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CRTC places dual status under review

Gatineau, - The old analog designation of dual status enjoyed by some specialty services has been placed under review by the CRTC.

Last week the commission issued a call for comments to set the groundwork for the digital cable distribution of existing analog specialty services currently carried on basic cable. As it begins to hammer out over-the-air digital or HDTV rules and how cable operators will be made to handle those signals, "at this time, the Commission considers it appropriate to reassess the rules governing the distribution of specialty services on the basic service of fully digital cable undertakings

Analog specialty services TSN, MuchMusic, YTV, The Weather Network, Metéomédia, MusiquePlus, CBC Newsworld, RDI, RDS, TV5, VisionTV, and Vrak.TV (formerly Canal Famille) have dual carriage status. Bravo!, Discovery, Life, Showcase, W (formerly WTN) have dual status for Class 2 and Class 3 systems.

Dual status means where carried, the service must be carried as part of the basic cable service unless the programmer has agreed to be on a tier.

One of the top questions the commission said will be explored is whether or not dual status should remain. "Given that the broadcasting system is rapidly moving towards an environment of increased consumer choice, the Commission has deliberately favoured increased regulatory flexibility in the digital environment. Thus, the question arises as to whether cable distribution undertakings, once fully digital, should continue to be required to distribute dual status specialty services on the basic service," says the commission in its public notice.

"A central question in the establishment of digital basic service rules for digital cable undertakings is how the commission should determine what specialty services, if any, should be included in, or excluded from, the digital basic service and the criteria used for such determination," explains the regulator.

A number of other questions are to be addressed, including the impact on customers and whether there should be a digital basic tier.

The deadline for comments is November 15, 2002.

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