Broadcaster

Al-Jazeera approved, RAI denied

7/15/2004

OTTAWA - In a long-awaited decision, the CRTC today approved nine new non-Canadian, third-language television channels - and began a process to review its approach to authorizing such services in the future.

The nine approved are:
* German TV: German-language general interest service from the owners of Deutsche Welle
* Canal SUR: Spanish-language predominantly news and non fiction service with programming by independent broadcasters from Latin America
* CineLatino: Spanish-language movies from Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela and Peru
* Grandes Documentales de TVE: Spanish-language documentaries
* Utilisima: Spanish-language programming service originating from Argentina directed to women
* Eurochannel: Spanish and Portuguese subtitled European movie service
* Romanian Television International: Predominantly Romanian-language general interest programming service
* ART Movies: Arabic-language movies
* Al Jazeera: Arabic-language news and public affairs service

The six denied are:
* Azteca 13 International: Spanish-language general interest service
* GOL TV: Spanish and English-language soccer programming service
* LBC America: Arabic-language general interest service
* TV Chile: Spanish-language general interest service
* TVE Internacional: Spanish-language general interest service
* RAI International: Italian-language general interest service

Given the contentious nature of this issue - and the pressure applied to the CRTC and various levels of government, especially from the Italian-Canadian community, many of whom want RAI here, "the Commission also released today a call for comments on various questions related to its assessment of requests to add non-Canadian third-language services to its lists of eligible satellite services for distribution on a digital basis," reads today's release.

"The Commission wishes to determine whether there are ways to improve access by Canadians to non-Canadian third-language programming, while continuing to foster Canadian third-language and other ethnic services, in accordance with the objectives set out in the Broadcasting Act (the Act). The deadline for comment is October 13, 2004.

With this decision - where five of the six denied applications are Spanish or Italian language channels - many will point out that the existing Spanish-Italian specialty service, Corus Entertainment-owned Telelatino, gets to maintain a monopoly on providing services in those languages in Canada.

One caveat to this decision, however, may mean that Al-Jazeera never sees the light of day. The CRTC has decreed that distributors carrying the controversial Arabic news channel must monitor the channel to edit out "abusive content" says the Commission, and maintain recordings of the channel in case any of that content slips through and people complain about it.

This condition of carriage will certainly preclude it from carriage on any small BDU and one wonders if any of the larger ones would accept such a condition, too, since they would appear to have to then employ an Al-Jazeera censor in order to carry the channel.

Surf back here for more on this later in the day.

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