Mobile TV gets exemption from CRTC

The CRTC has decided mobile TV services don't need to follow the same rules as Canadian broadcasters. Broadcasters raised concerns about a future that could see people plugging their mobile phones into their TV sets. But the CRTC doesn't buy it.

Mobile TV services are exempt from broadcast licensing requirements and associated regulations, according to a recent decision by the CRTC. The broadcast and telecom regulator released the wording of the exemption last week, after months of considering arguments from CTV and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB).

In April 2006, the Commission announced that certain mobile TV services ‘delivered and accessed over the Internet’ by Bell Mobility, Telus and Rogers fell under its Dec. 1999 exemption order for new media. At that time, the CRTC also announced it would work on an exemption for those mobile television services not delivered over the Internet.

The new CRTC ruling allows exemptions to mobile TV broadcast undertakings that are received by way of mobile devices (cellphones and PDAs) and use point-to-point technology to deliver the service via a separate stream of broadcast video and audio to each end user.

Prior to the decision, the CAB and CTV expressed several concerns about the wording of the decision. CTV wanted the exemption to apply only to mobile devices when they’re being used as mobile devices whose primary use is for the transmission of telephony or data. The CAB wanted the CRTC to limit the scope of the exemption order to point-to-point technologies that transmit a separate stream of broadcast video and audio to each end-user.

The CAB also convinced the Commission to specify that mobile television services must get consent for retransmission and be eligible to hold a Canadian broadcasting license – to ensure that non-Canadian companies cannot benefit from the exemption.

CTV and the CAB argued that advancements in technology will soon give mobile television service providers advantages over Canada’s traditional broadcasters. Mobile receivers could essentially plug into a TV set and receive a pretty good picture, they argued. But the CRTC wouldn’t buy it.
‘In the Commission’s view, the parties did not provide compelling evidence to support their claims that the new mobile receivers will have the ability to function as set-top boxes or that some receivers will be able to ‘plug into a TV set and produce quite acceptable images,” states the CRTC’s Broadcasting Public Notice 2007-13.

‘While point-to-point delivery provides users with a greater degree of choice and interactive capabilities,’ the notice continued, ‘the disadvantage of such networks is that each user requires a separate data stream, thereby potentially consuming considerable network bandwidth overall. As an increasing number of users try to access content, the point-to-point network becomes congested, which, in turn, can prevent new users from accessing content and detract from the experience of current users.’

CAB president/CEO Glenn O’Farrell issued a statement following the CRTC’s decision: ‘We’re pleased that the Commission has taken a more cautious approach to mobile television, as we recommended. They agreed with most of our main arguments in settling on a more restricted exemption order than they had originally proposed.’

Click here to read the CRTC’s Broadcasting Public Notice 2007-13.