CRTC Issues Rules For DTV Distribution

(November 11, 2003) Ottawa, Gatineau--The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has issued a regulatory framework that sets out the rules for the distribution of over-the-air digital television signals by broadcasting distribution undertakings, including cable television and direct-to-home satellite systems.
Under the framework, broadcasting distribution undertakings will be able to distribute digital services, under rules similar to those that currently govern their distribution of analog signals.

As under the current rules, the framework will give priority to the carriage of over-the-air Canadian digital television signals. Distribution undertakings will be required to carry both the analog and digital versions of priority services, until at least 85% of their subscribers are capable of receiving digital services, at which point they may apply to the CRTC to stop distributing the analog signals.

The distribution of over-the-air digital services is consistent with the Canadian Broadcasting Act, which calls upon distribution undertakings to give priority to Canadian programming services. The Act also calls for the Canadian broadcasting system to be regulated in a flexible manner that "is readily adaptable to scientific and technological change." It is also critical to the success of the transition of the Canadian broadcasting system in the digital era, given that 75% of the Canadian television audience receives television services from broadcasting distribution undertakings.

"For the transition to digital to work, digital services need to be widely distributed so that Canadians can watch them," said Charles Dalfen, CRTC chairman. "Giving viewers better access to digital signals, including high definition signals, will help drive the transition to digital, to the benefit of the broadcasting system as a whole."