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CAB questions Commission's DTH decision
7/22/2003

OTTAWA - The long-term survival of many television stations in communities all across Canada is now clearly in question, says the Canadian Association of Broadcasters after last week's decision by the CRTC to modify its DTH policy.

The association is grateful for some of the decision (Public Notice 2003-37, but the CAB said it did not go far enough and "raised more questions than it answered."

"While the decision offered good news for some of our small market broadcasters, there are many television services in communities all across Canada whose long-term survival is now clearly in question," said Glenn O'Farrell, CAB president and CEO.

The decision provides both carriage of up to 20 more local broadcasters, but not more than two from one company, and local programming funding (0.4% of revenues) to small market independent broadcasters to address the impact of DTH technology, including the issue of capacity to carry all of the licensed Canadian conventional television services, and the loss of advertising revenues caused by time-shifting from one region of the country to another.

However, the decision does not address the same issues facing those broadcasters who are providing local service in other small communities, but who are not independently owned.

"We were hopeful that the Commission would have carefully considered the CAB/Bell ExpressVu agreement, completed after 18 months of negotiations, balanced the interests of all affected broadcasters (The CAB and ExpressVu, mindful of the fact that it would not be practicable for DTH companies to carry all local broadcasters and perform simultaneous substitution for all, came to an agreement last year which addressed issues on all sides and would have drawn funding away from the Canadian Television Fund, which they were hopeful the Commission would accept).

"Instead, the Commission altered unilaterally the terms of the package and effectively cherry picked the deal, causing a number of broadcasters serving small communities to unnecessarily fall between the cracks," said O'Farrell.

Commissioners Stuart Langford, Cindy Grauer and Barbara Cram dissented with the majority.

"The majority decision did not take into consideration the importance of local and regional programming, as the cornerstone of the Canadian broadcasting system, regardless of ownership," said O'Farrell. "The Commission missed an opportunity to ensure that the DTH policy met not only the needs of Canadians regardless of where they live, but also take into full consideration the impact of the technology on Canadian broadcasters."

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