OTTAWA - The Canadian Association of Broadcasters has told the CRTC that Fox News should not be granted a spot on the eligible satellite list for digital distribution in Canada - and that consideration on adding it and the NFL Network should be delayed anyway.
While not directly saying in black and white that it opposes the addition of Fox News, the broadcast group told the Commission in a letter last week that reneging on an earlier deal Fox signed with CanWest Global Communications to launch a category two digital Canadian version of the channel, should be questioned.
"The CAB is concerned that approval of the current request by the CCTA for the addition of Fox News would create a precedent that encourages non-Canadian broadcasters to forgo partnerships with Canadian broadcasters, in favour of direct market entry by way of inclusion on the lists of eligible satellite services," reads the letter from Wayne Charman, the CAB's senior vice-president, television.
As reported by www.cablecastermagazine.com, the Canadian Cable Television Association has sponsored Fox News and NFL Network's addition to the list for digital-only distribution.
Back in 2000, the Commission granted CanWest a license for Fox News Canada, however, in a letter to the Commission supporting the CCTA's request, Fox said it no longer wished to launch a Canadianized Fox News.
Fox News has emerged as the top-rated all-news channel in the States, with a decidedly shrill, right-wing-focused agenda which has been less than kind to Canada and Canadians on the air, but is nonetheless regularly requested by Canadian viewers from their cable and satellite companies. A recent www.cablecastermagazine.com poll showed that of over 570 voters, over 83% want Fox News legally available in Canada.
This isn't the only American news channel on the Commission's plate. As previously reported, the owners of MSNBC Canada (MSNBC, Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications) have asked the CRTC to allow carriage of the regular U.S. MSNBC feed since digi-net MSNBC Canada is not viable going forward. Shaw Communications, holders of a Bloomberg Canada digital license, has also asked for the full American version to be added. The CAB opposes those applications as well.
The CCTA maintains that denying Canadians the ability to see Fox News and the others contributes to the illegal satellite market here.
But, the broadcasters' association feels Fox News is doing an end-run around the Canadian system. "The CAB maintains that best way of bringing increased choice of foreign programming to the Canadian system is to encourage partnerships between non-Canadian services and Canadian broadcasters, to ensure that such services make the greatest possible contribution to the system," reads its submission.
"To that end, the CAB submits that the Commission should not reward a non-Canadian programming service that has forgone its joint-venture with a Canadian broadcaster, in favour of pursuing a direct market entry approach in which it would carry no Canadian content and provide no tangible benefits to the system."
As for the NFL Network, if it is added, the CAB says it must be subject to conditions of carriage where if the channel ever decided to add live regular season or playoff football games to its slate of lifestyle and entertainment programming (sprinkled with NFL Europe and preseason NFL games), that its carriage in Canada would then be revoked.
"Moreover," says Charman's letter, "the CAB submits that the NFL Network's commitment not to carry NFL games should be extended to also include any football games originating in Canada (e.g. CFL games), since this would also render the NFL Network competitive with Canadian broadcasters who hold such rights."
Additionally, with the CRTC having begun a proceeding to hear the Canadian cable industry's request to sell the two minutes per hour of local ad availability time on American cable channels, decisions on adding these two channels should be put off anyway, says the CAB.
Since adding two more U.S. channels would increase the inventory of local avail time, "the CAB submits that is premature to consider the inclusion of non-Canadian services on the lists of eligible satellite services at a time when the policy respecting the use of local availabilities on such services is under review," adds the letter.
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