ARCHIVED - Decision CRTC 2001-229

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Decision CRTC 2001-229


Ottawa, 24 April 2001


Access Communications Co-operative Limited
Regina, Estevan, Weyburn and Yorkton, Saskatchewan
2000-1967-1, 2000-2061-0, 2000-1968-9, 2000-2062-8, 2000-1969-7, 2000-2063-6, 2000-1970-5, 2000-2064-4


Applications processed by Public Notice CRTC 2001-18 dated 5 February 2001


Carriage of Canadian and U.S. 4+1 signals on a discretionary digital basis


The Commission approves the applications by Access Communications Co-operative Limited to distribute on its Class 1 and Class 2 cable distribution undertakings serving the communities noted above, the following services on a discretionary digital basis:

  • any of the Canadian signals listed on the Commission's List of Part 3 eligible satellite services. This list includes a wide range of Canadian television stations that can presently be distributed by Class 3 cable systems.
  • a second set of signals that provides the programming of the four U.S. commercial networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX) and the non-commercial PBS network. These signals are generally referred to as the "U.S. 4 + 1 signals." The applicant already distributes a first set of U.S. 4+1 signals on an analog basis.


Approval of these applications is subject to a provision set out at the end of this decision designed to protect the program rights acquired by local broadcasters.


The Commission notes that, in its application, Access indicated that it would accept a provision of approval similar to the one imposed in Decision CRTC 2000-437 on a number of cable licensees also seeking authority to distribute distant Canadian signals and a duplicate set of U.S. 4+1 signals on a digital basis.


Applicant's rationale


Access argued that the addition of these signals would enhance the programming choices currently available on its digital offering. It added that this enhancement would help drive the penetration of digital boxes and ensure the success of digital television. The licensee also maintained that approval of its applications would provide for more equitable competition amongst those broadcasting distribution undertakings that distribute programming in a digital mode.




While not opposing the applications, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) argued in its intervention that, before authorizing Access to distribute a duplicate set of U.S. 4+1 signals, the Commission should ensure that Access has sufficient digital capacity for licensed Canadian services. Specifically, the CAB considered that Access should carry all existing speciality services not currently offered on Class 2 systems, duplicates of existing analog specialty and pay services on a digital platform, all Category 1 digital specialty services, minority official language services and some Category 2 digital specialty services.


Access responded that it is seeking authority to distribute a second set of U.S. 4+1 signals on comparable terms with Class 1 and Class 2 broadcasting distribution undertakings and direct-to-home (DTH) distribution undertakings which have been granted this authority. Further,
the licensee argued that, in the interest of competitive equity, it would not be appropriate for the Commission to impose additional requirements on Access.


The Commission's determination


The Commission considers that discretionary carriage in a digital format of Canadian signals included on the List of Part 3 eligible satellite services and an additional set of U.S. 4+1 signals, coupled with other initiatives such as the carriage of new licensed Canadian digital services, may serve as an incentive for cable customers to subscribe to the digital service offered by cable systems. It also provides an opportunity to increase the choice of signals available to cable subscribers.


The Commission, however, recognizes the need to protect the program rights that local broadcasters purchase. Carriage of a second set of U.S. 4+1 signals in addition to the first set carried on an analog basis, as well as a wide range of Canadian distant signals has the potential to erode these rights and impinge on the ability of local broadcasters to fulfil their programming obligations and responsibilities.


The Commission has therefore approved the applications subject to the provision set out at the end of this decision. This provision of approval, which will apply only to the discretionary distribution on a digital basis of the second set of U.S. 4+1 signals carried by the system and distant Canadian signals, imposes the same non-simultaneous program deletion rules as those that currently apply to DTH licensees. The provision further provides that it may be suspended should the Commission approve an agreement with the broadcasters that deals with issues related to the protection of program rights arising in connection with the carriage of a second set of U.S. 4+1 signals as well as Canadian distant signals as approved in this decision. Access is reminded that the rules on simultaneous substitution for the services that it distributes, as set out in section 30 of the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations, continue to apply.


The Commission considers that, with this provision in place, it is not necessary to require Access to submit letters from the various Canadian television stations whose signals it proposes to distribute, as provided under the Commission's policy on the carriage of distant signals. The distant signals policy will, however, continue to apply in its entirety in cases where cable licensees file applications to carry distant Canadian signals on an analog basis.


The Commission has noted the concerns expressed by the CAB that Access should carry licensed Canadian services before duplicate U.S. 4+1 signals. The Commission reminds Access that the carriage of minority official language services as outlined in Public Notices CRTC 2001-25 and 2001-26 as well as the new specialty, pay-per-view and video-on-demand services licensed in November 2000 will also require the use of digital capacity. The Commission expects that, when Access chooses to act on the authorities contained in this decision, it should take into account the requirements set out in PNs 2001-25 and 2001-26 as well as the potential for disruption to subscribers with any future changes to channel line-ups.


In Public Notice CRTC 2000-155, the Commission announced revisions to the distribution and linkage rules. These revisions permit any Canadian television service that is included on the List of Part 3 eligible satellite services to be linked with a second set of U.S. 4+1 network signals that the licensee is authorized to distribute provided that these signals are distributed only on a discretionary digital basis.


Provision of approval


The distribution on a discretionary basis on the licensee's digital service of a second set of U.S. 4+1 signals (that is, a set of U.S. 4+1 signals in addition to the set of such signals already carried by the system) and Canadian distant signals is subject to the provision that, with respect to such signals, the licensee adhere to the requirements regarding non-simultaneous program deletion set out in section 43 of the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations. The Commission may suspend the application of this provision upon its approval of an executed agreement between the licensee and broadcasters. Such an agreement must deal with issues related to the protection of program rights arising in connection with the discretionary carriage of a second set of U.S. 4+1 signals and Canadian distant signals solely on the licensee's digital service, as approved in this decision.


"U.S. 4+1 signals" refers to the signals of stations affiliated with the four U.S. commercial networks (CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX) and the non-commercial PBS network.


"distant Canadian signals" refers to the signals of Canadian television programming undertakings included in the Commission's List of Part 3 eligible satellite services.


Related CRTC documents

  • Public Notice 2001-26 - A policy to increase the availability to cable subscribers of specialty services in the minority official language
  • Public Notice 2001-25 - Achieving a better balance: Report on French-language broadcasting services in a minority environment
  • Public Notice 2000-171 - Introductory statement - Licensing of new digital pay and specialty services
  • Public Notice 2000-155 - Distribution and linkage rules
  • Decision 2000-437 - Carriage of Canadian and U.S. 4+1 signals on a digital basis

Secretary General


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

Date Modified: 2001-04-24

Date modified: