|by:||Oct 19, 2007|
OTTAWA -- The federal government has thrown the CRTC's decision to amend the licence of Avis de Recherche -- granting the French-language digichannel mandatory carriage -- back to the regulator for reconsideration.
At the same time, Ottawa upheld the commission's move to grant special carriage status to the newly licensed The Accessible Channel, a yet-to-launch specialty for the visually impaired.
Both channels were granted the must-carry digital status by the CRTC in a July 24 decision that was appealed to cabinet by Quebecor Media.
In its response to the appeal, the federal cabinet noted "that the decision to grant The Accessible Channel a license to operate is consistent with the policy objectives set out in the Broadcasting Act, while the decision to amend the license of Avis de Recherche derogates from those objectives."
The response issued late Friday night questions the CRTC's finding that AdR is of exceptional importance and, thus, qualifies for mandatory distribution under the Broadcasting Act.
"I'm surprised and ticked off that a government that has promoted public safety its whole mandate may kill off a channel dedicated to finding criminals and missing children, and to promoting public safety," Avis de Recherche president Vincent Géracitano tells Playback Daily.
He says he's considering laying off his staff this week and closing down Avis de Recherche until the CRTC's new ruling. Géracitano says the appeal also puts in jeopardy plans to move forward on All Points Bulletin, an English-language channel similar to Avis de Rercherche.
"I don't understand the government's response. It upheld The Accessible Channel, which will get about $2 million a month from distributors -- and I have nothing against the visually impaired -- but the channel will service about 200,000 viewers. Our public-safety channel caters to everyone because anyone can be a victim of crime, and our wholesale fee was lower and was imposed only in Quebec," says Géracitano.
The CRTC granted AdR a wholesale fee of six cents per subscriber. The channel had previously itself paid roughly two cents per subscriber to get on Quebec cable systems, including Quebecor-owned Videotron.
The CRTC granted The Accessible Channel mandatory digital carriage at a monthly rate of 20 cents per subscriber in English-speaking markets, and none in French-speaking markets.
Quebecor argued in its appeal to cabinet that the raison d'être of the Broadcasting Act is not to assist law enforcement, but to promote the production and broadcast of Canadian programming. It also argued that the six-cent fee would make cable packages unaffordable, which goes against the Broadcasting Act (Playback Daily, Oct. 15, 2007).
Quebecor had not responded by press time for comment.