April 1, 2004   Satellite TV operators won’t have to carry all CBC regional stations, CRTC rulesCiting satellite capacity concerns, the CRTC has gone against the recommendations of a House of Commons parliamentary committee that ruled direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV distributors should be forced to carry all the CBC’s regional TV stations. The CRTC stopped short of that recommendation in renewing the licences of both Bell ExpressVu LP and Star Choice Television Network Inc. from April 1, 2004 to Aug. 31, 2010 (Broadcasting Decision 2004-129 and Broadcasting Decision 2004-130). Both the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Standing Committee on Official Languages urged the CRTC to require satellite TV distributors to carry all of the CBC’s regional signals (CCR, Nov. 28/03). It was also a request made by CBC officials during public hearings into Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice’s licence renewal. "The commission is of the view, however, that the CBC’s position that the DTH licensees should distribute the signals of all of the CBC’s English- and French-language conventional television stations raises the issue of satellite capacity, given that, as noted above, DTH licensees will be increasingly called upon to distribute high-definition programming," the CRTC notes in Broadcasting Public Notice 2004-19. Instead, the CRTC required, as a condition of licence, that the number of CBC English-language stations carried never falls below the number of signals of English-language conventional TV stations distributed from any other individual broadcasting group. Similarly, the DTH operators are required to ensure that the number of French-language CBC signals doesn’t go below the number of signals of French-language conventional TV stations distributed from any other individual broadcasting group. CRTC calls for comments on CAB request for audit provisionsFlowing from calls by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters for audits of subscriber numbers, the CRTC has issued a call for comments on adding provisions governing the audit of affiliation payments in the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations (Broadcasting Public Notice 2004-20). The CRTC asks whether it should amend the regulations to provide for terms and conditions under which affiliate audits should be conducted, and if so, what those terms and conditions should be. For more details, see the upcoming issue of Canadian Communications Reports. Regulations amending local and distant signal regulations gazettedAmendments to the local signal and distant signal regulations to make the definition of "local signal" applicable to all retransmitters eligible for the compulsory licence set out in section 31 of the Copyright Act, and eliminate the special rule for wireless terrestrial retransmitters, were gazetted March 24. As a result of the change, some of the signals of direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV distributors will be considered local. Previously, none of the signals they distributed were considered local. The definition of a local signal is relevant for an upcoming Copyright Board of Canada hearing on retransmission rates (CCR, March 25/04). Alliance Atlantis mounts multimedia marketing campaign for Trailer Park BoysAlliance Atlantis Communications Inc. launched a multimedia advertising campaign on March 29 to promote the fourth season of Trailer Park Boys, which will premiere on April 11 at 9 p.m. on the company’s specialty TV channel Showcase. The campaign includes outdoor advertising, print ads, TV previews on Showcase, and exclusive preview screenings of the first two episodes of season four in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto. "The spread of Trailer Park Boys fever has been obvious for some time now," said Janet Eastwood, executive VP of marketing, communications and creative services at Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting, in a March 26 media release (not yet online). "Given the infectious nature of this show - and the fact that it has really become a pop culture phenomenon - we decided to capitalize on that with a comprehensive marketing campaign playing off the boys’ extraordinary popularity. This is one of the largest campaigns we’ve ever executed for a home-grown series." Majority of British Columbians oppose sale of Knowledge Network: Friends surveyAn Ipsos-Reid survey conducted in March for the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting found that 69% of B.C. respondents oppose selling the Knowledge Network to a private broadcaster. The network is currently owned by the Open Learning Agency, a provincial government organization. The B.C. government has received seven proposals to buy the provincial public broadcaster (CCR, Feb. 13/04). The Ipsos-Reid survey of 800 B.C. adults was conducted between March 2 and 8, 2004. With a sample that size, the results are considered accurate within +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Animal Planet, CourtTV each hit one million subscribersCTV Inc.’s digital specialty TV channel Animal Planet and CourtTV, owned by access media group, have both announced that they have reached the 1-million subscriber mark. Court TV was the first to announce it had reached 1 million subscribers on March 24, while Animal Planet’s announcement came a day later. "The