More DTH rules needed, says CAB


OTTAWA - The CRTC needs to take a far more critical look at how Canada's two direct-to-home satellite companies operate says the CAB, which has asked the Commission to attach several new conditions to the licenses of both Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters' submissions to the Commission in advance of license renewal hearings for both BCE-owned Bell ExpressVu and Shaw Communications-owned Star Choice asks for five parallel measures which it wants the CRTC to apply to the DTH companies' conditions of license this time around.

Those are:
* A "take one take all" policy on carriage of local stations in a given market, so that if Star Choice of ExpressVu take one local broadcaster's signal in Calgary, for example, it must take all local Calgary stations. Carrying just some of Calgary'' signals, says the CAB gives an unfair competitive advantage in terms of more viewership reach to those carried.

* Compensation for broadcasters for the non-carriage of local stations. Broadcast companies which had no stations carried on DTH are paid 20 cents per month per subscriber living within the stations' grade B contour (for twin sticks, the rate is 30 cents), according to a July 2003 CRTC decision.

The CAB wants such compensation paid to any broadcaster for any local signal not carried by DTH. "The CAB believes that at a time when the DTH industry has established itself as a competitive distribution sector it should not be relieved of the requirement to compensate stations for the non-carriage of television stations. This will be a key measure to ensure that local and regional television stations are able to meet their many obligations, especially those relating to local and regional programming. Accordingly, the Commission should require a compensation stream by DTH operators for the non-carriage of television stations regardless of ownership or location of the station," says the submission made by the CAB's television board.

* Compensation for the carriage of out of market Canadian stations in local markets, similar to the regime in place for cable.

While cable operators have to pay a fee to local broadcaster in order to carry distant Canadian signals, DTH companies do not. The CAB wants the DTH companies to have to pay a fee for this right as well. "Moreover, there is significant market value in having these multiple 'time shifting opportunities', as evidenced by the marketing of such signals by the DTH operators… The carriage of out-of-market signals and time shifting has been a significant factor in the devaluation of program rights; it is essential that the Commission require the payment of a fee for the carriage of these signals," says the submission.

* Increased compensation for the carriage of a second set of U.S. 4+1 network signals. While the Commission sanctioned fee of 25 cents per subscriber living in the grade B contours who also receives a second set of U.S. 4+1s per month, payable to the local broadcaster, the CAB wants that charge increased to 50 cents.

* Use of the following principles to ensure equitable carriage for the larger broadcast groups:
- comparable distribution between broadcast groups of similar size, both nationally and within individual markets; and
- selection of satellite for local television signals should ensure greatest potential viewing audiences.

Hearings for the license renewals of both Star Choice and Bell ExpressVu start October 20th.

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