CRTC nixes high-def bids

Yesterday the CRTC gave two thumbs down to bids from HDTV Networks and YES TV to launch high-definition over-the-air TV channels.

The CRTC disappointed HDTV Networks and YES TV yesterday. The big loser was John Bitove’s HDTV Networks, which had proposed to deliver HD programming to viewers in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

The objections from CRTC commissioners were that HDTV Networks didn’t promise nearly enough local programming – two hours weekly in each TV market, against an average 22 hours of local programming from existing conventional TV stations – and looked too much like a ‘US Superstation.’

In its ruling, the regulator accepted criticism from major conventional TV networks that allowing HDTV Networks to launch with minimal local content would lead rival players like CTV and Canwest to seek significant cuts in their own local requirements. ‘We have never granted a licence for such a conventional television station in the past and did not find any compelling reason to do so at this time,’ said CRTC vice-chairman Michel Arpin.

HDTV Networks also fell afoul of Broadcasting Act objectives with its request that cable and satellite TV operators carry its HD signal in both the analog and digital formats for the first two years of its operation. The CRTC said that plan ran contrary to its goal of accelerating digital broadcasting in this country.

Bitove was not available for comment yesterday. HDTV Networks offered only a terse statement that it ‘thanks the CRTC for reviewing and considering its application.’

The CRTC also gave short shrift to a separate bid by YES TV to operate an HD station aimed at youth in the Toronto market, stating: ‘After examining the business plan provided by YES TV, the Commission is not convinced that the applicant has clearly demonstrated that the proposed service would be viable.’

The CRTC was not impressed that YES TV proposed to broadcast 28 hours per week of priority programming, against eight hours of priority programming per week from existing major TV networks. The Commission ruled that it was ‘not convinced that the applicant has the necessary resources to provide this amount of priority programming, or that the programming produced would be of high quality.’

The regulator added that YES TV’s call for 30% to 40% user-generated content in its daily newscast was too high and offered little assurance of quality.

From Playback Daily