ARCHIVED - Decision CRTC 2000-455

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Decision CRTC 2000-455

Ottawa, 14 December 2000

Corus Entertainment/The Canadian Documentary Channel (OBCI)
Across Canada — 200007634

14 August 2000 Public Hearing
National Capital Region


The Canadian Documentary Channel - a new specialty channel


On 24 November 2000, the Commission made a decision to issue a licence for a new national English-language Category 1 specialty television service to be called "The Canadian Documentary Channel". The Commission noted at that time that reasons, terms and conditions of the new licence would follow at a later date.


The Canadian Documentary Channel will specialize in long-form documentaries and series. As noted in Public Notice CRTC 2000-171 issued today, the Canadian Documentary Channel and 20 other new digital specialty services will be made available to subscribers by all distributors who offer programming to the public using digital technology and by some cable operators who serve smaller markets using analog technology. The licence, when issued, will expire 31 August 2007.


The Canadian broadcasting system will be enhanced by the addition of the Canadian Documentary Channel, because no service dedicated to the broadcast of long-form documentary programming currently exists in Canada. In addition, the service will provide an important window for the exhibition of a vast array of high quality documentary programming from the libraries of the CBC and the National Film Board (NFB). In Public Notice 2000-171, the Commission discusses the general criteria for the approval of this and other applications for new specialty services.


Corus Entertainment Inc. will own 53% of the voting interest in the Canadian Documentary Channel; the CBC will hold 29%; the NFB 14%; and four different production companies 1% each.


Terms and conditions of licence common to all of the new Category 1 specialty services are set out in an appendix to Public Notice 2000-171. Conditions specific to this application can be found in the appendix to this decision.






Nature of service

The Canadian Documentary Channel will provide a national English-language specialty television service that will offer the highly sought-after programming genre of documentaries. A limited amount of drama programming will be used, primarily in simulations, re-creations or dramatizations of events that occurred prior to the advent of photography. The program categories identified by the Canadian Documentary Channel as forming the service’s content are set out in a condition of licence found in the appendix to this decision.

The focus of the new service’s programming will be placed on how filmmakers present reality, and the challenges they face. The point of view taken, and the reasons for the selection of content will be the focus, not the subject itself. The licensee anticipates a large and serious audience for long-form, non-fiction narrative, independent of subject matter.


The licensee stated that its programming plans for the Canadian Documentary Channel will ensure the presence of cultural and racial minorities and aboriginal people, portraying to its audience the reality of a new Canada. The programming will reflect the widest possible spectrum of communities, interests and issues. The public face of the channel, through the choice of its on-air hosts, will also exhibit this diversity.


Contributions to diversity


With its primary focus on the under-represented genre of documentary programming, the Canadian Documentary Channel will contribute to increased diversity in the Canadian broadcasting system since no other service currently concentrates on such programming. The new channel will exhibit new works and nurture new filmmakers, with an emphasis on cultural diversity. The new service has the potential to build bridges across linguistic differences through its commitment to offer subtitled French-language documentaries to English-language audiences. It also seeks to break down regional barriers by providing a national stage for regional stories and perspectives.


Canadian content


The licensee made a commitment to broadcast a minimum of 66% Canadian content from 6 a.m. to midnight, and a minimum of 66% from 6 p.m. to midnight, in each of the first six years of the licence term. This amount will increase in the final year of the term, to 75% both daily and in the evening period. A condition of licence specifying the level required each year is set out in the appendix to this decision.


Following discussions at the hearing, the licensee further committed to broadcast a minimum of 511 hours of original Canadian programming over the licence term. This original programming will be a mix of new programs from the CBC and NFB, as well as commissioned work from independent producers.




Canadian programming expenditures


Beginning in the year following the first year of operation, the Canadian Documentary Channel will expend a yearly minimum of 47% of its gross advertising, infomercial and subscription revenues on Canadian programming for broadcast on the new service. The licensee estimates that, in accordance with this formula, it will spend over $28 million over the licence term, to acquire or produce Canadian programs, primarily documentaries. A formula for the calculation of the amounts required is set out in a condition of licence, found in the appendix to this decision.


Independent production


The Canadian Documentary Channel will support independent producers by spending at least 50% of its annual acquisitions budget on programs from such producers, representing almost 200 hours per year of such material. The licensee will commission at least 26 hours of new programming each year from independent producers, representing an expenditure of almost $5 million during the first licence term. The licensee indicated that these commitments would exclude the service’s shareholders. The Commission notes the licensee’s commitments, and as set out in Public Notice 2000-171, all Category 1 services will be subject to a standard condition of licence in this regard.




The Canadian Documentary Channel will have a dedicated website that will support the new service, including schedule information, show synopses, e-mail feedback and other features of interest to the site’s users.


Corus is pursuing a strategy that will utilize both digital television and new digital media, when technology allows. It follows developments of this nature through membership in the Advanced Television Enhancement Forum, a cross-industry alliance of broadcasters, distributors, and manufacturers of set-top boxes, computers and consumer electronics.


Ownership and synergies


As noted above, the Canadian Documentary Channel will be owned by Corus, together with the CBC, the NFB and four other shareholders. Corus is affiliated with Shaw Communications Inc., which also has extensive holdings in Canadian broadcasting and many years of experience in operating Canadian specialty services. Corus will provide advertising, sales, marketing, affiliate relations, and administrative services.


The CBC will provide overall network operations, master control and satellite signal distribution for the Canadian Documentary Channel. The CBC and the NFB will provide approximately 200 and 100 hours per year of programming respectively. The new service will have ready access to the vast program inventories of both the CBC and the NFB.




