OTTAWA-GATINEAU - The CRTC today announced what it calls "a new approach to assessing requests for the delivery of foreign third-language television channels to Canadian viewers."
"The commission's objective is to provide greater diversity and choice in services targeted to third-language communities in Canada" said Charles Dalfen, chairman of the CRTC, "while fostering the viability of licensed Canadian ethnic services which create and broadcast Canadian programming and reflect Canadian points of view. I believe the policy changes we have announced today achieve that balance."
General Interest Services
From now on, requests to add general-interest foreign third-language services to the lists of eligible satellite services for distribution on a digital basis will generally be approved, subject to packaging and programming rights requirements aimed at minimizing possible negative impact on Canadian
Until now, the commission assessed requests for third-language general interest foreign services by applying the same competitiveness test to them as applies to all foreign services, namely that they not be partially or totally competitive with Canadian specialty or pay services.
Since general interest services, by their very nature, offer a wide variety of programming genres, the application of the competitiveness test to them has often revealed a significant overlap between their program mandates and schedules and those of Canadian third-language services, resulting in the denial of a number of non-Canadian services.
These non-Canadian services could, however, with appropriate safeguards, have enhanced the diversity and choice in our broadcasting system, without depriving Canadian third-language services of the ability to fulfill their conditions of licence and other regulatory obligations.
A general interest service is one that offers programming from a broad spectrum of genres and categories. A third-language service is one that provides at least 90 percent of its programming in languages other than English or French.
New Distribution and Linkage Requirements
On a going forward basis, any foreign general interest third-language service that is added to the lists and offers programming in either Cantonese, Mandarin, Italian, Spanish, Greek or Hindi, will have to be purchased by subscribers along with the corresponding analog Canadian third-language service, i.e. Telelatino, ATN, Fairchild, Talentvision, or Odyssey.
Similarly, where a non-Canadian general interest third-language service offers programming in the same language as a general interest Canadian Category 2 service, the broadcasting distribution undertaking wishing to offer it must distribute at least one of the corresponding Category 2 services, and make the two available both on a stand-alone basis and in a package with the non-Canadian service.
The competitiveness test will continue to apply to non-Canadian third-language niche services that are focused on a specific programming genre or are directed to a particular audience within a language community.
The commission will continue to require that all non-Canadian services undertake not to hold exclusive or preferential program rights to the distribution of any programming in Canada.
Services Already on the Lists
The commission will soon issue a call for comments on applying the same new distribution and linkage requirements to non-Canadian third-language services that are already on the lists of eligible satellite services.
Today's decision follows a public consultation process in which views were invited on the Commission's approach to assessing requests for adding non-Canadian third-language services to the lists of eligible satellite services.
The commission says most comments supported the addition of more non-Canadian third-language programming services to the Canadian broadcasting system, arguing that such services would respond to demands for greater diversity in programming, ensure better service to third-language ethnic communities, and possibly discourage subscription to illegal satellite services.
Canada's licensed ethnic broadcasting landscape currently includes four over-the-air television stations, five analog specialty services, 21 launched Category 2 digital specialty services, 17 radio stations, and several specialty audio services, all of which devote a significant portion of their schedules to third-language programming. In addition, 30 Category 2 ethnic services have received authorization, but have yet to launch.
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