February 18, 2004   Bill to amend Radiocommunication Act passes first readingBill C-2, an Act to amend the Radiocommunication Act to strengthen penalties for the theft of satellite signals, passed first reading in the House of Commons on February 13. "The broadcasting industry is encouraged by the new government’s renewed commitment to pass legislation that more effectively deters signal theft in Canada," Tim McGee, president of Bell ExpressVu LP, said in a February 12 media release by the Coalition Against Satellite Signal Theft (CASST). The release praised the government for moving quickly to re-introduce amendments to the Act. The original bill died following prorogation of Parliament in December (CCR, Oct. 31/03). The bill was referred on February 17 to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology before second reading. Ontario Liberals considering selling TVOntarioTVOntario is one of the non-core government services that the Ontario government is considering selling in an effort to balance its books. "Currently, the government pays $54 million a year to operate TVOntario. Originally, TVO was created to help educate and inform Ontarians by supporting the education and training systems in Ontario. TVO now provides more broadly based public television. Is this the best way to spend money to achieve results in education?" reads a document released February 9 by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. The document was released in conjunction with province-wide town hall consultations asking for the public’s input into how best to balance the budget. ATI introduces solution that enables HD programming to be watched on PCMarkham ON-based ATI Technologies Inc. announced February 17 that it has a new product that will enable North American customers to watch high-definition (HDTV) programs on a PC without having to purchase an expensive TV set. Its HDTV Wonder product allows consumers to watch new digital, free-to-air HDTV broadcasts on a personal computer. HDTV Wonder also offers advanced personal video recorder on the PC and exploits the computer’s capability to archive content directly to DVD for personal use. Vidéotron high-speed Internet subscribers get special access to Star Académie footageSubscribers to Vidéotron ltée’s high-speed and Extreme high-speed Internet services can access offstage webcam feeds from the popular Star Académie program (www.staracademie.ca). The first Star Académie episode of 2004 was broadcast on affiliate TVA network at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 15. Vidéotron is also offering its digital cable customers free exclusive access to repeats of the show two days after its broadcast as part of its video-on-demand service. Morin pulls out of Astral radio deal; eight stations go back on the marketA business venture headed by Gaetan Morin and Sylvain Chamberland has pulled out of a $12-million deal that would have seen it acquire seven Quebec AM radio stations and one FM station from Astral Media (CCR, Sept. 4/03). As a result, its application for CRTC approval to acquire the stations was withdrawn from a February 16 CRTC public hearing. Astral Media stated in a media release that it would "take the necessary measures to find a new buyer for these assets as quickly as possible and will continue to support the programming and operation of these stations, as it has done in the past." Acquisition of the eight stations by Astral was previously approved by the CRTC as part of a larger transaction with Telemedia Inc. (CCR Update, Oct. 30/02), but the Competition Bureau prohibited the sale. Astral subsequently agreed to sell the stations to TVA, but that move was blocked by the CRTC, which expressed concerns about TVA parent company Quebecor Inc.’s increasing media concentration. It then came to terms with Morin, who has now pulled out of the deal. Morin and Chamberland gave no reason publicly for backing out of the arrangement. Ericsson Canada, CHUM partner to allow phone users to interact with TV programsEricsson Canada on February 17 announced that, in conjunction with CHUM Television and system provider MyThum Interactive Inc., it will allow TV viewers in Canada to use their mobile phones to interact directly with programs and each other in real time. Viewers to MuchTakeOver on CHUM’s specialty channel MuchMusic will be able to use live-to-air text messaging, or SMS, to voice opinions, answer questions and offer on-screen commentary beginning March 3. At a later date, the technology will also be used in conjunction with CHUM’s Speaker’s Corner. Cableco unwilling to disclose customers’ personal dataShaw Communications Inc. is fighting requests by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) to Internet service providers to release the identities of individuals sharing large numbers of music tracks over their networks. The CRIA filed motions in the Federal Court of Canada to gain access to 29 individuals using the Internet services of Shaw, Bell Sympatico, Rogers Communications Inc., Telus Corporation and Vidéotron ltée. The Federal Court, presided over by new judge and former commissioner of the Competition Bureau of Canada Konrad von Finckenstein, has adjourned the case until March 12. "We believe this application amounts to a civil search warrant and we do not think that the music companies’ application should override our responsibility in law to protect the rights of our customers to maintain their privacy," Shaw president Peter Bissonnette said in a February 12 media release. CTV launches prime-time rebranding campaignCTV Inc. launched a new prime-time rebranding campaign, dubbed Canada’s Watching, on February 17. A new look will be used on air, in print and on the web. "CTV’s schedule is strong, with more shows in the Top 10 than any other broadcaster, and this new prime-time look is equally powerful. It reflects who CTV is today and who CTV will be tomorrow," Rick Lewchuk, senior VP of program planning and promotion, said in a media release. Cabletel announces it is considering sale of the companyCabletel Communications Corp. announced February 9 that it would consider proposals for the sale of the company and/or any of its subsidiary companies, Allied Wire and Cable Ltd., Stirling Connectors USA and Stirling Connectors Israel, or operating segments. The deadline for submissions of interest was 5 p.m. EST on February 17. The company says a sale is necessary because it does not have adequate working capital to meet its current obligations. Cabletel is a distributor of broadband equipment to the Canadian television and telecommunications industries. CHUM Ltd.’s MuchMusic wins approval for licence amendment on "broadcast day"The CRTC approved on February 13 a change in definition of "broadcast day" for CHUM Ltd.’s MuchMusic specialty TV channel to mean a 24-hour period beginning each day at 6 a.m., effective March 1 (Broadcasting Decision 2004-81). Its current licence defines the "broadcast day" as a 24-hour period beginning each day at noon. CHUM indicated it wanted