, Star!, FashionTelevisionChannel and SexTV: The Channel complained about the difficulties in securing HD programming (CCR, Feb. 28/03). But Switzer notes that it is becoming easier to acquire HD shows. "Our friends, the distributors, are making it easier and more effective in terms of their offerings. But the programming strands are increasing in Toronto on Citytv," he states. "We started with one or two hours a week (of HD programming on CitytvHD), and now we’re up to several movies a week, and some key shows like Star Trek and so on. …And you can’t go back. It’s not as much a technology as it is an experience with viewers. It will become the norm. And we have to be ready for it."

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Sponsorship one potential funding alternative for BookTelevision: CHUM

A manager of several CHUM Ltd. specialty television channels says that BookTelevision: The Channel may have to look to alternative revenue sources other than subscriber and traditional advertising revenue to produce content for the channel devoted to books and reading. During a case study of the Category 1 digital specialty channel at the recent World Congress of Arts Producers and Performance in Ottawa, David Kines, who oversees CHUM’s MuchMusic and MuchMoreMusic , suggested that the channel may have to go with an alternative funding model, such as corporate sponsorships.

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CRTC likely to mandate DTH carriage of regional CBC signals in licence renewals

The CRTC is likely to require that direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV distributors carry all the regional signals owned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp./Radio Canada when it renews the licences of Bell ExpressVu LP and Star Choice Communications Inc. Much of the public hearing into those licence renewals last month was devoted to how many regional English-language and French-language signals were currently carried by each of the DTH operators, and there’s no reason for the regulator not to heed the government’s direction on the matter.

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Young Canadians watching TV but they’re mostly tuning into the same shows: report

Watching television is a daily pastime for 75% of children from grades 3 to 10, and they’re mostly tuning into the same shows, according to a report released this month that surveys kids’ views on and use of media. The report conducted by ERIN Research on behalf of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and the Media Awareness Network (MNet), entitled Kids’ Take on Media, also reveals that children often watch programming that they don’t like (news) and have unfettered access to shows not targeted at them (restricted programming).

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Compton launches first high-definition PVR, and looks to VoIP, wireless technology

Utica ON-based Compton Communications is the first cableco in Canada to introduce a digital set-top box that integrates personal video recorder (PVR) and high-definition television (HDTV) capabilities. Compton controller and marketing manager Travis Campbell tells Canadian Communications Reports that the cableco, which serves 4,800 customers in Uxbridge and Port Perry ON, went with the HD version of Motorola Inc.’s PVR because it is the only option available for small cable operators.

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Ongoing disagreements over wholesale rates continue to divide broadcast industry

Astral Media Inc. chair André Bureau is demanding that the CRTC impose a cost separation on broadcast distributors breaking down the numbers for television, Internet and telephony businesses as specialty channel broadcasters say proposed wholesale rate reductions by those companies will unfairly subsidize their rollout of non-television initiatives.

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CNM Update

Former NewMIC head blames feds for closure
The New Media Innovation Centre (NewMIC) in Vancouver would still be operating today had Western Economic Diversification Canada, which is part of the Industry Canada portfolio, decided to renew funding, says the centre’s former head. Shahid Hussain, who was CEO of the now-defunct NewMIC, tells Canadian NEW MEDIA that months of dithering on Ottawa’s part created uncertainty among the sustaining private-sector members, and that private-sector woes in the telecom and technology sectors meant the centre couldn’t survive without public assistance. Now, NewMIC’s assets are in the hands of a Vancouver bankruptcy trustee (CNM, Nov. 21/03). CNM will have further details in its full issue next week.

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