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ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 2000-451

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Decision CRTC 2000-451

Ottawa, 14 December 2000

Learning and Skills Television of Alberta Limited

Across Canada — 200008476

14 August 2000 Public Hearing
National Capital Region

 

 

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

 

BookTelevision will feature a variety of programming formats that have the printed and published word as their base. BookTelevision will highlight the connections between the visual and print media. It will provide a unique and valuable venue for Canadian writers and support the Canadian book industry. As noted in Public Notice CRTC 2000-171 issued today, BookTelevision 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.

 

No existing Canadian television service restricts itself to literature-based programming with an educational orientation. By offering such a service, BookTelevision will enhance the diversity of the Canadian broadcasting system as a whole. In Public Notice 2000-171, the Commission discusses the general criteria for the approval of this and other applications for new specialty services.

 

BookTelevision will be owned and operated by Learning and Skills Television of Alberta Limited (LTA), which in turn is controlled by CHUM Limited. LTA has considerable experience in providing book-related and other educational programming through its operation of "ACCESS", Alberta’s educational broadcaster, and the specialty television service Canadian Learning Television.

 

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.

 

 

 

Programming

 

Nature of service

 

BookTelevision will offer a national English-language specialty television service fully dedicated to magazines and talk shows, dramas and documentaries that have the printed and published word as their base. The service will promote both reading and writing, Canadian authors, and the Canadian publishing industry. BookTelevision will also strongly support the important cause of adult literacy. All programs will provide an educational context. All of the program categories identified by BookTelevision as forming the service’s content are set out in a condition of licence found in the appendix to this decision.

 

The licensee describes BookTelevision as "…an ideal combination of popular television with cultural, political, social, economic and educational objectives." With the exception of documentaries, the licensee indicates that no more than 15% of BookTelevision’s weekly programming will be identical to that of either Canadian Learning Television or ACCESS. With respect to foreign content, it is also the licensee’s plan to ensure that at least 30% of all programming on BookTelevision will be acquired from sources in countries other than the U.S.

 

LTA indicates that BookTelevision will target primarily adult readers, but the program schedule does project a significant amount of children’s programming. BookTelevision’s initiatives will take six main thrusts:

 
  • "BookNews, Talks and Docs" - a nightly newscast, original and acquired productions about books, writing and publishing,
 
  • "Book-based drama" - series and feature films based on published books,
 
  • "KidLit" - children’s programming designed to foster reading,
 
  • "Literacy for Adults" - to promote and assist the cause of adult literacy in Canada,
 
  • Support for writers - a WordFACT foundation to support young writers, and
 
  • "Interactive digital resources" - a website that will include abundant resource material on reading and writing in general.
 

BookTelevision’s programming will not operate on a programming "wheel", although some programs will be repeated during the day. The schedule will differ from day to day, including the programming directed to children. The service will devote approximately 9 hours per week to ongoing dramatic series, and approximately 14 hours per week to films. All series and films will be based upon literary works.

 

All genres of writing will be represented on the service: fiction and non-fiction; classics to crime; "kidlit" to romance; political science to science fiction; self-help to gardening. Every television program format will be used, and a wide variety of web-based resources. BookTelevision will promote reading and writing to Canadians of all ages, interests and literacy capabilities.

 

 

 

The licensee indicated that, to define its proposed service, drama programming of all types would make up no more than 35% of all programming on BookTelevision, and no more than 30% in prime time. It also committed to ensure that no more than 13% of all of its formal educational programming would be aimed at pre-school children, and that no more than 5% of all programming would consist of animated programs. Conditions of licence related to these restrictions are set out in the appendix attached to this decision.

 

Contributions to diversity

 

No existing service restricts itself to educational programming featuring literature-based movies and dramas, or emphasizes the printed word behind the dramatization. While isolated programs of this nature exist, no television service in Canada offers them on a fully-dedicated basis, or even predominantly. The licensee expects that BookTelevision will be "part book club, part library, part mentor - all engaging - Book Television, along with its …website, will be wholly entertaining, informative and useful digital media."

 

Canadian content

 

The licensee made a commitment to broadcast a minimum of 40% Canadian content from 6 a.m. to midnight, and a minimum of 40% from 6 p.m. to midnight, in the first two years of the licence term. In the third year of the licence term, BookTelevision’s commitment will be increased to 50% of the day and 50% of the evening hours, and remain at that level for the remainder of the licence term. 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, BookTelevision further committed to broadcast a minimum of 183 hours of original Canadian programs in the first year of the licence term, increasing to a minimum of 720 hours in the seventh year of the term. BookTelevision estimated that over 3,000 hours of original Canadian programs would be broadcast over the first licence term, at a cost of approximately $5 million.

 

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 approximately $10 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

 

BookTelevision estimates that over the licence term, approximately $5 million, or 50% of the total Canadian programming expenditures noted above will be spent on the acquisition of programming from independent producers, and no more than half of all
independent production will be acquired from affiliates. 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.

 

Interactivity

 

BookTelevision’s interactivity will be predominantly web-based, although it will also employ traditional methods such as toll-free telephone numbers. The licensee is of the opinion that dialogue is fundamental to the educational nature of the proposed service, and viewer feedback and participation will therefore be strongly encouraged.

