Canucks opening door for int’l TV

Decision follows controversial nixing of RAI's application

MONTREAL — Canada is about to become more open to certain foreign TV services.

On Thursday, federal broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission announced a policy for “third-language” (non-English, non-French) foreign TV stations, giving these networks automatic approved for entry.

The decision follows a controversy over the summer when the CRTC nixed Italian channel RAI Intl.’s application.

In the past, the regulator assessed foreign TV services to assess whether they would compete against Canadian non-English, non-French stations.

It turned down RAI, for example, because the Canadian Italian-language service, Telelatino Network, used to have a lot of RAI programming on its schedule.

But the CRTC ruling also protects the Canadian-owned non-English, non-French channels by forcing cable and satellite operators in Canada to make subscribers buy the equivalent Canadian-owned service if they are buying a foreign service.

In addition, the regulator will require that the foreign services do not hold exclusive or preferential program rights for the distribution of any programming in Canada.

Given those guidelines, Canuck broadcasters were mildly positive about the decision, but they realize there may be disputes with the foreign services over access to programming.

Foreign services could follow the CRTC rules and make the shows available, but at prohibitively expensive prices.

Minister for Canadian Heritage Liza Frulla applauded the CRTC decision.

The ruling does not open the door for foreign English-language services. Canada’s broadcast scene remains strictly regulated and such foreign services as MTV and the Disney Channel are still not allowed to operate in Canada because there are Canadian channels — MuchMusic and the Family Channel, respectively — that fill the same niche.

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