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ARCHIVED -  Decision CRTC 2000-463

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Decision CRTC 2000-463

Ottawa, 14 December 2000

Stornoway Communications Limited Partnership

Across Canada — 200007171

14 August 2000 Public Hearing
National Capital Region

 

 

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

 

The Issues Channel, will focus its programming on public affairs, and provide context for the discussion of matters of public interest. As noted in Public Notice CRTC 2000-171 issued today, the Issues Channel 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.

 

The Issues Channel stated that it will bring added diversity to the Canadian broadcasting system by offering the only channel in Canada to focus entirely on the exhibition, discussion and debate on the public issues facing Canadians. 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 the Issues Channel will be Stornoway Communications Limited Partnership. Mr. Kitson Vincent and Mr. G. Mark Curry will indirectly control a majority of the voting interest in the licensee (51%). Cogeco Radio-Television Inc. will hold the remaining interest.

 

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

The Issues Channel will provide a national English-language specialty television service dedicated to public affairs programming, that will examine matters of public interest and concern in an engaging format. The licensee indicated that the Issues Channel will provide a 24-hour a day opportunity for Canadians, particularly younger people, to become more active participants in national affairs. The Issues Channel will be a new place in the English-speaking television marketplace which will extend the discussion of matters of public interest and concern to a wider audience and provide context in a way that is not currently available. The program categories identified by the Issues Channel as forming the service's content are set out in a condition of licence found in the appendix to this decision.

The licensee intends to provide in-depth analysis of public affairs and matters of ongoing social and public concern, targeted at times to a general audience and at other times to specific groups such as youth or First Nations. The Issues Channel will not broadcast news or live event coverage. A limited number of feature films (no more than one each week) will be used either to trigger discussion of an issue or to follow through thematically on a topic. No more than 8% of all programming will be devoted to drama programming. In the appendix to this decision, a condition of licence related to this commitment is set out.

 

Contributions to diversity

 

The Issues Channel will differentiate itself from existing news or public affairs programmers by not offering news or live event coverage, and by not providing any entertainment style talk shows. While there will be some inevitable overlap with other public affairs programming, The Issues Channel will be the only source to focus entirely on the in-depth exhibition, discussion and debate of the issues, in context. In addition, as a new player in the television sector, the service will provide a new voice in the television information landscape.

 

Canadian content

 

The licensee made a commitment to broadcast a minimum of 55% Canadian content from 6 a.m. to midnight, in the first year of the licence term, increasing gradually over the term to a maximum of 65% in the final year of the term. In the first year of the licence term, a minimum of 40% Canadian content will be featured from 6 p.m. to midnight, increasing to 55% by the fifth year of the term, and remaining at that level for the rest of the term. Conditions of licence setting out the licensee's commitments to the levels of Canadian content to be broadcast in each year of the licence term are contained in the appendix to this decision.

 

 

 

Following discussions at the hearing, the licensee further committed to broadcast a minimum of 520 hours of original Canadian programming in the first year of the licence term, increasing gradually to a minimum of 752 hours of original Canadian programming in the seventh year of the licence term.

 

Canadian programming expenditures

 

Beginning in the year following the first year of operation, the licensee will expend a yearly minimum of 37% of its gross advertising, infomercial and subscription revenues on Canadian programming for broadcast on the Issues Channel. The licensee estimates that, in accordance with this formula, it will spend over $42 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 programming on the new channel will be acquired from a variety of sources, including independent producers. Such programming will be obtained through co-production, commissioning of original programs and the acquisition of existing programs. The licensee estimates that 76% of all programming expenditures will be spent on the acquisition of Canadian programming from independent producers over the licence term. The licensee also stated that no more than 10% of first and second window programming will come from Stornoway, Carrefour, or Cogeco.

 

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

 

The programming on the Issues Channel will be designed to engage the public in discussion through interactivity. The licensee will use a related Internet website to foster discussion around the programming broadcast on the Issues Channel. At key moments during some broadcasts, viewers will be encouraged to access the Internet site for further discussion and feedback, or to answer questions about the issues under discussion. Live tallying of opinion will be both broadcast and recorded on the website. Periodically, programs will be broadcast that will collect and analyze recent website polling results on various issues.

 

As technology permits, the licensee will implement programming compatible with set-top box and television-based interactivity, to ensure that the public can participate in discussions of issues of interest or concern.

 

 

 

Ownership and synergies

 

The licensee of the Issues Channel will be Stornoway Communications Limited Partnership (Stornoway). The partnership will consist of 1403318 Ontario Limited, holding 49.999% of the voting interest, Cogeco Radio-Television Inc. (Cogeco) with 49.999% and Stornoway Communications General Partner Inc. with 0.002%. Mr. Kitson Vincent and Mr. G. Mark Curry will indirectly control Stornoway. Stornoway brings valuable production experience to this venture, and Cogeco offers both programming and Internet expertise.

 

Other matters

 

Rate

 

The licensee proposed a monthly wholesale rate of $0.35 per subscriber over the entire licence term.

 

Service to the hearing-impaired

 

To assist viewers with hearing impairments, the licensee will install a TTY (teletypewriter), and has made a commitment to ensure that at least 35% of all programming in the first year of the licence term will be closed captioned. That commitment will increase each year. In the seventh year of the licence term, at least 90% of all programming on the Issues Channel will be captioned. The Commission notes these commitments, and expects the licensee to fulfil them.

 

Service to the visually-impaired

 

The licensee has stated that, "with the assistance of the National Broadcast Reading Service and its many branches, The Issues Channel will investigate the feasibility and possibilities of bringing issues and debate to our visually impaired audience."

 

The Commission requires the Issues Channel 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 encourages the licensee to consider employment equity issues in its hiring practices and in all other aspects of its management of human resources (Public Notice 1992-59).

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

The Commission is satisfied that the Issues Channel will provide a forum offering essential context for the issues that shape the lives of Canadians, with a depth of analysis not widely available currently. The licensing of Stornoway will also enhance the diversity of ownership in the Canadian broadcasting system and result in an increased number of voices and opinions in Canadian public affairs programming.

 

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 2000-463

 

The licence for the national English-language programming undertaking (specialty television service) known as The Issues 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 focus its programming exclusively on public affairs. The service will not broadcast news coverage or cover live events. All programs will be offered within a context of the issues of public interest and/or concern.

 
  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

7a

Ongoing dramatic series

2b

Long-form documentary

7d

Theatrical feature films aired on TV

4

Religion

11

General entertainment and human interest

5a

Formal education and pre-school

12

Interstitials

5b

Informal education/recreation and leisure

13

Public service announcements

 
  • No more than 8% of all programming broadcast during each broadcast week shall be devoted to material drawn from category 7.
 
  • No more than 1 feature film (category 7d) shall be broadcast during each broadcast week and shall be offered only within the context of an issue being explored by the service.
 

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:

55%

40%

 

Year two:

60%

45%

 

Year three:

60%

50%

 

Year four:

60%

50%

 

Year five:

65%

55%

 

Year six:

65%

55%

 

Year seven:

65%

55%

 

 

 

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 37% 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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