Cablers, broadcasters square off over entry of US channels

Various factions are officially voicing their opinions in advance of the CRTC's February hearings.

As the CRTC gets set to write new rules for domestic cablecasters, satellite services and other content carriers, Rogers Communications has urged the broadcast regulator to open the Canadian airwaves to more foreign channels. ‘Any non-Canadian service that would not threaten the viability of a launched Canadian programming service should be allowed in,’ the cable giant said last Friday in a written submission.

Conversely, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, representing private broadcasters, warned in its own CRTC submission that it will oppose any move to loosen existing rules against importing foreign channels that compete with existing Canadian services.

‘The CAB notes that the commission’s careful balancing and rebalancing of competing interests over the past 25 years has been a success with respect to discretionary services – for consumers, for distributors and for the broadcasting system in general,’ the association argued. It added that what it termed a broadcasting success ‘could be placed at risk by a wholesale restructuring of the regulatory framework for discretionary services without due regard to their long-term sustainability and their contributions to the broadcasting system.’

The potential clash between domestic cablecasters and broadcasters at the upcoming CRTC hearings will play out against a recent CRTC decision not to allow NBC Universal’s USA Network into Canada via cable and satellite. The regulator ruled that crime and mystery dramas on USA Network duplicate series seen on Mystery TV, a specialty run by CanWest MediaWorks and Groupe TVA.

Shaw Communications, which sponsored the bid by USA Network to enter Canada, rejected the CRTC’s decision as ‘anti-consumer’ on grounds it denies Canadians choice in foreign TV services.

The upcoming CRTC hearings in early February will review how cable and satellite services and domestic specialty and pay channels are regulated in the new digital age, when analog channel scarcity is no longer a challenge.

From Playback Daily