CBC can go Hollywood, says CRTC


OTTAWA - Much to the chagrin of Canadian private broadcasters, the CRTC this week said the CBC can show non-Canadian feature films during peak viewing hours.

During the CBC's last licensing go-around, in January of 2000, the Commission imposed some conditions on its license which said the CBC was not allowed to show any recent, popular non-Canadian movies during prime time, 7-to-11 p.m.

However, the Commission granted the CBC time to show movies it already held rights to for a period of 36 months, an extension which was due to expire at the end of this month.

Earlier this year, the CBC requested that the CRTC delete those conditions, pointing to the fact that its schedule is markedly Canadian but that its mandate is to show "the best the world has to offer," said its submission, which means showing Hollywood blockbusters, too.

In June, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters objected to the request, saying the CBC should stick to Canadian fare, that there are more than enough places for Canadians to view "the best the world has to offer", and that having a broadcaster with a wallet as big as CBC's in the market for U.S. movies was unfair and would drive up programming costs.

The CAB "considers that the CBC's application amounts to a request for permission to compete directly with private broadcasters in a programming category already well-served by private conventional, specialty and pay services," said its letter to the Commission.

The CBC countered saying that the peak viewing hours in 2001, even while able to show U.S. movies, were 86% and 87% Canadian content on CBC and SRC, respectively. Its commitment to Canadian programming would make it difficult to offer "even one Canadian movie per week," it told the CRTC.

Commissioners sided with the CBC, saying its mandate does not preclude showing non-Canadian movies in prime time.

"While the (Broadcasting) Act clearly requires the CBC to focus on Canadian programming, it contemplates that a certain amount of such non-Canadian programming could be included in the CBC's schedules," reads Wednesday's decision. "In the Commission's view, it is also reasonable that some portion of that could be aired during peak viewing hours, particularly programs representing the best that the world has to offer."

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