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Committee wants black market legislation to live on� and more consumer choice
by Greg O'Brien

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CRTC/Regulatory - TV
OTTAWA - An election call always means that impending legislation left in the queue dies when the writ is dropped. So it will be for Bill C-2, the proposed bill which would have toughened the Radiocommunications Act with harsher punishment for satellite signal thieves and illegal dish users.

Well aware there's not enough time for the bill to be passed into law before the election call expected any day now (even though it was the first one introduced in the House of Commons after the new cabinet of new Prime Minister Paul Martin was installed), members of the Standing Committee of Industry, Science and Technology has passed a motion suggesting a two-pronged approach that includes more popular American and third language services along with enforcement, during its final meeting last week.

The draft motion, tabled by committee members Joe Fontana (L) and seconded by James Rajotte (C) says:

"The Committee has determined that a two phased approach is required to address the black market and the grey market that provides for more enforcement along with more choice for consumers. Accordingly the Committee recommends that the Ministers of Industry and Canadian Heritage strike a small Review Panel for public consultations to research and provide recommendations on how to increase competition and choice in terms of new services while still supporting the fundamental objectives of the Broadcasting Act, the protection of the interests of the Canadian broadcasting industry and the Multiculturalism Act.

"Recognizing that some Canadians find it necessary to access programming through the grey market the Panel's recommendations should include ways to ensure that more popular foreign and third language services are available within the Canadian broadcasting system. The Panel should provide a report by the Fall of 2004," says the motion.

While the chair of the committee will now write to Ministers of Industry and Heritage informing them of this motion, it will be up to the ministers - whomever they may be post-election - to take action on the matter.

However, that motion, says CCTA spokesperson Kristina Babulic, makes sure the topic is at least carried over to the next government, "rather than having it die altogether," she explained.

This is the second time within eight months that a change in government has killed a proposed bill to stiffen the Radiocommunications Act against the illegal dish "industry." In the fall of 2003, Bill C-52 then stood before Parliament but it vanished when Jean Chretien prorogued Parliament and stepped down as Prime Minister.
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