achievement of this industry-leading milestone is an endorsement of our vision for CourtTV Canada and our partnership with CourtTV U.S.," said Ron Keast, president and CEO of access media group. "It certainly reflects the quality of programming our digital channel delivers to Canadians through our affiliated cable and satellite distributors." Paul Lewis, president and general manager of Discovery Channel Canada, under which Animal Planet falls, said in a media release, "Without a doubt Animal Planet has proven to be a winner for audiences and advertisers alike." Access media group is the rebranded name for Learning Skills Television of Alberta, which is partly owned by CHUM Ltd. (CCR, March 17/04). Corus Entertainment, Astral Media ink Quebec radio dealAstral Media Inc. and Corus Entertainment Inc. announced March 30 that they would exchange a number of radio properties in the Quebec market. Under the agreement, Astral’s seven AM stations (including the Radiomédia network) and CFOM-FM in Quebec City will move to Corus Entertainment. Corus’ five FM stations in Rimouski, Amqui, St. Jean-sur-Richelieu and Drummondville will be transferred to Astral Media. Astral was ordered to sell off the radio stations it is transferring to Corus, but has encountered a number of hurdles (CCR Update, Feb. 18/04). Amberwood announces French merchandising deal for Benjamin BearOttawa ON-based animation house Amberwood Productions has signed a master merchandising and licensing arrangement with RMP Licensing of Paris, it announced March 29. Under the deal, RMP will merchandise products based upon the animated series The Secret World of Benjamin Bear throughout France and French-speaking Europe. Alliance Atlantis announces March cash distribution for movie fundAlliance Atlantis Communications Inc. announced March 22 a March cash distribution of 9.58 cents per unit of its Movie Distribution Income Fund for the period from March 1 to March 31, 2004. The amount will be payable on or before April 15, 2004. Alliance Atlantis created the movie fund to raise money to help pay down debt (CCR Update, Nov. 19/04). On March 30 the company announced financial and operating results for the Motion Picture Distribution Limited Partnership for the period ended December 31, 2003. For the pro forma 12 months ended Dec. 31, 2003, revenue was $410.5 million compared to $379.5 million in the same period one year earlier. Canadian operations accounted for 82% of revenue and U.K. operations contributed 18%. Pro forma EBITDA for the same period was $59.7 million, a 14% increase over the $52.2 million recorded a year earlier. CHUM chooses Sony SAIT PetaSite to archive programming libraryCHUM Ltd. has chosen Sony of Canada Ltd.’s SAIT (Super Advanced Intelligent Tape) PetaSite tape library system for its archival programming infrastructure at its Toronto-based TV operations. SAIT PetaSite is designed for content management, data backup and enterprise data storage applications and has up to 250 terabytes of native capacity per square metre of floor space, and a total native capacity of up to 1.2 petabyes. "As one of Canada’s largest and fastest growing media companies and content providers, we require a large storage capacity - and the SAIT PetaSite tape library system solution will provide this," said Bruce Cowan, director of broadcast technology at CHUM Television. "Our ever-increasing storage demand also dictates that we continually invest in new forms of technology." Sony announces new HD camera, wireless camera and other new productsSony of Canada Ltd. has announced a number of new products that will help broadcasters, including its first high-definition (HD) camera to employ half-inch CCDs. The HDC-X300 compact high-definition camera is the first to use new 1.5-megapixel, half-inch CCDs, and is designed for several applications, including point-of-view acquisition, large-screen projections, 24P cinematography and studio automation. The camera can be mounted on a crane or in a helicopter, used as a studio sub-camera or weather camera, or installed in nearly any location within a venue such as stadiums, conference rooms or schools. "This new camera greatly expands the possibilities for HD cameras and opens the HD market to a broader spectrum of users," said Brian Young, marketing group manager at the content creation division of Sony’s Communication Information Solutions Group. The camera will be available in May for the suggested retail price of $20,900 plus lens. Sony also unveiled a new wireless camera system that provides cable-free mobility for production crews covering live events or news, and a high-performance, cost-effective multi-format switcher/digital multi effects (DME) unit. The new MFS-2000 model is designed for broadcast, corporate and educational live and post-production applications as well as mobile news units that are tight on space. Sony also expanded its CineAlta lineup with the additions of the SRW-1 high-definition digital field videotape recorder and the SRPC-1 HD digital processor. As well, it expanded its LUMA series of LCD professional monitors, adding the LMD-320W 32-inch screen and the LMD-210 models. CCTA denounces CAB call for foreign services to contribute to domestic broadcastingThe Canadian Cable Television Association (CCTA) denounced the call by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) for foreign TV channels to contribute to the domestic TV