ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1998-73

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ARCHIVED - Public Notice CRTC 1998-73 | CRTC

Public Notice

  Ottawa, 23 July 1998
  Public Notice CRTC 1998-73

Amendments to the Commission's Policy concerning the distribution of free previews of Pay Television and Specialty Programming during major national broadcasting rating periods

  1.  In Public Notice CRTC 1998-11 dated 11 February 1998, the Commission called for comments on its policy prohibiting the distribution of free previews of pay television and specialty programming during major national broadcasting rating periods.
  2.  The original policy, set out in Public Notice CRTC 1987-203, includes the following principal restrictions on the distribution of unscrambled previews of pay and specialty programming network services:
  ·  the previews may not be exhibited during major national broadcasting rating periods such as those conducted by BBM and Nielsen;
  ·  programming distributed during these periods may only consist of programs that are part of the pay television or specialty programming services actually offered to subscribers;
  ·  the scheduling and content of such programming must meet the same standards that currently apply to conventional broadcasters;
  ·  the distribution of such previews may not cause the removal of any Canadian service that is currently being offered; and
  ·  the previews may be distributed on the channels normally used to distribute the Canadian pay television or specialty programming services or on any other special programming or currently unused channel, other than the community channel or the special programming channel used for the distribution of promotional material (more commonly known as the Barker channel).
  3.  The Commission issued Public Notice CRTC 1998-11 in response to a complaint to the effect that, contrary to the policy, free previews were being distributed during a major rating period during the launch of new services in the Fall of 1997. The notice recognized the concern expressed by the complainant about the impact of free previews on viewing behaviour, and, ultimately, on the purchasing decisions of television advertisers.
  4.  In that notice, the Commission also noted that the policy had been in place for 10 years without benefit of review, and recognized the importance placed on the infrequent use of free previews by the licensees of new specialty services as well as by the operators of broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs).
  5.  Finally, it noted both the common practice in the television industry of scheduling popular movies and specials during rating periods, as well as the significant recent changes within the Canadian broadcasting system.
  Comments Received
  6.  In response to the public notice, the Commission received ten submissions from cable operators, private broadcasters, industry associations and other interested parties.
  7.  Some parties preferred to amend the policy by allowing previews to be exhibited during major national broadcasting rating periods. In general, these parties stressed the importance of free previews in the marketing of new services, and noted that such previews occur infrequently. In addition, several parties commented that methods of surveying have changed since the policy was introduced and the prohibition is no longer appropriate.
  8.  Other comments favoured the retention of the policy, either in its current form, or with a specific exception for the launch of pay and specialty services.
  9.  Those favouring retention of the current policy generally noted the potential for distortions in audience data as a result of free previews distributed during major rating periods and the importance of this data to advertising buying decisions. Parties in favour of retaining the policy argued that these distortions affect the ability to attract advertising revenue, and are not corrected in markets lacking continuous measurement. The result is that broadcasters and buyers alike must use anomalous data until the next survey is published.
  10.  The original policy was developed in response to concern for the impact on television licensees' ratings that even the infrequent distribution of free previews could have. However, the Commission also has a long-standing practice of providing, to the extent possible, support for the successful launch of new pay and specialty services it has licensed.
  11.  The Commission recognizes that television stations need an accurate measurement of their audiences, and that previews broadcast during national rating periods tend to distort such measurement. At the same time, however, the Commission recognizes the importance of allowing BDUs to market new services in a manner that will ensure that potential subscribers are exposed to them.
  12.  The Commission's conclusion reflects a balance of these competing concerns. After careful consideration of the issues raised by all parties, the Commission:
  a)  In general reiterates its policy prohibiting the distribution of free previews of pay television and specialty programming during major national broadcasting rating periods contained in Public Notice CRTC 1987-203.
  b)  However, free previews of pay television and specialty programming during major national rating periods will be permitted, but only in respect of the initial launch of newly-licensed pay television or specialty services.
  Laura M. Talbot-Allan
Secretary General
  This document is available in alternative format upon request.
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