CRTC to draft Internet retransmission rules


Gatineau, - Responding to an order from the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the CRTC has issued a call for public input on potential regulation for Internet retransmission of over-the-air television and radio signals.

While the Commission used the Canadian Cable Television Association convention in 1999 to announce it would not try to regulate any part of the Internet, the Order in Council (OIC) from the Governor General (drawn up by the Department of Canadian Heritage) says it must now explore the topic at least in terms of retransmission of TV and radio signals over the medium.

In late 1999, the CRTC published an Exemption Order for New Media Broadcasting Undertakings, which "exempts persons who engage in the retransmission of broadcasting signals over the Internet from all of the requirements of Part II of the Broadcasting Act and of any regulations made under that Part," says the OIC.

"Since the exemption Order came into force, new media broadcasting undertakings have emerged who may wish to avail themselves of the existing provisions of the Copyright Act to retransmit the signals of over-the-air radio or television programming undertakings," it continues.

The now gone, which was based in Toronto, got the ball rolling in 2000 by retransmitting over the air broadcasters across the web and Montreal's JumpTV wants to do the same. While ICrave simply appeared on the scene, selling banner ads around the TV signals and ultimately backed away in the face of huge lawsuits, JumpTV executives have attempted to be heard by the Copyright Board in order to operate as a kind of cable company on the web and would even pursue a license in order to do it. However, JumpTV executives have also said they might just launch and then let the legal chips fall where they may.

Broadcasters have been loathe to submit their signals to any such treatment as say they fear their programming would be degraded while the signal was transmitted around the world where they have bought the rights for Canada-only.

"The protection of television and radio signals is important, not only to broadcasters, but to all those involved including writers, actors and producers," says Toronto-based North American Broadcasters Association secretary general Michael McEwen. "The retransmission of broadcasters' signals on the Internet does not respect geographic or political borders. Broadcasters throughout the world need a regulatory environment where their product is respected and protected."

Plus, broadcasters want to find a way to profit themselves from any new ways to transmit their signals beyond potential copyright fees paid by Internet retransmitters.

The cable industry has been largely quiet on the issue in Canada and the U.S. as those companies envision the day when high speed Internet customers would pay extra to be able to stream their broadcast and cable channels to their PCs. The most the cable industry has said on the issue is that the Commission should remain technologically neutral when it comes to passing video signals.

The CRTC has asked the public a total of 16 questions ranging from the effect on Canadian content and interactive television pass-through to licensing Internet retransmission undertakings, and has been told to file a report on the matter by January 17, 2003.

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