CRTC requires DTH providers to carry more local television services

May 5, 2011

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 group CTVglobemedia. 

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 carried

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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