In a revision to its regulatory framework for direct-to-home
(DTH) satellite distribution undertakings, the CRTC has required DTH providers
to carry additional local television stations, although the nature
of the obligation varies among providers.
For its part, DTH provider Bell TV will be required to carry a
fixed number of additional local televisions stations by August 31,
2012, consistent with the benefits proposal that its parent
company, BCE Inc., made in connection with its application to
acquire effective control of major private broadcasting ownership
In that proceeding, BCE proposed to provide satellite carriage
for 43 local television services on its DTH affiliate, Bell TV, in
addition to the local television service that it already
carries. The additional channel capacity was to be made
available through conversion to MPEG-4 set-top decoder boxes.
In accepting this proposal, the
CRTC required that the 43 additional stations be local stations
eligible for the LPIF, non-branded community-based television
services, independent stations in markets converting to digital
transmission, or other local stations that provide the LPIF minimum
amount of weekly local programming.
Rather than impose a similar fixed channel requirement on
competing DTH provider Shaw Direct, the Commission indicated that
it would impose a condition of licence on Shaw Direct that requires
it to distribute by January 1, 2013, all conventional television
stations that are eligible for funding from the Local Programming Improvement
Fund (LPIF). Essentially, LPIF-eligible services
are conventional services in non-metropolitan markets that meet
minimum weekly broadcast requirements for local programming
of 7 hours, for English-language stations, and 5 hours, for
French-language stations (or as otherwise required in their
licences). The most recently revised LPIF eligibility list
includes 78 stations. Shaw Direct's already
carries 69 local stations, including a number of LPIF services, so
it is difficult to gauge how many incremental new services will be
For some time, regulations have required DTH
providers to carry one affiliate from each nationally-licensed
television network, five Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/ Radio
Canada stations in each official language, one station per province
for each major television ownership group, two Atlantic stations
from each major ownership group and two stations from each of the
other Canadian broadcasting ownership groups. At the hearing
to consider revisions to the DTH satellite distribution policy in
November 2010, Bell TV indicated that at that time these
obligations required the carriage of some 55 local stations.
Notwithstanding these minimum carriage requirements, as a matter
of practice, both DTH operators have tended to carry additional
local services to remain attractive to local audiences.
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