ARCHIVED - Decision CRTC 2000-460

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Decision CRTC 2000-460

Ottawa, 14 December 2000

Rogers Broadcasting Limited (OBCI)

Across Canada — 200009284

14 August 2000 Public Hearing
National Capital Region



The Biography 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 Biography Channel" (Biography). The Commission noted at that time that reasons, terms and conditions of the new licence would follow at a later date.


Biography will be devoted to programming of a biographical nature. As noted in Public Notice CRTC 2000-171 issued today, Biography 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.


Biography will be a unique new service that will significantly increase the programming diversity available to Canadians, by offering specialty programming that chronicles the real-life stories of Canada's leading personalities and intriguing people from around the world. In Public Notice 2000-171, the Commission discusses the general criteria for the approval of this and other applications for new specialty services.


The licensee of Biography will be a company to be incorporated whose voting interest will be held by wholly-owned subsidiaries of Rogers Broadcasting Limited, and Shaw Communications Inc. and by A&E Canada, Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of the Arts and Entertainment Television Networks (AETN) in the U.S.


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


Biography will offer a national English-language specialty television service consisting of entertaining and informative biographical and related programming. The programming will be of interest to viewers who desire biographical programming, devoted to the examination of interesting lives. The program categories identified by Biography as forming the service's content are set out in a condition of licence found in the appendix to this decision.


According to the licensee's plans, the new service will include limited amounts of documentaries and feature films, all of which will be linked to an important aspect of a biographical subject. Documentaries will represent no more than 10% of the programming and no more than 20% of each week will be devoted to feature films. Conditions of licence setting out these limitations are found in the appendix to this decision.


In prime time, the schedule of Biography will be built around a variety of themes. Daytime programming will match biographies with related documentaries and feature films, to create a multi-dimensional view of various biographical subjects. On Sunday mornings, three-hour blocks of programming will offer biographies of interest to younger viewers.


Biography does not intend to use a traditional program "wheel". Instead, the programming broadcast between 6:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon will be immediately repeated between noon and 6:00 p.m. A separate block of programming will be broadcast from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. These programs will be repeated from 10 p.m until 2 a.m., and again from 2:00 a.m. until 6:00 a.m.


Through a program licence agreement, the non-Canadian programming to be broadcast on Biography will be almost exclusively acquired from A&E, the U.S. based specialty service owned by AETN, one of the shareholders in Biography.


Contributions to diversity


The Canadian broadcasting system will be significantly enhanced by the addition of Biography to the digital environment. It will be a unique new Canadian service, that builds upon a recognized and successful American brand. Currently, the availability of existing biography programming is limited to occasional broadcasts on some conventional and discretionary television services.




Canadian content


The licensee made a commitment to broadcast a minimum of 25% Canadian content from 6 a.m. to midnight, and a minimum of 25% from 6 p.m. to midnight, in the first year of the licence term. Those minimums will increase by 5% each year until the fifth year of the term. For the fifth year and the remainder of the licence term, Biography's commitment will be 50% of the day and 50% of the evening hours. A condition of licence setting out the levels of Canadian programming required annually can be found in the appendix to this decision.


Following discussions at the hearing, Biography further committed to broadcast at least 135 hours of original, first-window Canadian programs over the licence term.


Canadian programming expenditures


Beginning in the year following the first year of operation, the licensee will expend a yearly minimum of 40% of its gross advertising, infomercial and subscription revenues on Canadian programming. The licensee estimates that, in accordance with this formula, it will spend almost $23 million over the licence term, to acquire or produce Canadian programs. 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 licensee estimates that 95% of its Canadian programming expenditures will go to independent producers, representing approximately $14.8 million in new funding. According to Biography, over its first licence term, it will acquire up to 2,450 hours of programming from independent producers.


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 licensee plans to initially offer an enhanced website, with plans for true television interactivity in the near future. The Biography website will parallel the programming broadcast on Biography, and include opportunities for viewers to provide feedback. The licensee stated that "Both TV program content and fully interactive features of the Web site will be accessible to viewers on TV sets."


Both Rogers Broadcasting Limited (Rogers), and Shaw Communications Inc. (Shaw) are leading distributors of programming in Canada, and each has made substantial investments to upgrade their facilities to ensure that their networks are "two-way ready". Both Rogers and Shaw have indicated that they are prepared to deploy a new generation of set-top boxes in the near future, with plans to provide Internet access on television within the next 12 to 18 months.




Ownership and synergies


The three shareholders of the company to be incorporated will be Rogers (40%), Shaw (40%) and A&E Canada, Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of A&E Television Networks (20%). Rogers will be the managing partner, responsible for strategic, financial, sales, development, operating and regulatory services. Biography will use the existing services of Rogers' multi-lingual television station CFMT-TV in Toronto, and have access to operating synergies with Rogers' entire group of companies.


AETN will provide Biography with virtually all of its non-Canadian programming, as well as the use of the recognized A&E "brand" including trademarks, logos and designs.


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 programming supply agreement; unanimous Shareholders' Agreement, management agreement or any other pertinent agreement, for review and approval by the Commission.


Other matters




In its business plan, the licensee proposed a monthly wholesale rate of $0.40 per subscriber throughout the licence term, and a three-month free trial period.


Service to the hearing-impaired


With respect to service for the hearing-impaired, Biography plans to install a TTY (teletypewriter), and to closed caption at least 50% of all programming during the first year of operation. That amount will increase gradually, and by the seventh year of operation, a minimum of 90% of all programming on Biography will be closed captioned. The Commission expects the licensee to fulfil its commitments.


Service to the visually-impaired


With respect to the provision of descriptive video service (DVS) for the visually- impaired, the licensee indicated that wherever available and applicable, it will acquire programming with DVS. The enhanced programming will be available to audiences through the digital set-top box. Rogers indicated that it intends to consult regularly with the National Broadcast Reading Service to understand the evolution of DVS and to do everything possible to communicate to subscribers the availability of this feature.




The Commission requires Biography 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 Commission is satisfied that Biography will provide informative and entertaining, high quality programming reflecting the successes and challenges of Canadians and others, in an attractive, high demand programming genre.


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 2000-460


The licence for the national English-language programming undertaking (specialty television service) known as The Biography 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 consisting of fact-based biographical and related programming.

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


Long-form documentary




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


Public service announcements


Theatrical feature films aired on TV


Infomercials, promotional and corporate videos

  • No more than 10% of all programming broadcast during each broadcast week shall be drawn from category 2b.
  • No more than 20% of all programming broadcast during each broadcast week shall be drawn from category 7d.

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 40% of the previous broadcast year's gross advertising, infomercial 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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