ARCHIVED - Public Notice CRTC 2001-46

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Public Notice CRTC 2001-46


Ottawa, 27 April 2001


Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) - Call for comments on possible change to the regime governing the carriage of this service by broadcasting distribution undertakings 


CPAC is a satellite-to-cable programming undertaking owned by members of the Canadian cable distribution industry. It is funded by its network affiliates (which currently include 84 licensed cable television systems and two national direct-to-home satellite distributors), and operated on a not-for-profit basis. CPAC is not available over the air. The service, which includes television coverage of the proceedings of the House of Commons and complementary public affairs programming, is instead distributed across Canada by broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs). The service is available in three audio modes, namely English, French, and "floor" sound (or language of origination).


CPAC is among the services that, by current regulation, may be carried by BDUs. Its distribution is thus not mandatory. When carried, however, it must generally be distributed as part of the basic service. All licensed distributors are subject to this requirement except those operating Class 3 distribution undertakings.


On 12 February 2001, the Commission issued Public Notice CRTC 2001-25 entitled Achieving a better balance: Report on French-language broadcasting services in a minority environment. Among the many matters discussed within this report was the distribution of CPAC and, in particular, the fact that, when CPAC is distributed, it is very often in its English-language version. The Commission's report concluded with a list of recommendations and determinations, including the following two statements addressed specifically to the distribution of CPAC:


Concerning distribution of CPAC the Commission expects distributors to provide this service in the majority language in any given market, and also to offer the SAP signal in the minority language where the technology being used makes this possible.


Moreover, the Commission intends to examine the issue of CPAC's distribution further and will shortly initiate a separate process to determine whether the distribution status of CPAC should be changed, in light of its importance in making the proceedings of the House of Commons available to Canadians.


The term SAP mentioned in the first of the above recommendations is an acronym for, variously, the second or secondary audio programming signal. Distribution undertakings equipped with stereo generators may transmit a SAP signal as a sub-carrier of the audio portion of a television signal. A fuller discussion of SAP and its potential use in the distribution of the CPAC service follows later in this notice.


This notice initiates the separate process referred to in the second of the above recommendations. In the following sections of this notice, the Commission briefly traces CPAC's evolution, presents the data it has on hand regarding CPAC's distribution, and examines the factors affecting the extent of that distribution. The notice then calls for public comment on what change to the current regulatory regime would be both reasonable and effective in ensuring the broadest possible distribution of the service, in both official languages, to BDU subscribers across Canada.




Televised coverage of the proceedings of the House of Commons first became available in the fall of 1977. From 1979 to 1991, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was responsible for the national distribution of this coverage. It was delivered by cable undertakings to their subscribers on what were termed special programming channels. Cable Public Affairs Channel Inc., under the ownership of members of the cable industry, assumed responsibility for distributing this programming to BDUs in 1992.


In Public Notice CRTC 1992-6, the Commission issued an order exempting from licensing requirements any entity, such as CPAC, carrying on a broadcasting undertaking that provides a programming service consisting of coverage of the proceedings of the House of Commons, including its various committees. The exemption criteria specified, among other things, that the service must be made available to BDUs throughout Canada without charge, and must include "gavel to gavel" coverage of the House of Commons proceedings.


CPAC remains exempt from licensing requirements with respect to those aspects of its programming service that relate to coverage of the proceedings of the House of Commons. In Decision CRTC 93-635, however, the Commission licensed CPAC to carry on a satellite-to-cable programming undertaking for the purpose of producing and distributing public affairs programming to complement its House of Commons coverage. This complementary programming includes long form, unedited coverage of public proceedings such as those of Royal Commissions, task forces or special committees of inquiry, federal-provincial conferences, and proceedings of federal regulatory agencies. CPAC gives priority to the proceedings of the House of Commons, as it is required to do under CPAC's agreement with the Speaker of the House. CPAC's licence was renewed for a full term by Decision CRTC 95-22, and expires 31 August 2002.


CPAC's current distribution


As mentioned earlier, BDUs are not required to carry CPAC. If they choose to distribute the service, however, it must generally be carried as part of the basic service. This requirement does not apply to Class 3 licensees.


At the time CPAC assumed responsibility for distributing the proceedings of the House of Commons, the company's owners did not request mandatory distribution of the service, nor did the Commission require such distribution. The channel capacity available to distribution undertakings to add services was then, as it is now, very much an issue, particularly on analog.


Nevertheless, under the current regulations, more than 7.3 million households representing 95% of all cable television subscribers now have access to CPAC and one or more of its three audio feeds (Source: Mediastats; September 2000). According to data gathered by CPAC, 8% of Canadian subscribers receive two separate video channels of CPAC, one in French and the other in English. The service is also delivered to the approximately 1.2 million subscribers of the two direct-to-home (DTH) satellite distribution companies, and those of several multipoint distribution systems (MDS).


With respect to cable specifically, the data indicate that upwards of 99.6% of the subscribers of Class 1 cable distribution undertakings (generally those having 6,000 or more subscribers) receive CPAC's service. Most often, however, the language of the principal audio feed is English. Mediastats reports that, of all Class 1 cable subscribers, only 26.5% receive the French-language feed of CPAC as their principal audio feed. In the case of Class 2 cable undertakings (generally those having more than 2,000, but fewer that 6,000 subscribers), CPAC is available to 88.8% of all subscribers in one or more of its three available audio feeds. However, only 17.3% of Class 2 subscribers are reported as receiving the service in the French language. The parallel statistics for Class 3 cable undertakings (generally those with fewer than 2,000 subscribers) are 59.5% and 18.6%.


