ARCHIVED -  Public Notice CRTC 1998-79

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ARCHIVED - Public Notice CRTC 1998-79 | CRTC

Public Notice

  Ottawa, 30 July 1998
  Public Notice CRTC 1998-79

Revised process for consideration of new English-language pay and specialty television applications

  1.  The Commission has decided to postpone the consideration of applications for new English-language pay and specialty television services until after the completion of a separate process to examine what appropriate licensing framework could be established for such services.


  2.  Following the 1996 pay and specialty services public hearing, the Commission announced that it did not intend to issue a call for further applications for services, but that it would consider applications on a case-by-case basis. After receiving a number of applications, the Commission issued Public Notice CRTC 1997-33, in which it announced that all applications proposing new pay and specialty services received and deemed complete before 30 September 1997 would be considered at a public hearing. A total of 50 English-language applications were received by the Commission.
  3.  Subsequently, in Public Notice CRTC 1997-33-2, the Commission announced that the public hearing would be postponed until no later than the first quarter of 1999. At that time, applicants were advised that amendments to applications would be accepted until 30 September 1998. The Commission hereby advises applicants for English-language services that the deadline for filing amendments to applications is no longer in effect.
  4.  In the same public notice, the Commission announced a moratorium on the addition of any new foreign services to the lists of eligible satellite services. This moratorium will continue to be in effect until further notice.
  5.  The decision set out in Public Notice CRTC 1997-33-2 to postpone the public hearing was taken in light of a number of factors, including: the emerging competitive environment; the evolving structure of the broadcasting industry; the Commission's September 1998 public hearing to review its approach to Canadian television programming; and the timeframe within which the cable industry will expand analog distribution capacity and/or introduce digital distribution technologies.
  6.  In order to ascertain the capacity of the cable industry to accommodate new services, the Commission required the licensees of all Class 1 cable systems with 20,000 or more subscribers to submit capacity reports with information on their analog channel capacity, detailed channel line-ups, proposed upgrades, and plans and timeframes for the deployment of digital technology. Reports were required to be filed by 31 January 1998, with updates to be submitted every three months thereafter until 31 August 1999.
  7.  The cable capacity reports, and the first updates, have now been received and examined by the Commission. Summaries have been placed on the public file for examination by interested parties and will continue to be updated to reflect subsequent reports as they are received.


  8.  The cable capacity reports indicate that, given the large number of licensed English-language services, most cable systems outside of Quebec have limited, if any, additional capacity. Inside Quebec, because fewer French-language services have been licensed, the capacity constraints are not generally as severe.
  9.  Plans for the deployment of digital distribution technology remain behind expectations, with only one major cable operator indicating that it expects to reach the threshold of 15% of subscribers receiving one or more programming services on a digital basis by September 1999. Standards for digital distribution are still evolving, creating further uncertainty about its implementation.
  10.  While alternative distribution services have been licensed and are in operation, the subscriber base for these alternative distributors remains limited.


  11.  Given these factors, the Commission has determined that, prior to re-scheduling a licensing hearing, the Commission will hold a public process to examine what appropriate licensing framework could be established for new pay and specialty services. A public notice setting out the timing of the process and a more detailed description of the issues to be addressed will be released in the fall of 1998. Issues are likely to include the extent to which the Access Rules should apply to new services, particularly in the context of channel capacity constraints; the viability of services licensed on a digital-only basis; and distributor participation in the ownership of pay and specialty services.
  12.  The Commission is confident that this process will result in a more clear delineation of the terms and conditions under which new pay and specialty services could be licensed in the emerging competitive environment.
  13.  The revised process described herein affects only applicants for English-language services, as well as the application for a service to be called "Le canal des nouvelles technologies/The New Technology Channel" which is competitive with two English-language applications. The Commission reiterates that the cable capacity reports indicate that channel capacity is not as significant an issue in Quebec. Applications for new French-language specialty services that were filed with the Commission by 30 September 1997, pursuant to Public Notice CRTC 1997-33, will be heard at a public hearing beginning 7 December 1998, as set out in Public Notice CRTC 1998-46.
  Laura M. Talbot-Allan
Secretary General
  This document is available in alternative format upon request.
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