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Canada competition

Star Choice OK'd to deliver sat TV-to-cable

MONTREAL — Star Choice, one of Canada’s leading direct-to-home satellite services, has been given a license to deliver television services via satellite to cable operators, it was announced Tuesday by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

The decision from the federal broadcast regulator is designed to create a competitive environment in the satellite-delivery industry in Canada, which used to be controlled exclusively by the WIC-owned company, Cancom.

Further, the CRTC announcement hints that the commission may be open to allowing U.S. satellite players into the market, by letting Canuck cable systems pick up television signals directly from U.S. satellite companies like Prime Time.

The CRTC has called for comments on the proposal to allow small Canadian cable operators to buy directly from American satellite providers. (These CRTC decisions do not affect the Canadian direct-to-home satellite market, which remains the exclusive domain of Canadian-controlled companies.)

Also Tuesday, Calgary-based Star Choice announced that John Cassaday has been appointed interim CEO of the company, replacing Carl Vogel, who recently ankled Star Choice.

Cassaday is president and CEO of Shaw Media and executive vice-president of Shaw Communications, which owns Star Choice, and he will continue to hold those positions. Prior to joining Shaw, Cassaday spent seven years as president and CEO of the CTV Television Network. He is a former president and CEO of Campbell Foods U.K.

The CRTC satellite decision will have the most impact on cable systems outside the major Canadian urban centers, and the opening up of the sector to competition will give consumers in these areas more choice and potential cost savings, said CRTC spokesman Randy Hutson.

“This is in keeping with the commission’s support of a gradual move from a monopoly environment in that area to a competitive environment,” said Hutson.

As part of the condition of its license, Star Choice will have to provide a majority of the Canadian television services and contribute 5% of its revenues to the creation and presentation of Canadian programming. Its rates will not be regulated.

Also, given that Shaw is one of Canada’s largest cable operators, the CRTC will put in place a number of safeguards to ensure structural separation between Star Choice and Shaw. Star Choice was given a license for two years and Cancom also had its license renewed for a two-year period.

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