 

The website for BookTelevision will offer links to other book-related sites, and provide opportunities to interact with authors, English teachers, other readers, and book sellers. The website will be promoted during programs, and in some cases, viewers will be invited to interact with the host or guests, either during or after the broadcast, creating a live country-wide discussion. Many of BookTelevision’s programs, as well as additional program material, will be streamed on the website, allowing interested viewers to access subjects in greater depth. The Internet site will also offer online commerce options, and the service’s chat rooms will provide venues for writers and readers to exchange ideas, advice and editorial opinion.

 

Ownership and synergies

 

As noted above, BookTelevision will be owned and operated by Learning and Skills Television of Alberta (LTA). The controlling shareholder of LTA is CHUM Limited (60%). The remainder of the voting interest in LTA is held by Olympus Management Limited (20%), 1006228 Ontario Inc. (15.5%) and Jay Switzer (4.5%). LTA owns and operates ACCESS - The Education Station, Alberta’s educational broadcaster. It is also the licensee of Canadian Learning Television (CLT), a national educational specialty service. Both ACCESS and CLT operate from digital-ready facilities in Edmonton which have been designed to accommodate new specialty television undertakings. LTA’s considerable experience with the provision of interactive educational programming on CLT will clearly be an asset for BookTelevision.

 

The presence of CHUM in the ownership structure of BookTelevision will offer benefits including experience and stability, as well as opportunities for cross-promotion and joint marketing ventures. CLT already produces a 4-hour weekly series of book-related programs, and the licensee is ready to build upon this programming for the new channel. BookTelevision will also have access to book programming produced by MuchMoreMusic, Space, ACCESS, CityTV, and Bravo.

 

Other matters

 

The Commission notes the licensee’s intention to allocate 2.5% of BookTelevision’s previous year’s revenues to create WordFACT, a foundation to provide funding to Canadian writers. WordFACT will fund up to 30% of young writers’ work, to a maximum of $15,000 per recipient, through grants. The licensee has indicated that no matching funding will be required from applicants.

 

 

 

Rate

 

In its business plan, the licensee proposed a monthly wholesale rate of $0.35 per subscriber in the first two years of the licence term, increasing to a maximum of $0.41 in the final year of the licence term.

 

Service to the hearing-impaired

 

BookTelevision has committed to install a TTY (teletypewriter) and to ensure that, beginning in the first year of operation, 35% of all programming will be closed captioned. That amount will increase gradually over the licence term, and in the seventh year of the licence term, the minimum to be closed captioned will be 90%. The Commission expects the licensee to fulfill its commitments.

 

Service to the visually-impaired

 

With respect to descriptive video service (DVS), the licensee indicated that it will meet the needs of the visually-impaired to the same extent as LTA does currently with its other programming services. It will design programming to be accessible to visually-impaired television users by ensuring that graphics and visuals are as large and clear as possible, and that, when possible, on-screen text is accompanied by voice-overs that provide a concise summary of the information presented visually. Phone numbers will also be supplied verbally, as well as visually, whenever possible. LTA also noted that, through its involvement with the CHUM group of companies, it is currently working on the development of other initiatives which will assist the visually-impaired.

 

The Commission requires BookTelevision 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 is subject to the Employment Equity Act that came into effect on 24 October 1996 and therefore files reports concerning employment equity with Human Resources Development Canada.

 

Conclusion

 

The Commission expects that BookTelevision will be an attractive and popular option for the digital television experience in Canada. The licensee’s intention to offer programming entirely related to printed language in an educational context, using the Internet to provide background and conversation, makes this a unique and potentially valuable resource for literacy in Canada. Learning-based programming with opportunities for interactivity will be an excellent use of the digital environment. The Commission is satisfied that the licensee’s experience in providing educational programming will ensure a stable and carefully operated undertaking.

 

 

 

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: www.crtc.gc.ca

 

Appendix to Decision CRTC 2000-451

 

The licence for the national English-language programming undertaking (specialty television service) known as BookTelevision - The 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 that will feature magazines and talk shows, dramas and documentaries that are exclusively based upon printed and published works, and offered with additional programming that provides an educational context and promotes reading.

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

2a

Analysis and interpretation

7c

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

2b

Long-form documentary

7d

Theatrical feature films aired on TV

3

Reporting and actualities

7e

Animated television programs and films

5a

Formal education and pre-school

7g

Other drama

5b

Informal education/recreation and leisure

13

Public service announcements (PSAs)

7a

Ongoing dramatic series

14

Infomercials, promotional/corporate video

 
  • No more than 35% of all programming broadcast during each broadcast week shall be drawn from category 7.
 
  • No more than 30% of all programming broadcast during each broadcast week between 6:00 pm and midnight shall be drawn from category 7.
 
  • No more than 13% of all programming broadcast during each broadcast week shall be pre-school education, drawn from subcategory 5a.
 
  • No more than 5% of all programming broadcast during each broadcast week shall be drawn from subcategory 7e.
 

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

40%

40%

 

Year two

40%

40%

 

Year three

50%

50%

 

Year four

50%

50%

 

Year five

50%

50%

 

Year six:

50%

50%

 

Year seven:

50%

50%

 

 

 

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.

 

Definition

 

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

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