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Ethnic groups want more TV
by Greg O'Brien

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CRTC/Regulatory - TV
OTTAWA - Spurred on by last week's RCMP raids of illegal satellite gear dealers in Quebec - and the fact that DirecTV has taken some effective security measures - a new organized group, led by a Liberal MP, is demanding more ethnic channels on Canadian satellite lineups.

Calling itself the "Coalition for Freedom of Choice in Satellite TV" it last week urged the Government of Canada "to move forward with the broadcasting of foreign publicly funded programs on the Canadian satellite network," says the group's press release. It did not explain why it did not also target Canadian cable companies or why additional foreign networks carried must be publicly-funded ones.

The muddled press release says representatives want the government to stop or abandon the passage of Bill C-2, which, if passed, will toughen the Radiocommunication Act for those who choose to steal satellite signals and deal in illegal equipment. Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice are the only authorized satellite television operators in the country.

At a press conference on Friday, these representatives called on the Government of Canada and the CRTC to compel the Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice networks to offer more programs produced by publicly funded broadcasters around the world on direct television satellite networks in Canada. They feel this new approach is necessary to stop members of their communities from using American satellite networks, says the release.

"We have only ourselves to blame if more than 700,000 Canadian households are linked to American satellites. We are denying them the right to an alternative that could turn their focus back home," said the coalition's political spokesperson, the Liberal MP for Laval-East, Carole-Marie Allard, making the false assumption that all those stealing satellite signals are doing so to gain access to ethnic networks.

"Our industry is losing tens of millions of dollars in profit each year to American networks," she added. "It is our own fault if Canadians are not watching Canadian programs. We lose on every count when we deny them access to programs in their own language through satellite services".

"Allard was stunned to learn that, of the 93 non-Canadian services authorized for distribution in Canada, 75 are from the United States and without any Canadian content," continues the release. "The 18 other services are from 10 other countries and are available in 15 languages, but only four of them are distributed by Bell ExpressVu. Star Choice broadcasts only American services."

The coalition's members find this puzzling, saying, "This proves that a political will is needed to compel satellite services to offer programs. It would be irresponsible for our government to pass a coercive bill to counter pirating, without giving offenders a chance to subscribe to Canadian services, on the condition that they provide such services."

"The representatives of the coalition condemn Bill C 2, which provides for several very strict measures against satellite pirates. "Canada is a democratic country and, as such, must provide alternatives or at least listen to its citizens before clamping down on them. We have been quiet for far too long", according to Francisco Salvador, advisor for the Portuguese community, according to the press release.

"The CRTC's protectionist attitude has meant that we have been denied this right for years, and this is no longer justified now that satellites are common", said Giovanni Rapana, president of the Italians living abroad, adds the press release.

"This is a dead end for us and it is very detrimental for our old age population", according to Sonia Moujaes, advisor for the Lebanese community. "American satellites are our only source of programming. The CRTC's treatment of us as second-class citizens must stop."

"It has not escaped our attention that the CRTC did not hesitate to compel the Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice satellite networks to broadcast the debates of the House of Commons on CPAC," concluded Allard.

While the group clearly has a point: there are clearly not enough international/third-language/ethnic channels made available here; it's not clear what CPAC has to do with this or how taking a soft stance on theft will help anyone's cause.
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