Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved a limited number of applications for mandatory distribution on cable and satellite companies’ digital basic television service.
“Canadians across the country will have access to programming that meets a real and exceptional need, and that would not be widely available without our intervention,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. “We are making sure, however, that television services remain affordable for Canadians by imposing reasonable rates for services offered on the basic service.”
The CRTC examined 22 applications for mandatory distribution orders from services that already had such an order and wished to renew it, from existing services seeking to obtain a first distribution order and from new services.
After an in-depth examination of these applications, the CRTC approved two new services for mandatory distribution on the basic service of all distributors in the country, and one service for mandatory distribution on the basic service of satellite companies in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. The CRTC also granted a new distribution order on a discretionary basis. Lastly, the CRTC renewed five existing mandatory distribution orders.
New services that meet a real and exceptional need
As a result of the mandatory distribution on basic of the new service AMI TV in French, Francophone Canadians living with a visual impairment will have access to programming in their language that is particularly relevant to their needs. This service offers audiovisual content specifically adapted to the needs of people who are blind or partially sighted. A similar English-language service has been offered since 2009.
French-language minority communities will also be better reflected on television and have access to two additional French-language services. Nouveau TV5 will be distributed on a mandatory basis on the basic service across the country. It will offer programming devoted to diversity within the Canadian francophone community and official language minority communities.
The CRTC also granted a distribution order to ensure that ARTV is carried by all distributors. However, Canadians can choose whether to subscribe to this service.
These two orders are positive measures to foster the development of official language minority communities.
Citizens of the North will have better access to legislative debates as the service operated by the Legislative Assemblies of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories will be added to the basic service of satellite television subscribers in those two territories.
Renewal of existing distribution orders
Canadians living with visual disabilities will continue to have access to AMI-TV in English, AMI Audio and Canal M, as the CRTC renewed their mandatory distribution orders on the basic service of all distributors in the country.
The CRTC also renewed the mandatory distribution order for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). This is the only service in the country to exclusively offer content by and for Aboriginal peoples. As such, it contributes in an exceptional manner to Canadian expression and reflects attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity that would otherwise not be seen on television.
Finally, Canadians will continue to have access to the parliamentary debates and public affairs programming provided by Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC), as the CRTC renewed its mandatory distribution on the basic service of all distributors.
These orders are valid for five years.
Affordability of the basic service
The CRTC considered the need of consumers to have access to affordable television services. Each application was examined in order to ensure reasonable rates that will allow services to fulfill their mandate, without unduly increasing television subscribers’ bills. In doing so, the CRTC has imposed lower rates than were requested by four services: AMI TV in French, Canal M, APTN and Nouveau TV5. All the successful applications are for services operated by not-for-profit organizations.
Given its exceptional nature, the CRTC has set the bar very high for obtaining a mandatory distribution order. The CRTC’s policy requires that a service seeking such an order must clearly demonstrate its exceptional nature and that it achieves important public policy objectives under theBroadcasting Act.
The applications from the following services were denied, not having successfully demonstrated to the CRTC that they met the criteria for a mandatory distribution order:
- All Points Bulletin
- Canadian Punjabi Network
- Described Video Guide
- Dolobox TV
- Maximum Television Canada
- Starlight: The Canadian Movie Channel
- Sun News Network
- La télévision des ressources naturelles
- Vision TV
In addition, the mandatory distribution order on the basic service in French-language markets granted to Avis de recherche will expire in two years.
The CRTC today also issued a notice of consultation inviting comments from Canadians on a new approach regarding national news television services.
Today’s decision follows a proceeding that included a public hearing held from April 23 to May 2, 2013. The Commission received and considered over 135,000 interventions from Canadians regarding these applications.
The CRTC is an independent public authority that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada.