Digital cable transition framework announcedThe CRTC has announced a wide-ranging framework for both large and small cablecos to transition their services to digital distribution.  The commission found that the four large cablecos – Rogers, Shaw, Cogeco and Vidéotron – should be required to mirror their analog line-ups and tiers on their digital service, until at least 85% of subscribers have digital set-top boxes and are receiving at least one digital service, or Jan. 1, 2013, whichever comes first. That threshold, the commission noted, will "provide programmers with some assurance that the penetration of their services will remain reasonably consistent with the penetration they achieve in analog distribution," and "the existing analog tiers should continue to be made available on digital during the transition period." The four large cablecos must also secure prior consent from programmers before adding their offerings to the digital cable line-up, unless those programmers’ offerings are already moving to digital as part of the analog tier mirroring. In the case of small cable systems – those with fewer than 20,000 subscribers that are not owned by any of the four large cablecos – the commission stated that they should be allowed to migrate analog services to digital without the prior consent of the programmers, except in instances where a service is not yet being carried on analog due to a lack of capacity, or where the cable system provides assurance that the programmer will receive at least the same wholesale fee it does currently. However, like their larger counterparts, they will have to mirror their analog cable tiers in their digital service until one of those two thresholds is reached. The commission also issued additional requirements for basic cable service, stand-alone channel subscriptions and the linkage of Canadian and non-Canadian services in a digital distribution environment. Canadian Communications Reports will have more on the digital migration framework in an upcoming issue. Vidéotron upgrades Quebec networkQuebecor Media Inc. subsidiary Videotron Ltd. recently unveiled an $18-million network upgrade plan that will see portions of its central Quebec network move up to 860 MHz worth of bandwidth from the current 480 Mhz. The municipalities of Sherbrooke, Granby, Victoriaville and the Cap-de-la-Madeleine area of Trois Rivieres will benefit from the larger pipe, which the Montreal-based company says will give subscribers enough bandwidth for 800 regular digital TV channels or 126 high-definition ones. The upgrades will also bring services such as high-speed Internet, IP telephony, video-on-demand, pay-per-view, and interactive games and menu guides to subscribers in those areas. HD award on offer at Banff FestivalThis year’s Banff World Television Festival will see the launch of a new award for the best program produced or post-produced for broadcast in high-definition. The NHK President’s Prize – offered in conjunction with Japanese public broadcaster NHK – will grant $25,000 to the best HDTV-ready production. All programs produced in HD that are already entered in this year’s Banff World Television Awards are eligible for the new award as well. The Banff World Television Festival takes place June 11 to 14 in Banff, Alberta. Musicrypt expands Nielsen BDS relationshipToronto-based digital music distributor Musicrypt is broadening its partnership with media measurement firm Nielsen BDS and allowing radio programmers and other station personnel to order songs from Nielsen BDS playlists for secure digital download. New York-based Nielsen BDS – a unit of media conglomerate VNU Inc. – monitors more than 1,300 radio stations in the US and Canada, and captures more than 100 million songs to compose its playlists. Toyota snares Academy Awards spot on CTVToyota Canada Inc. will use the 78th annual Academy Awards broadcast March 5 on CTV as a launchpad for its new 2007 Toyota Camry, the network recently reported. The two-minute commercial, titled "What You Want Is What You Need," was created for Toyota by Saatchi and Saatchi Canada. The automaker has been using the various properties of the Bell Globemedia family – including the CTV television network and the Bell Sympatico Internet portal – to promote the launch of the new car for a few weeks already.