The four production shareholders are Barna-Alper Production, Galafilm, OMNI Film Productions, and CineNova Productions. Each of these producers has a record of producing high quality documentaries and documentary series for every broadcaster in Canada. The Canadian Documentary Channel will benefit from access to programs from these producers, all of which are all building global reputations as creators of some of the world’s most provocative programs.


Filing requirements


This authority will only be effective and the Commission will only issue the licence when the applicant has clearly demonstrated that it is a "qualified corporation" as defined in the Direction to the CRTC (Ineligibility of non-Canadians) and is eligible to hold a licence. Consequently, the applicant is required to file all relative incorporation documents (certificate and articles, by-laws, etc.), copies of the Shareholders’ Agreement, management agreement or any other pertinent agreement, for review and approval by the Commission.


Other matters


The Commission notes the licensee’s commitment to donate, beginning in the fourth year of operation, a minimum of $100,000 in scholarships yearly, and the intention to increase that amount to $200,000 annually, beginning in the sixth year of operation. The scholarships are intended to fund a practical mix of hands-on experience and advanced education.




In its business plan, the licensee proposed a monthly wholesale rate of $0.22 per subscriber, throughout the licence term.


Service to the hearing-impaired


The licensee committed to install a TTY (teletypewriter) for the use of the hearing-impaired, and to ensure that 50% of the programming on the Canadian Documentary Channel will be closed captioned in the first year of operation. That level will increase gradually, and by the final year of the licence term, 90% of the programming will be closed captioned. The Commission notes these commitments, and expects the licensee to fulfil them.


Service to the visually-impaired


With respect to descriptive video service (DVS), the licensee stated that the CBC has already provided three DVS broadcasts, produced as a co-operative venture between the CBC and AudioVision Canada, a division of National Broadcast Reading Service, which provided the DVS material free of charge to the Corporation. The Canadian Documentary Channel will explore with AudioVision how DVS programs can be incorporated into the new service’s schedule on a regular basis.




The Commission requires the Canadian Documentary Channel to be technically equipped to deliver described video programming and to fulfil the commitments included in the application. In addition, the Commission encourages the licensee to provide audio description of visual information wherever possible, and to provide described video programming as outlined in Public Notice 2000-171.


Employment equity


The Commission notes that this licensee will be subject to the Employment Equity Act that came into effect on 24 October 1996 and therefore will file reports concerning employment equity with Human Resources Development Canada.




The Canadian Documentary Channel will offer a unique opportunity for Canadian viewers to examine issues and events through the medium of documentary film, a genre in which Canadian filmmakers are acknowledged international leaders. The partners in this endeavour have presented a reasonable and realistic business plan, as well as a wealth of documentary tradition on which to build.


Secretary General



This decision is to be appended to the licence. It is available in alternative format upon request, and may also be examined at the following Internet site:



Appendix to Decision CRTC 2000-455


The licence for the national English-language programming undertaking (specialty television service) known as The Canadian Canadian Documentary Channel will be subject to the following conditions, as well as those set out both in Public Notice CRTC 2000-171, and in the licence to be issued.


Nature of service


1. (a) The licensee shall provide a national English-language Category 1 specialty television service to broadcast documentary programs on a 24-hour per day basis. Programming will cover the full range of documentary experience but will not include live coverage of news or sports events.

  1. The programming must be drawn exclusively from the following categories, as set out in Schedule I to the Specialty Services Regulations, 1990:


Analysis and interpretation


Theatrical feature films aired on TV


Long-form documentary


Other drama


Reporting and actualities




Specials, mini-series, made-for-TV feature films


Public service announcements (PSAs)

  • No more than 6 hours during each broadcast week shall be devoted to material from category 7.

Exhibition of Canadian programs


2. In each broadcast year or portion thereof, the licensee shall devote to the distribution of Canadian programs the following percentages of the broadcast day and the evening broadcast period:


Broadcast day

Evening broadcast period


Year one




Year two




Year three




Year four




Year five




Year six




Year seven




Expenditures on Canadian programs


3. In accordance with the Commission’s position on Canadian programming expenditures as set out in Public Notices CRTC 1992-28,1993-93 and 1993-174, except as amended below:


(a) In each broadcast year following the first year of operation, the licensee shall expend on Canadian programs not less than 47% of the previous broadcast year’s gross advertising, infomercials and subscription revenues;




(b) In each broadcast year following the first year of operation, excluding the final year, the licensee may expend an amount on Canadian programs that is up to ten percent (10%) less than the minimum required expenditure for that year set out in or calculated in accordance with this condition; in such case, the licensee shall expend in the next year of the licence term, in addition to the minimum required expenditure for that year, the full amount of the previous year’s underexpenditure;


(c) In each broadcast year following the first year of operation, where the licensee expends an amount on Canadian programs that is greater than the minimum required expenditure for that year set out in or calculated in accordance with this condition, the licensee may deduct:


(i) from the minimum required expenditure for the next year of the licence term, an amount not exceeding the amount of the previous year’s overexpenditure; and


(ii) from the minimum required expenditure for any subsequent year of the licence term, an amount not exceeding the difference between the overexpenditure and any amount deducted under paragraph (i) above.


(d) Notwithstanding paragraphs (b) and (c) above, during the licence term, the licensee shall expend on Canadian programs, at a minimum, the total of the minimum required expenditures set out in or calculated in accordance with the licensee’s condition of licence.




The term "broadcast day" shall have the same meaning as that set out in the Television Broadcasting Regulations, 1987.


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