OTTAWA - The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology heard submissions on Bill C-2 last week, the bill which would stiffen the Radiocommunications Act through greater penalties for satellite signal theft.
However, with an election call reportedly looming, it's anyone's guess as to whether this bill will make it into law or be postponed yet again as lawmakers hit the campaign trail and shutter the House of Commons for a late spring election run and then a summer break.
The Coalition Against Satellite Signal Theft (CASST) as well as the CRTC's executive director of broadcasting, Marc O'Sullivan, appeared before the committee to ask for its swift passage. "Left unchecked, signal theft poses a serious threat to the financial health of broadcasters and distributors, and to the achievement of the objectives set out by Parliament in the Broadcasting Act," said O'Sullivan.
The proposed amendments to the Act would update the existing inspection provisions, increase the penalties for breaking the law, introduce a permit system to control the entry of unauthorized equipment at the Canadian border, and provide for statutory damages in civil cases. These changes would create a real deterrent to this illegal activity, says the Canadian TV industry.
"The changes being proposed in Bill C-2 are urgently needed to effectively combat the provision of illegal access to satellite signals on a commercial basis," said Glenn O'Farrell, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, one member of CASST. "Stealing signals is already illegal and the proposed changes strengthen enforcement against criminal operations making illicit gains."
"The cost to the Canadian broadcasting system of lost subscription fees, payments to programming services, license fees, copyright payments, and salaries and benefits; is estimated to be between $400 and $500 million per year," added Guy Mayson, president and CEO of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association. "This is money that is not going to Canadian writers, actors, producers, and distributors who breathe life into our domestic broadcasting system."
"Once customers are lost to the black market they are both difficult and ultimately expensive to repatriate," said Shan Chandrasekar, president and CEO, Asian Television Network.
Besides ATN, CAB and the CFTPA, other members of CASST are: the Canadian Cable Television Association, Canadian Television Fund, Canadian Motion Picture Distribution Association, A&E; Television Networks, Bell ExpressVu, CBC/Radio-Canada, Canadian Retransmission Collective, Directors Guild of Canada, DirecTV, North American Broadcasters Association, Society of Composers, Authors, Music Publishers of Canada, Star Choice and Vid�otron Lt�e.
In April 2002, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that unauthorized reception of encrypted satellite signals is illegal. Since the ruling, the entire broadcasting industry has worked closely with the government to stop signal theft.
Bill C-2 highlights include:
*Penalties: Corporations decoding an encrypted signal or modifying equipment for this purpose would see fines increased from $25,000 to $200,000. Corporations that retransmit an encrypted subscription programming signal decoded without authorization would see fines go from $200,000 to $500,000.
* Statutory Damages: Those incurring damages from signal piracy, including licensed Canadian satellite services, will have the right to seek up to $100,000 from dealers convicted of providing illegal equipment.
* Import controls: Prohibits importation of satellite decoding equipment without a permit from the Government of Canada.
Others appearing in front of the committee last week for CASST were: Luc Perreault, vice-president, communications and regulatory affairs, Pelmorex; Harris Boyd, senior vice-president industry affairs, CCTA; �douard Tr�panier, vice-president regulatory affairs, Quebecor Media; Chris Frank, senior director government and regulatory affairs, Bell ExpressVu; and Chris Bredt, partner, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, for DirecTV.
For more, go to www.casst-ccvss.ca.
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