The CRTC's stance on free previews and barker channels is the latest policy to be streamlined and scaled back in the spirit of Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein's ‘market forces' mantra.In Public Notice 2007-74, the commission ruled that both Canadian and foreign-originated broadcasting services would be eligible for inclusion on BDUs' promotional and preview channels, as long as at least 50% of such efforts each quarter were devoted to domestic offerings, subject to availability.Provisos include that no undue benefit be conferred on individual services, and that no fees be charged for airtime on such channels. The decision also disbands the CRTC's policy, in effect since 1998, of restricting previews during the March and November national TV ratings periods.The regulator proposed the changes in the belief that the adoption of both Canadian programming offerings and digital services by BDU subscribers would benefit as a result, and that "good business practice" would check any abuse of the newfound latitude being offered to BDUs."The Commission concludes that this is an area where it need not regulate, but rather can rely on market forces in the form of reasonable negotiations and sensible business practices on the part of industry participants," the decision reads.Broadcasting distributors - represented by Bell Video Group, Rogers Cable Communications Inc., the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance and the Telco TV Association of Canada - embraced the proposal, with all agreeing that Canadian and non-Canadian discretionary services should have equal access to previews and barker channel time. The BDUs also concurred that using analog promotional channels to showcase digital services would help sell analog customers on the merits of a digital subscription, thus fulfilling the intentions of the 2006 Digital Migration Framework.However, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters objected to the inclusion of non-discretionary services on analog barker channels, saying that capacity was too scarce to squander on foreign programming. Such a move, the CAB argued in its submission, would be "in keeping with the fundamental principle of giving priority to the distribution of Canadian services. Non-Canadian services can still be previewed on the digital platform in keeping with existing Commission policy."Meanwhile, CanWest MediaWorks Inc. intervened with its own concerns about the proposed arrangement, particularly in allowing long-form previews that could draw audiences away from paying for services during extended promotional windows."The Commission should be aware that these previews can have a very real and possibly negative impact on both conventional and other licensed Canadian specialty or pay services, as the audience shifts to sample programming on the promotional/barker channel," CanWest manager of regulatory affairs Tina-Marie Tatto wrote in her Nov. 20, 2006 intervention.The broadcaster offered up the example of a weekend-long free preview of The Movie Network pay TV service on Rogers' Toronto-area cablesystem in October 2006 as a situation where one service predominated - albeit briefly - on a BDU's promotional channel, a situation that could impact viewership."In order to avoid the potential for abuse by one or more parties at the expense of other broadcasters, we further believe that no one service should be permitted access to the BDU's promotional/barker channel via full-length programming for more than a consecutive 48 hour period during any broadcast quarter," Tatto concluded.The CAB and CanWest also pressed the CRTC to order that a maximum of 50% of airtime on analog promotional channels could be devoted to previews, a notion the regulator rejected.For its part, Rogers made an additional move to have its non-broadcast services covered by the policy review, so that its telephony, Internet and wireless offerings would also be eligible for promotion. However, the commission quashed that suggestion, noting that Rogers and other MSOs had been given enough freedom to flog such services in last year's local avails decision.