business. "This proposal would not only raise consumer prices for cable and satellite services, but would needlessly create another trade irritant with our neighbours to the South," said CCTA acting president Michael Hennessy. "In an environment where over 750,000 Canadians have abandoned the Canadian system for the black market, the solution has to be more choice, not more taxes." Contrary to statements by the CAB, the CCTA says that foreign services have and continue to contribute to the success of the Canadian broadcasting system because 5% of subscriber fees received from these services go to the CTF and local community channels, and packaging these popular American services with Canadian pay and specialty TV channels helped the Canadian services earn $1.9 billion in revenue in 2003. In a March 25 speech before the Broadcast Executives Society, CAB president and CEO Glenn O’Farrell stated, "In essence, these foreign services are getting a free ride. The time has come to put an end to the free ride. It’s time to consider how foreign services can best contribute to the Canadian broadcasting system." CRTC lists streamlined transfers of ownership and changes to BDUs, radio stationsThe CRTC on March 24 issued a list of transfers of ownership and changes to the control of broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) that it authorized on a streamlined basis from Nov. 1, 2003 to Feb. 29, 2004 (Broadcasting Public Notice 2004-17). The list includes a change of control of Novus Entertainment Inc. to Terence Hui, and an intra-corporate reorganization involving TVA Group Inc. and Vidéotron ltée. On March 19, the CRTC issued a notice that it was streamlining three radio licences that it intended to process for renewal for seven years (Broadcasting Public Notice 2004-15). The deadline for comments is April 23. Rogers’ OMNI Television, APTN sign cultural alliance; Access to promote Aboriginal employment opportunitiesRogers Media’s ONMI Television and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) have signed a 12-month cultural alliance to work together to further the understanding of Canada’s Aboriginals and ethnocultural communities. Details of the agreement were not made public, but both networks said they would seek to guide productions, not yet developed, to a mutual completion. In a separate deal, Regina SK-based cableco Access Communications on March 22 said it had signed an agreement with the provincial department of Aboriginal affairs and its employees to seek to employ more Aboriginal workers. CEP unionizes workers at community radio stationThe Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP) has signed its first ever members working in community broadcasting, it announced March 23. The union contract covers about 70 members of CEP Local 77 at Radio Beauséjour (CJSE). "This first agreement is good for our members at CJSE and can serve as a model for other community radio and television workers who join our union," commented CEP Atlantic Region VP Max Michaud. Stream acquires cable network in PolandVancouver-based Stream Communications Network Inc. has acquired a cable TV network in southern Poland with about 1,350 subscribers, it announced March 17. The network generated U.S. $125,000 in annual revenues and represents a solid opportunity for growth, Stream stated. The price of the acquisition was not disclosed. Stream is a broadband cable company that offers cable TV and high-speed Internet services in the densely populated market of Southern Poland. INTERNATIONAL NEWS HDTV rollout in U.S. continues at full throttle: NCTA presidentNational Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) president and CEO Robert Sachs said March 30 that high-definition services are available in 84 million of the 108 million homes in the United States. That is a 125% increase since January 2003, when only 37 million homes had access. He also reported that HDTV is now available in at least one cable system in 99 of the top 100 Designated Market Areas (DMAs), and 155 out of the 210 DMAs nationwide. He added that the number of digital broadcast stations carried by cable systems had grown more than four-fold to 382 today from 92 in January 2003. The cable industry’s rollout of HDTV "continues at full throttle," said Sachs. U.S. lawmakers push cable to provide à la carte programming servicesThe U.S. Senate Commerce Committee called on lawmakers to force cablecos to offer customers à la carte TV programming options. But U.S. cablecos responded that à la carte would be too expensive and that customers benefit from bundled services. Some U.S. senators see an à la carte offering as a way to keep prices down. U.S. cable prices have risen 56% since rates were deregulated in 1996. Satellite radio to attract 4 million subscribers by year-end: SkyWaves ResearchSatellite radio broadcasters will have attracted 4 million subscribers by the end of the year, a 150% increase over last year, and the grow rate will continue in the foreseeable future, predicts SkyWaves Research Report. "Our new study of the adoption rates of other new products shows that satellite radio has moved beyond the ‘innovator’ stage, is being firmly embraced by the ‘early adopter’ stage and is now poised to enter the ‘early majority’ stage," SkyWaves Research spokesman Bob Richards said in a media release. SkyWaves Research Report is an Ann Arbour MI-based research publication.