The Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA) is demanding that the CRTC return to its old way of releasing statistics on a channel-by-channel basis for pay and specialty TV. "It is something that has been done previously as a matter of course. I think it is important to see how our individual broadcasters are performing in the area of program acquisition, particularly Canadian program acquisition," CFTPA president and CEO Guy Mayson tells Canadian Communications Reports. "Broadcasters have conditions of licence, and expenditures in certain areas are a part of that, and in the specialty area we would like to see public disclosure of that. I think an important theme for us is that it needs to be more transparent, more coherent data, more publicly available data. Frankly, I think it makes the CRTC’s life easer if it puts information out there in everyone’s hands that everyone can agree with basically. You can argue interpretations of what the data means, but at least everyone is working from the same kind of numbers and the CRTC is a terrific source of data. We think it should be transparent and there should be full disclosure in those areas." The CFTPA fired off a letter to CRTC chair Charles Dalfen on March 4, a day after the CRTC released the pay and specialty TV data, urging the commission to return to releasing the revenues and expenses of each pay and specialty TV licensee, as it has done since 1997. "Transparency or openness is a two-way street, and is the basis of sound regulatory policy. The CRTC regulates ‘in the public interest,’ not simply in the interests of the broadcasters it regulates," reads the letter signed by Mayson. The CRTC notes in the foreword to this year’s aggregate statistics that "this year, the CRTC has received a request from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) to keep the financial information confidential. The CRTC is currently considering the request and once the decision is taken, the information will be treated in accordance with the decision." Decision not final CRTC director general of communications Denis Carmel tells CCR that the CRTC has not made a final decision on how the pay and specialty TV figures should be released. It’s possible, he says, that the CRTC could re-release the statistics on an individual channel basis.The CAB made the request for the CRTC to only publish aggregated information last October 6 in conjunction with a process involving possibly setting requirements for distributors on notifying broadcasters of their plans to change packages (Broadcasting Public Notice 2004-64). The CAB argues in that process that the commission’s practice to make public detailed financial and operating data of individual specialty and pay TV services was based on the fact that they were protected by genres and thus did not operate in a competitive environment. But the CAB points out that all other types of undertakings, including conventional TV, radio and distributors, are granted confidentiality of their operating and financial data because the CRTC has concluded that these types of undertakings operate in a competitive environment. "This situation whereby specialty and pay services alone are required to publicly disclose detailed financial information ignores the highly competitive environment in which specialty and pay services must compete for programming and viewership, and negatively impacts the commercial relationship between these services and BDUs (broadcast distribution undertakings). It creates an environment in which one party to a commercial negotiation has far greater insight into the operations of the other party, a situation hardly conducive to effective commercial negotiations," states the CAB’s submission to the CRTC. The CAB further points out that the commission’s recent change requiring pay and specialty TV programmers to report on production and programming expenses by programming category could exacerbate the current situation. The CAB concludes that the CRTC should publicly disclose such information only in a manner that would not make it possible for another party to commercial negotiations to determine the revenue and expense patterns for individual programming services. But Mayson says that the CRTC’s decision to change the way it releases the data for pay and specialty TV came as a surprise, because there was little consultation on the matter. "We were a bit perplexed that there had been no kind of consultation on that," he says. "We would certainly like to have a proper discussion of why there needs to be a different approach this year. Certainly doing it behind closed doors at the request of a particular body doesn’t seem to make much sense to us. We’d certainly like an opportunity to comment or discuss it." Pay, specialty TV revenues on rise The aggregated figures for the CRTC show that the specialty, pay and pay-per-view (PPV) television industry in Canada is experiencing healthy growth in terms of both revenues and profits. Revenues for the 115 Canadian specialty and pay TV services increased by close to $170 million, or 9%, between 2003 and 2004, according to the CRTC report, Pay and Specialty: Statistical and Financial Summaries 2000-2004. Revenues grew to $2.05 billion from $1.88 billion, while earnings before interest and taxes rose to $418.1 million from $284.8 million in the same period for an increase of 46.8%. Revenues from cablecos in 2004 rose by 7.6%, increasing to $892.2 million from $829.3 million in 2003. Revenues from direct-to-home (DTH) satellite distributors grew 2.5% to reach $425.3 million in 2004. Revenues from national advertising increased by 16.8% to $691.2 million, while local advertising brought in close to $16 million. Expenditures were also on the rise, with spending on Canadian programming increasing 8.8% to $756.8 million in 2004 from $695.3 million in 2003. Spending on homegrown TV shows represents 36.9% of the revenues of specialty, pay and PPV television channels. The number of pay and specialty TV channels increased from 59 in 2000 to 115 in 2004. Revenues of the 16 Category 1 digital channels were $47.7 million, while revenues for the 36 Category 2 diginets were $70.1 million.