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Canadian Broadcasters Get Retransmission Approval

OTTAWA: Canadian broadcasters have won the right to negotiate for retransmission fees. The nation’s regulator announced its decision Monday.

“The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission today introduced a new framework that will give English-language private television broadcasters greater flexibility to offer high-quality programs that are of interest to Canadians,” the CRTC said.

CRTC chairman, Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., said the decision “reflects the trend of media convergence” that has large groups controlling broadcast TV and specialized services. The CRTC said its approach will consider a group’s total revenues “when setting obligations related to the objectives of the Broadcasting Act.”

Canadian broadcasters recently reported red ink for 2009 to the collective tune of C$116.4 million before interest and taxes.

Retransmission negotiations will commence next year among Canada’s largest privately owned English-language media companies, Canwest and CTVglobemedia--both broadcasters--and Rogers Cable.

“This approach will permit the CRTC to introduce new requirements to encourage and support the creation of Canadian programs,” the regulator said. “The CRTC will propose that the three largest ownership groups spend at least 30 per cent of their gross revenues on Canadian programming. However, they will be able to shift resources among their English-language conventional television stations and specialty services to meet this obligation.”

The legal challenges have already begun, the CRTC said. It has responded with a request to the Federal Court of Appeal clarifying its jurisdiction over the matter.

“The CRTC has asked the Court to consider its request on an expedited basis,” the commission said.

Philip Lind, vice chairman of Rogers Communications, told The New York Times that the CRTC’s decision resembled the American retransmission framework, which he called “a horror show.” Lind said Rogers would “oppose this thing most vigorously.”

(Image of CBC facility by Mikey G. Ottawa)