Canada: Would-be HD Broadcaster to Fund Local Content

Canadian media and food entrepreneur John Bitove made a big concession last week in his ongoing bid to start a private national HD network when he pledged to federal regulators that he would be willing to fund a small amount of local programming at each of his planned eight stations throughout Canada, following some concerns raised about the lack of local/regional content (HD Notebook, Feb. 13, 2008).

Bitove, who already delves into commercial satellite radio (XM Canada) and the fast-food business, is vying for government permission to launch a new TV network (“HDTV Networks Inc.”) in eight Canadian cities. A majority of all the programming would be transmitted in HD, according to the Globe and Mail.

However, broadcast competitors such as the CBD and CTV and the federal regulator (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) had found it problematic that Bitove apparently had no plans to fund any type of local programming. Most other Canadian broadcasters are required to produce and air between a dozen and several dozen hours weekly, depending on the type of broadcast license involved.

Bitove promised that his HD network would carry an average of two hours of local programming weekly. While that is not as big a commitment as his competitors wish, whether it is enough to satisfy the regulators is not yet known.