ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1998-11

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Public Notice CRTC 1998-11

  Ottawa, 11 February 1998
  The Commission's policy with respect to the distribution of free previews of pay television and specialty programming by licensees of broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs) was last reviewed by the Commission in 1987 (see Public Notice CRTC 1987-203 dated 11 September 1987). According to the policy, licensees are authorized to distribute such previews subject to certain provisions, including one that states that: "previews may not be exhibited during major national broadcasting rating periods such as those conducted by BBM and Nielsen".
  In the past, the scope and duration of such previews have varied. The most recent case involved the free preview of a package of programming services that included a number of Canadian specialty services licensed by the Commission in September 1996. This preview began in the fall of 1997 and ran for a period of approximately three months.
  A complaint regarding this latest preview was contained in a recent letter to the Commission by a television licensee. The licensee stated that, contrary to the provision noted above, the preview overlapped with the Fall 1997 national television rating period. It expressed concern about the impact of the preview on viewing behaviour, on the results obtained by the audience surveys and, ultimately, on the decisions made by advertisers regarding the purchase of television airtime.
  Although the Commission acknowledges these concerns, it also recognizes the importance placed on free previews by the providers of new specialty services and by the operators of BDUs, as a tool to allow consumers sufficient time to assess these new services. It notes, as well, the infrequent occurrence of previews related to the launch of such new services. A further consideration might reasonably be the extent to which audience survey results are already affected by the practice, common throughout the television industry, of strategically scheduling popular movies and specials during rating periods for the purpose of attracting audiences larger than would normally be the case.
  Given the above, as well as the length of time that the current policy has been in place without review and the many changes that have occurred within the Canadian broadcasting system during that same period, the Commission hereby calls for public comments on whether its policy concerning previews should be amended through removal of the provision that such previews not be exhibited during major national broadcasting rating periods.
  Comments should be submitted on or before Friday, 13 March 1998 and be addressed to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0N2. While receipt of comments by interested parties will not be acknowledged, the comments will be considered by the Commission and will form part of the public proceeding.
  Laura M. Talbot-Allan
Secretary General
  This document is available in alternative format upon request.
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