ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 98-501

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Ottawa, 23 November 1998
Decision CRTC 98-501
Bell Satellite Services Inc. (formerly ExpressVu Inc.)
Across Canada - 199804331
Application processed by
Public Notice CRTC 1998-70
dated 23 July 1998
Summary of decision
The Commission approves the application for a licence amendment by Bell Satellite Services Inc. (Bell Satellite), licensee of a national direct to home (DTH) satellite distribution undertaking. The licence amendment authorizes Bell Satellite to make available to subscribers a second set of 4 U.S. commercial signals, one from each of the major U.S. television networks, and one non-commercial U.S. signal (U.S. "4+1" signals) from either the Eastern or the Pacific time zones. As with the first set of such signals, Bell Satellite will offer the second set as part of a discretionary package.
Interventions and reasons for decision
1. The Commission's current policy generally limits the number of non-Canadian conventional television services delivered by a broadcasting distribution undertaking to one set of the U.S "4+1"network signals. In approving this application for an exception to the policy, the Commission has taken into account the supporting intervention filed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) under the terms of an agreement that it has reached with Bell Satellite concerning compensation to local broadcasters. The terms of this agreement are addressed in more detail in Decision CRTC 98-500, also issued today. In that decision, the Commission approved Bell Satellite's application for temporary relief from conditions of licence that would otherwise require it, upon receipt of a request from a licensed Canadian television station, to carry out the simultaneous and non-simultaneous deletion of programming distributed to a subscriber. These requirements would apply where the subscriber is located within the station's Grade B contour (regional, over-the-air service contour), and where the deleted programming is identical to that broadcast by the station.
2. In its intervention to the present application, the CAB stated that the potential impact on local broadcasters of the carriage of a duplicate set of U.S. "4+1" signals would be mitigated by the following three factors set out in the terms of the agreement:
· Bell Satellite will, through the CAB, pay to affected broadcasters $0.25 per month for each DTH subscriber that takes a second set of U.S. "4+1"signals;
· Bell Satellite will be able to maximize simultaneous substitution between the Canadian and U.S. network signals because duplicate U.S. network signals will be sourced from the same time zones (Pacific and Eastern) as the Canadian conventional television signals it is carrying; and
· Bell Satellite will carry out non-simultaneous substitution to further maximize program substitution opportunities between the duplicate signals and Canadian signals it distributes.
3. The Commission is satisfied that the agreement between Bell Satellite and the CAB provides an appropriate degree of protection to local broadcasters to offset any potential harm resulting from the provision of a second set of U.S. "4+1" signals to subscribers. Furthermore, the Commission considers that approval of this application is warranted in light of the additional benefits that would result, including maximum opportunities for simultaneous substitution and additional choice to subscribers in relation to time zone sensitive signals.
4. The Commission has also considered the supporting interventions submitted by the National Broadcasting Reading Service Inc. and Len and Sharon Nickel. Moreover, the Commission has considered the comments raised in the interventions filed by the Specialty and Premium Television Association (SPTV) and the Canadian Cable Television Association (CCTA), as well as Bell Satellite's replies.
5. The SPTV suggested that simultaneous substitution rights be extended to specialty television services. The Commission notes that this issue has been raised by parties in the Canadian Television Policy Review, initiated by Public Notice CRTC 1998-44. Accordingly, the Commission considers that it would be more appropriate to consider this issue in the context of the policy review process.
6. The CCTA argued that, if the Commission were to approve this application, it should extend the same flexibility to all broadcasting distribution undertakings by amending its generally applicable U.S. "4+1" policy. The Commission notes that such a change would require a separate public process to examine the issue fully. In view of the generally limited availability of capacity on most cable systems, the Commission does not consider that such a process is warranted at this time.
Secretary General
This decision is to be appended to the licence.
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