A Canadian welcome

Al-Jazeera OK'd to air; Italy's RAI nixed

TORONTO — Canada’s broadcast regulator has given Arabic news satcaster Al-Jazeera the greenlight to air in Canada but rejected Italian state broadcaster RAI Intl., according to a ruling released Thursday.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved nine foreign satellite services to “enable Canadians to benefit from new programs, principally in Spanish, Arabic, German and Romanian.”

Eighteen months ago, the Canadian Cable Television Assn. asked the CRTC to allow in 10 new services from around the world to fight satellite piracy.

The CRTC also has opened the door to German TV; Spanish-lingo services Canal Sur, CineLatino, Grandes Documentales de TVE and Utilisima; the Spanish- and Portuguese-language Eurochannel; Romanian Television Intl.; and ART Movies, which features Arab-lingo movies.

It denied six: four Spanish-language applicants, Arab-language LBC America and RAI Intl.

RAI’s rejection is a victory for Telelatino Network, a Canadian specialty service broadcasting to the Italian and Spanish communities. RAI ended its 20-year distribution deal with Telelatino a year ago and applied to the CRTC for its own license.

Telelatino prexy Aldo Difelice hopes the CRTC decision will convince RAI to renegotiate its programming deal. Company, controlled by Toronto-based Corus Entertainment, hopes to launch a new Italian-language channel. Telelatino already holds a license for a digital specialty service that it plans to call RAI Canada.

The decision has its critics. “If Al-Jazeera, then why not Fox News?” asked right-wing lobby group the National Citizens Coalition. Fox News has attempted unsuccessfully for some years to get into Canada.

“I suspect more Canadians would rather access a popular news channel like Fox News than Al-Jazeera,” said NCC veep Gerry Nicholls.

The CRTC does not allow non-Canadian services that compete with existing Canadian specialty or pay TV services.

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