According to CPAC's research, 37% of Canadian cable subscribers who receive CPAC in the official language of the majority (as the principal audio signal accompanying CPAC's video signal), also have access to a separate audio feed in the official language of the minority. This separate feed might be either on a SAP channel or on the audio (radio) programming service offered by their BDU.


In order to distribute a SAP signal on a single channel, a cable company might incur an upgrade cost of as little as $500. This relatively small expense assumes that the system is already equipped with a high-quality stereo generator. Otherwise, a cable operator could face an equipment upgrade of between $3,000 and $5,000 per channel to enable the distribution of a stereo signal.


Based on the evidence presented to the Commission in the consultations leading up to publication of its report, there are many communities that are home to sizeable second official language minorities, most particularly of Francophones, who either do not have access to CPAC's feed in their language, or who remain unaware of its availability on a SAP channel or as part of an audio programming service offering.


SAP signals are receivable in the home using television sets or VCR units that are equipped with internal SAP decoders. Stand-alone SAP decoders are also available. A subscriber with the appropriate equipment may select a SAP channel and route it to the speaker or speakers of the television set. Although television manufacturers are not obliged to equip sets with SAP decoders, they have been added to many sets since the early 90s. Current estimates are that some 50% of Canadian homes have equipment capable of receiving SAP channels.


Matters for consideration


With this as background, the Commission seeks to benefit from public input on the following questions, and on any other matter that parties may deem relevant to the carriage of CPAC by BDUs:

  • What should be the distribution status of CPAC? For example, should it be mandatory to carry the service on an analog channel in the official language of the majority of any given community?
  • Should carriage of the service in the official language of the minority of any given community also be a regulatory requirement? Alternatively, is the expectation set out by the Commission in PN 2001-25 sufficient to accomplish the Commission's objectives?
  • If carriage of CPAC in the official language of the minority is made mandatory, how should it be distributed? Would carriage of the audio feed on a SAP channel be sufficient, or should it be given its own, separate video channel (i.e. should two video channels be dedicated to the distribution of CPAC)? If carriage on a SAP channel is sufficient, what onus should be placed on distributers and CPAC to make subscribers aware of the availability of the service in this mode, and to educate subscribers concerning how to access the signal?
  • If CPAC in the official language of the minority is to be given its own video channel, should it be on an analog or on a digital channel? Should it be distributed as a discretionary service or should it be accorded a distribution status equivalent to that now generally given the service when distributed in the official language of the majority (i.e. on an analog channel of the basic service)?
  • Should all types and classes of BDUs generally be made subject to the same regulatory requirements with respect to the distribution of CPAC?

Call for comments


The Commission invites comments that address the issues and questions set out in this notice. As a first phase, the Commission will accept comments that it receives on or before 28 May 2001


This will be followed by a second written process to allow any party to file a reply to a comment filed with the Commission during the first phase. The Commission will accept all such replies that it receives on or before 27 June 2001.


The Commission will not formally acknowledge comments. It will, however, fully consider all comments and they will form part of the public record of the proceeding, provided that the procedures for filing set out below have been followed.


Procedures for filing comments


Interested parties can file their comments on paper or electronically. Submissions longer than five pages should include a summary.


Parties wishing to file their comments on paper should send them to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, K1A 0N2.


Parties wishing to file electronic versions of their comments can do so by email or on diskette. The Commission email address is 


Electronic submissions should be in the HTML format. As an alternative, those making submissions may use "Microsoft Word" for text and "Microsoft Excel" for spreadsheets.


Please number each paragraph of your submission. In addition, please enter the line ***End of document*** following the last paragraph. This will help the Commission verify that the document has not been damaged during transmission.


The Commission will make comments filed in electronic form available on its web site at in the official language and format in which they are submitted. This will make it easier for members of the public to consult the documents.


The Commission also encourages interested parties to monitor the public examination file (and/or the Commission's web site) for additional information that they may find useful when preparing their comments.


Examination of public comments and related documents at the following Commission offices during normal business hours


Central Building
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
1 Promenade du Portage, Room G-5
Hull, Quebec K1A 0N2
Tel: (819) 997-2429 - TDD: 994-0423
Fax: (819) 994-0218


Bank of Commerce Building
1809 Barrington Street
Suite 1007
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3K8
Tel: (902) 426-7997 - TDD: 426-6997
Fax: (902) 426-2721


405 de Maisonneuve Blvd. East
2nd Floor, Suite B2300
Montréal, Quebec H2L 4J5
Tel: (514) 283-6607 - TDD: 283-8316
Fax: (514) 283-3689


55 St. Clair Avenue East
Suite 624
Toronto, Ontario M4T 1M2
Tel: (416) 952-9096
Fax: (416) 954-6343


Kensington Building
275 Portage Avenue
Suite 1810
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 2B3
Tel: (204) 983-6306 - TDD: 983-8274
Fax: (204) 983-6317


Cornwall Professional Building
2125 - 11th Avenue
Room 103
Regina, Saskatchewan S4P 3X3
Tel: (306) 780-3422
Fax: (306) 780-3319


10405 Jasper Avenue
Suite 520
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3N4
Tel: (780) 495-3224
Fax: (780) 495-3214


530-580 Hornby Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6C 3B6
Tel: (604) 666-2111 - TDD: 666-0778
Fax: (604) 666-8322


Secretary General


This document is available in alternate format upon request and may also be examined at the following Internet site: 

Date Modified: 2001-04-27

Date modified: