Broadcaster Magazine

CRTC To Review ‘Mandatory Distribution’ Rules

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunicatins Commission will hold hearings this year on mandatory carriage, and it will determine whether some TV services should get a more profitable position on the TV dial and whether some might lose that designation.

The CRTC has announced hearings in April, and its calling for submissions and comments about various applications it has received asking for mandatory distribution on cable and satellite distribution systems (under section 9(1)(h) of the Broadcasting Act, as well as applications for the licence renewal of independent conventional, pay and specialty television services.

The CRTC says it will look at applications by new and existing programming services for the mandatory distribution of their services as part of the basic service of all Canadian cable and satellite providers.

The Commission says it wants to assess whether such services would or should benefit from a fixed carriage deal putting them in more widely accessible regions of the cable or satellite channel line-up. The CRTC will also examine the overall renewal of the licences, as required.

Some of the TV services currently designated for mandatory carriage include Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) and The Weather Network. CBC News Network gets the mandatory carriage designation in French markets, while RDI has it in English-language markets.

Among the TV and specialty channels seeking mandatory carriage are SUN TV, the Quebecor-owned news outlet; EqualiTV, a new service for disabled Canadians; multi-lingual services such as the CBC-run French service ARTV and Canadian Punjabi TV; and Stornoway’s Fusion TV.

Mandatory carriage is the main way operators can get a more predictable revenues and profitable operations, based on greater availability, broader access and increased subscription fees from subscribers.

Such fees are paid by Canada’s cable and satellite providers, and it is up to the individual broadcast distribution undertaking to determine how such fees are handled, absorbed or passed along to customers.

SUN TV, for example, is seeking a subscription fee of $0.18/month per subscriber ($0.09/month for French language households). In its application and supporting documentation, financial predictions show a twenty five cent ($0.25) rate per subscriber in English Canada by 2019.

The Commission will hold the hearing beginning on April 23, 2013 in Gatineau, QC .