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UPDATE: Subscription radio hearing set for November 1st

7/8/2004

OTTAWA - The CRTC announced today that it will hear three applicants wishing to provide subscription digital radio services in Canada, two via satellite and one using wireless technology.

As reported earlier this year by www.broadcastermagazine.com, the Commission will hear applications by Canadian Satellite Radio Incorporated (CSR), in partnership with XM Satellite Radio Inc., for a broadcasting license to carry on a national multi-channel subscription radio service, to be delivered by satellite and terrestrial transmitters, for direct reception by subscribers.

Led by Canadian entrepreneur John Bitove, this proposed service would initially offer 101 channels, four of which would be produced in Canada by CSR. The applicant proposes to charge a basic monthly fee of $12.99.

The second satellite application has been made the CBC, in partnership with SIRIUS Satellite Radio and Standard Radio Inc. Its proposed service would initially offer 78 channels, four of which would be produced in Canada by the CBC and the applicant proposes to charge a basic monthly fee of $12.95.

The wireless application has been made by CHUM Ltd. It wants a license to carry a national multi-channel subscription radio service, to be delivered by terrestrial transmitters, for direct reception by subscribers. The proposed service would initially offer 50 channels, all of which would be produced in Canada by the applicant.

The applicant proposes to charge a basic monthly fee of $9.95.

In its release today, the Commission is calling for public comment on all three, saying, "Since no such services are currently licensed for operation in Canada, these applications give rise to a number of policy issues that need to be addressed, in order to ensure that the objectives of the Broadcasting Act are met."

Specifically, the Commission wants public comment on the following questions:
* Canadian content: What is the appropriate amount of English- and French-language Canadian content that this new service should provide to satisfy the objectives of the Broadcasting Act?

* Canadian Talent Development (CTD):
a) What would be the appropriate level of contribution to support the development of Canadian talent?
b) How should any new national service allocate CTD contributions so as to equitably support English- and French-speaking talent in all regions of Canada?

* Accountability: What provisions should be employed to ensure that licensees are accountable for the programming provided on any non-Canadian channels?

*Competitiveness:
a) How many subscription radio services, if any, could the Canadian market support?
b) What would be the appropriate mix of services?

* Impact of licensing any subscription radio service on other audio services:
a) What would be the impact on the ability of existing conventional radio stations; both to serve their local communities and to fulfill their other regulatory obligations (i.e. Canadian content, Canadian talent development, and French-language vocal music requirements)?
b) What would be the impact on existing pay audio services?
c) What would be the impact on the roll-out of digital audio broadcasting (DAB) in Canada?

* Class of license:
a) Should any subscription radio service be licensed as a programming and/or distribution undertaking?
b) Given the limited spectrum available, should the new undertaking(s) be required to provide access to other programming services?

* Authorization of over-the-air transmitters: If the Commission issues a license for a national service, should the establishment of over-the-air transmitters be subject only to certification by Industry Canada?

For the full applications, click here.

'This represents a unique opportunity to extend the reach of CBC/Radio-Canada services and package them with the best of the world for distribution on this emerging digital audio platform," said Robert Rabinovitch, CBC/Radio-Canada's president and CEO, in a press release today. "Satellite radio will expand the choices available to Canadians, wherever they live, increase the exposure of Canadian performers to U.S. audiences and open the door for new innovative services. As Canada's national public broadcaster, CBC/Radio-Canada must be present on this new and significant delivery platform."

This partnership would see four CBC/Radio Canada national radio feeds added to the North American distribution of SIRIUS.

The CBC/Radio-Canada offering will include two new music channels (one English, one French) featuring a mix of new Canadian music and emerging artists, live concerts, studio sessions, stories and sounds from across Canada. CBC Radio One and Radio-Canada's la Première Chaîne will also bring distinctly Canadian voices and journalistic perspectives to Sirius' diverse information and entertainment line-up, which already includes BBC World, National Public Radio and Public Radio International.

"As this country's largest privately-owned broadcaster, we are very excited about being able to reach Canadians in their cars, homes, cottages, boats and virtually anywhere else they choose to set up their satellite receivers," said Gary Slaight, president and CEO of Standard Radio Inc. "Over the years, Standard has had an unmatched track record in supporting Canadian musical talent, including both new and established artists, with our radio stations across Canada. As part of our venture with CBC/Radio-Canada and Sirius Satellite Radio, we will ensure that the new platform will provide access for Canadian recording artists not only to a wider Canadian listenership but to the much larger North American audience. We must seize this opportunity now."

If licensed, the partnership says it would ensure that Canadian performers, writers and creators gain broader exposure to audiences across Canada and the U.S. Canadian artists and performers also stand to benefit financially from additional copyright fees and from the investment of five percent of gross revenues in Canadian talent development.

"In partnering with CBC/Radio-Canada and Standard Radio, we are joining forces with two national broadcasters who share our commitment to top quality programming and who have a strong commitment to the development of new and emerging talent," said Joseph P. Clayton, president and CEO of SIRIUS.

Satellite radio has rapidly emerged as a significant new delivery platform that has met strong consumer acceptance. Sirius expects that it will reach close to 1 million subscribers in the U.S. by the end on 2004. A Canadian- owned and controlled satellite radio service will offer Canadians, no matter where they live in the country, unparalleled music selection, insights and perspectives, as well as an unmatched lineup of sports, news, talk and entertainment. We are proud to be associated with this venture that paves the way for an orderly introduction of satellite radio in Canada," he added.

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