the change so it could simplify its logging procedures to coincide with the logging procedures of its other specialty music video channels. Vidéotron’s Gatineau system to carry U.S. signals from DetroitThe CRTC has approved an application by Vidéotron (Regional) Ltd. to allow its Gatineau QC cable system to source its U.S. signals from Detroit (Broadcasting Decision 2004-82). It was sourcing the signals from Rochester NY. Vidéotron stated it had to replace the Rochester signals because MCI (previously Worldcom Inc.) discontinued the microwave service that delivered these signals. Rogers Cable Inc. was forced to stop carrying the Rochester signals on its Ottawa system for the same reason (CCR Update, Sept. 10/03). Lions Gate’s TV revenues up 40%Revenues from the television operations at Lions Gate Entertainment were US$17.1 million in the third quarter ended Dec. 31, 2003, up 40% from the prior year’s same quarter, according to financials results released February 17. The increase was attributed "primarily due to deliveries of the prime time Lifetime cable series 1-800-MISSING and a steady supply of nonfiction programming from Termite Art to nine leading cable networks." Although revenues on a consolidated basis were up 25% to US$77.4 million, the independent filmed entertainment production and distribution studio reported an EBITDA loss of $32 million in the quarter compared to a positive $1 million in the prior year’s quarter. Supreme Court to hear slander case against the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.Gilles Néron, who says he was slandered by Radio-Canada and the Chambre des Notaires du Québec (CNQ) when the broadcaster reported the contents of a letter he had written without first getting his consent, was to have his case heard by the Supreme Court of Canada on February 18. The case stems from a show broadcast on the Radio-Canada news show Le Point that the CNQ felt put it in a negative light. The organization hired Néron, a communications and marketing consultant, to make a written demand for a right of reply from the broadcaster. Néron wrote the letter, which asked for a meeting of the parties. But while the letter was in the mail the CNQ dropped the matter. In January 1995, a CBC reporter asked the CNQ about the letter and was told it was Néron’s personal initiative. The reporter then contacted Néron asking about the letter and some mistakes it contained. Néron asked for three days to respond. Two days later, Radio-Canada broadcast a report that highlighted the letter with specific mention of the errors. In the wake of that report, the CNQ issued a widely circulated release saying its contract with Néron had been cancelled. Two lower courts have already ruled that Radio-Canada was wrong to broadcast the contents of the letter without Néron’s consent since it was of a private nature. The Supreme Court is being asked to rule on the legality of reporting information without the consent of a third party, and whether the lower courts’ restriction on freedom of the press is in the public interest. Shaw, TWU reach tentative agreement for B.C. workersShaw Cablesystems G.P. and the Telecommunications Workers Union have reached a tentative agreement to renew a contract covering union members in Vancouver and Surrey BC. The union will hold a ratification vote on February 25 at 7 p.m. B.C. time. WIFT-T calls for applications for the 2nd Annual Warner Brothers Canada Banff Mentorship AwardWomen in Film and Television-Toronto (WIFT-T) has put out a call for applications for the second annual Warner Bros. Canada Banff Mentorship Award, which is presented in partnership with Warner Bros. Canada Inc. in association with the Banff Television Festival. The national competitive program gives an emerging Canadian female producer or director an intensive three-month market mentorship and festival bursary that will allow her to attend the 2004 Banff TV Festival. Applications are due February 20. Eligibility criteria, full guidelines and application forms are available at www.wift.com. NFB seeks new filmmakers to enter REEL Diversity competitionThe National Film Board (NFB) is asking emerging filmmakers from visible minority groups wishing to direct their own documentaries to enter the $1-million 2004 REEL Diversity competition. Five directors will be given the chance to direct their own English-language, 40-minute NFB documentary, which will be broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The winners will be announced on June 14 at the Banff Television Festival. For more information or an application form, visit: www.nfb.ca/reeldiversity or call 1-800-267-7710. INTERNATIONAL NEWS Future of digital TV services bright: In-Stat MDRWith increasing consumer demand for digital TV, HDTV and other interactive TV services, many pay TV providers are committing resources to either providing basic digital video services, or expanding their existing digital services, according to research firm In-Stat MDR. "Over the next several years, we fully expect this consumer demand to reach deeper into developing markets, particularly in Asia and Latin America. This increased demand, combined with decreasing prices for digital set-top boxes and digital video programming equipment, should serve to further spur the growth of worldwide digital TV subscribers," reads the In-Stat MDR report, entitled Digital TV Services and Equipment: A Look Back at 2003 & a Quick Peek into the Future. U.S. ad association releases guidelines for measuring viewership of ads in on-demand/time-shifted environmentsThe Advanced Television Committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) on February 11 released recommended guidelines for measuring viewership to on-demand and time-shifted programming. The guidelines represent a formal public starting point for discussion with video program distributors, cable/satellite operators, technology enablers, and research intermediaries toward the goal of defining generally acceptable key on-demand performance metrics, according to the AAAA. Click here to download the guidelines. FCC launches process to establish rules for VoIPThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on February 12 announced it was initiating a major proceeding on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. In connection with the announcement, the FCC also initiated a Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement (CALEA) rulemaking proceeding to address the technical issues associated with law-enforcement access to Internet-enabled services. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asks broad questions covering a wide range of services and applications to differentiate between Internet services and traditional telephony services and to distinguish among different classes of Internet services. In particular, the FCC asks which regulatory requirements - for example those relating to 911, disability accessibility, access charges, and universal service - should be extended to different types of Internet services.