All satellite TV subscribers across Canada should have access to their local television stations. But that’s not the case today. CBC/Radio-Canada appeared before the CRTC today to propose a new regulatory framework that would fix the long-standing problem once and for all.
As a result of the CRTC’s current rules – which require satellite television providers to carry only one station per time zone – hundreds of thousands of Canadians are being deprived of access to their local signals.
The problem is particularly acute in the province of Quebec, where Shaw Direct carries only one of Radio-Canada’s six local stations, and Bell TV only three. That means that a large proportion of satellite television subscribers in the province are forced to watch local news and programming from Montreal, instead of what’s being created in their own backyards.
“Local stations provide a fundamental public service to their communities,” said Sylvain Lafrance, Executive Vice President of French Services for CBC/Radio-Canada. “They help citizens connect with their local government, businesses, schools, sports teams and community organizations. They help define, build and sustain the local culture and local democracy. The current lack of access in Quebec is a major concern. Correcting the situation is an immediate priority.”
“Bell TV and Shaw Direct provide service to about a quarter of households in Canada,” said Steven Guiton, Vice President and Chief Regulatory Officer of CBC/Radio-Canada. “They are strong, mature companies that are making a significant contribution to Canada’s broadcasting system. But they’re not living up to their responsibilities with respect to local TV. Parliament has made the distribution of local television stations a priority. The DTH providers have not.”
The limits on satellite capacity that existed in the 1990s have been left behind. New satellites have been launched and advances in compression and modulation technology are greatly enhancing transmission efficiency. Both Shaw Direct and Bell TV have far more raw capacity available to them than at any time in the past. There’s no technical justification for continuing to limit the carriage of local stations moving forward.
CBC/Radio-Canada proposed to the Commission a regulatory framework that aligns the public policy goal of greater carriage of local channels with the satellite television providers’ own business goals of expanding their overall service offering to Canadians. A mix of incentive measures and diversity-of-voices rules, the proposal would allow satellite television providers to expand their offering on a timely basis, through their own business planning.
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CBC/Radio-Canada is Canada's national public broadcaster and one of its largest cultural institutions. With 29 services offered on Radio, Television, the Internet, satellite radio, digital audio, as well as through its record and music distribution service and wireless WAP and SMS messaging services, CBC/Radio-Canada is available how, where, and when Canadians want it.
Through this array of activities, CBC/Radio-Canada brings diverse regional and cultural perspectives into the daily lives of Canadians in English, French and eight Aboriginal languages, in nine languages on its international Radio service, Radio Canada International, and in eight languages on its Web-based Radio service RCI viva, a service for recent and aspiring immigrants to Canada.