Industry Update – CRTC Decisions April 16 – May 1, 2012

After the 2012 Toronto Screenwriting Conference on March 30 and April 1, 2012, I took a sabbatical from the Industry Update. In the past few weeks, the industry has roared into overdrive, especially when it comes to CRTC decisions. This update will focus solely on decisions made by CRTC between April 16 and May 1, 2012.

CRTC releases 2011 financial results for specialty, premium cable and pay-per-view television services, plus video-on-demand services. In a nutshell, the services earned a combined revenue of $3.7 billion in 2011, against $2.7 billion in expenses – including $1.3 billion on Canadian programming. Profits before interest and taxes, or PBITs, came to $930.5 million.

Specialty channels earned the most money – $2.9 billion in 2011, with $2.4 billion of that going to 49 “analog” (i.e., established pre-2001) specialty channels.

CRTC allows Shaw Media to take total control of The Cave and Mystery TV. The two channels launched on September 7, 2001, with Canwest and Groupe TVA owning equal stakes in Mystery TV. Groupe TVA owned a controlling interest (51%) in mentv, which rebranded as The Cave on August 2, 2010.

The Cave’s broadcast licence expires August 31, 2016.

The deadline for final written submissions, regarding the review/future of the Local Programming Improvement Fund, is May 2, 2012.

March Entertainment Inc. has an application approved for iLaugh TV.

Jean-Yves Roux, on behalf of an as-yet-unformed corporation, has applications approved for Channel New Victory and its French-language equivalent, Canal Nouvelle Vision. Both channels are “…devoted mainly to the lifestyles, cultures and concerns of different Christian communities,” though these are mainly Christian music channels.

Channel New Victory and Canal Nouvelle Vision can’t air local commercials, despite a request by CNV to set aside six minutes of advertising time, per broadcast hour, for them. No more than 10% of CNV’s programs can be long-form documentaries, films, or animated series, while no more than half of CNV’s schedules can be devoted to music video clips and programs.

Of the music videos Canal Nouvelle Vision airs in its first year, 15% of them must be French. This requirement increases to 20% in the second year, and 25% in the third and subsequent years.

Quebecor Media, and its subsidiary Groupe TVA, have French-language licences for both TVA and its specialty channels renewed, with conditions. Major issues regarding this renewal include forcing specialty channel addiktv to air original Canadian programming Рin 2009-10, it aired none, according to Association des producteurs des films et de t̩l̩vision du Qu̩bec (APFTQ.)

TVA must devote 80% of its programming expenditures to Canadian content, and maintain its requirements to reflect the whole of Quebec, in the face of concerns that it is Montreal-centric. In particular, Quebec City must air 5.5 hours of local news per week, and eighteen hours of local programming overall.

Quebecor Media/Groupe TVA’s new group-based licence comes into effect September 1, 2012, and expires on August 31, 2015.

Astral Media has its English and French-language services renewed, from September 1, 2012 to August 31, 2017. In light of Astral’s English and French-language television services earning almost equal amounts of revenue, Astral can share its financial resources between all services. Thirty percent of Astral’s gross annual revenues must be spent on Canadian programming, with sixteen percent of the revenues going to programs of national interest.

Notably, the CRTC renewal doesn’t mention Bell’s proposed acquisition of Astral. Bell Media was one of the organizations intervening against Astral’s group renewal. Of course, this was before Astral was put up for sale, as the public hearings for this and other group renewals were made between December 5-9, 2011.

It will be interesting how, in light of Astral possibly not existing as a company before and/or within the terms of this renewal, Bell assumes Astral’s group licence.

Remstar, doing business as V Interactions, maintains the broadcasting licence for French-language network V. The licence expires August 31, 2015.

In the renewal hearing, V Interactions makes note of how, despite V becoming profitable for the first time since its bankruptcy as TQS, it is still not financially stable. In light of this, the reduced Canadian content requirements – allowed by CRTC upon TQS’ sale, and reorganization as V – are maintained. The lone exceptions are commitments by Remstar to expand V’s local newscasts by thirty minutes, and the expansion in length of local news segments within said newscasts.

CJDC Dawson Creek, British Columbia and CFTK Terrace, British Columbia, as well as their retransmitters, have their licences renewed from September 1, 2012 to August 31, 2017. Seven hours of local programming must be aired per broadcast week, with at least half the time going to local news. CJDC and CFTK are channels owned by Astral Media radio subsidiaries. Both are CBC affiliates.

Évasion, a French-language travel and adventure channel primarily owned by Groupe Serdy, has its licence renewed from September 1, 2012 to August 31, 2017. Of note, it can now devote ten percent of its schedule to what CRTC terms “stick and ball sports.” In essence, this means Évasion can air more basketball, baseball and/or hockey if it wants to, as long as this somehow ties in with the channel’s mandate.

Bell Aliant wants to renew its terrestrial broadcasting distribution undertakings in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick. The current BDUs expire August 31, 2012. Of note, Bell Aliant wants to air more of its community programming over the Internet.

Caribbean Everyday Entertainment Network is the latest non-Canadian programming service authorized for distribution.

Buried within April 26, 2012’s flurry of activity, which includes the Astral, V, CJDC/CFTK, Évasion and Group TVA renewals, is a new prospective channel: AUX 2, from GlassBOX Television. In order to avoid direct competition with MuchMusic, AUX 2 can only devote 35% of its programming to music videos, instead of as much as it wants.

In 2011, GlassBOX previously requested – and was denied – the ability to devote more than 35% of AUX’s programming to music videos. This is a common theme for AUX. A French-language version of the channel was shot down by CRTC on April 21, 2010, on grounds that it was too competitive with MusiquePlus and MusiMax.

Ironically, AUX 2’s approval comes as CRTC wonders whether music channels should convert to Category C services, and/or how music channels should be opened up to competition. The deadline for filing written comments on this matter is June 11, 2012. Services possibly eligible for Category C status include all music channels in the Much MTV Group, as well as MusiquePlus, MusiMax, CMT Canada, AUX, bpm:tv, ATN B4U Music, ATN MH 1, and Melody Hits.