Canadian independent specialty channels urge CRTC to preserve diversity of television system



    Joint submission recommends putting independents in digital "basic"
    package to offset impact of concentration, integration

    TORONTO, Oct. 23 /CNW/ - The diversity of the Canadian television system
depends on preserving a place for small, independent specialty services,
according to a submission to the federal broadcast regulator filed jointly by
a group of these channels.
    The broadcasters have called upon the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to require that cable companies and other
broadcast distribution undertakings (BDUs) continue to provide a mandatory
"basic" package in the digital television universe - one in which independent
Canadian channels have "must-carry" status.
    The members of the independent specialty services group are: the
Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Channel Zero Inc., Ethnic Channels
Group Limited, Fairchild Television/Talentvision, Stornoway Communications LP,
S-VOX Trust and TV5 Québec Canada.
    The independent broadcasters made their joint submission as part of the
CRTC's review of BDUs and specialty television.
    As the result of a CRTC ruling in July 2007, several channels operated by
members of this group will lose their basic status in the digital universe -
an outcome that will significantly reduce revenues and may put their survival
at risk.
    In their submission, the broadcasters note that the CRTC has licenced
independent channels to meet the needs of under-served audiences and address
the Broadcasting Act's goal of diversity in Canadian television programming.
    In a television system increasingly dominated by "a few large,
horizontally integrated broadcasting companies" and "even fewer vertically
integrated large BDUs," the submission says, the presence of independent
services is more essential than ever to ensure the continued provision of
diversity.
    "There is a link between the diversity or plurality of ownership and the
diversity or plurality of voices," the submission says.
    Said Bill Roberts, President and CEO of S-VOX Trust (which operates the
multi-faith analog service VisionTV as well as two digital channels): "The
vast majority of Canadians receive their television services through a small
number of very large BDUs, some of which also have channels of their own that
they are committed to protecting. The playing field is tilted against
independent niche channels, which lack the resources and negotiating clout of
large broadcasting conglomerates."
    If independents cease to be viable, Mr. Roberts added, the breadth and
variety of programming available to Canadians could be greatly diminished. In
the digital universe, he cautioned, consumers may find themselves paying
higher prices for a less diverse offering.
    The CRTC is slated to commence its public hearing on specialty services
and BDUs in February 2008.





For further information:

For further information: David Todd, Media Relations Manager, S-VOX
Trust, Phone: (416) 368-3194 ext 207, Email: dtodd@s-vox.com

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