Shaw Cable cited in human rights complaint

Vancouver - A Vancouver gay activist has launched a human rights complaint against Shaw Cable.

The cable company hasn't included the new gay and lesbian channel PrideVision as part of its three-month free preview of new channels.

Gay activist Peter Cook has started complaints with both the BC and Canadian Human Rights Commissions.

His lawyer, Barbara Findlay, says it's clear discrimination on Shaw's part.

Ken Smith, with the BC Human Rights Coalition, calls it a knee-jerk reaction, and he doubts Shaw management watched the programming before making the decision.

The TV channel covers everything from current affairs to cooking and documentaries to musicals.

PrideVision TV yesterday accused Shaw Communications Inc. of discriminatory practices and called on digital subscribers to boycott the cable giant and its satellite subsidiary, Star Choice Communications Inc.

In a public statement yesterday, the upstart digital service described Shaw as a "prejudicial gatekeeper" that has unfairly excluded PrideVisionTV from a mandatory three-month free viewing period and encouraged consumers to defect to rival carriers such as Rogers Communications Inc. and Bell ExpressVu.

Headline Media Group Inc., which owns PrideVision as well as The Score, filed a complaint with the CRTC last week, claiming that customers must navigate a two-pronged on-screen selection process in order to access the channel. Other services are automatically available to customers during the preview period.

"We have written the CRTC and asked it to use its jurisdiction to intervene here," says Anna McCusker, vice-presidemt marketing, PrideVision TV. "In our view, Shaw is being a prejudicial gatekeeper, barring access and preventing viewers from choosing PrideVision TV."br>
In addition, Headline Media stated that customers are subjected to a 1 charge, plus taxes, each time they attempt to watch PrideVision.

Shaw defended its distribution practices in a letter sent to the CRTC yesterday, arguing that the measures were necessary because of "overwhelming expressions of concern" from its cable customers about the nature of the channel.

Because PrideVision airs erotica through such themed offerings as "Frisky Fridays" and "Steamy Saturdays," Shaw maintained it would be irresponsible to provide the service to households without their permission.

The cable company admitted that would-be subscribers were being charged $0.01 to order the channel, but attributed the fee to a technical glitch that is being remedied.

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