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Ad rules easing in Canada

CRTC set 2011 digital deadline

Canuck broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced Thursday it will remove all restrictions on advertising time limits in primetime for the Canadian TV networks as of Sept. 1, 2009.

The broadcast watchdog also announced it has turned down the conventional networks’ request to force cable and satellite subscribers to pay a carriage fee for receiving the networks via cable and satellite services.

In addition, the CRTC set a deadline of Aug. 31, 2011, for all of the networks to make the transition from analog to digital and high-definition broadcasting. As to ad time, now, the CRTC rule is that the networks are restricted to 12 minutes of advertising per hour in primetime. The idea of removing the restrictions is designed to boost the networks’ revenue and allow them to compete more effectively.

Beginning Sept. 1 of this year, the webs will be allowed to run 14 minutes of ads per primetime hour, and the maximum will increase to 15 minutes in September2008.

Guy Mayson, president of the Canadian Film and Television Production Assn., said he was unhappy the new rules did not include any measures to help boost the amount of Canadian fare on the networks.

“We support the relaxing of the advertising regulations, but only if it includes targets on Canadian-content spending,” Mayson said. “But no targets have been established for Canadian hours or expenditures. So I’m a bit disappointed because I think the commission had the chance to do something significant. There seems to be an acknowledgement that there’s a problem (with the lack of Canadian shows), but they’ve postponed any solution. To us, it’s a missed opportunity.”

This good news for the Canuck TV players — the relaxing of the ad limits — is balanced by the CRTC’s decision to refuse to bow to the networks’ demand for a fee for carriage on cable and satellite services.

The country’s main networks — including CTV and Global — had asked the CRTC to let them charge fees because the Canadian specialty channels already charge for carriage on these services.

The CRTC said it was turning down this request because “its necessity has not been demonstrated and the current financial situation of conventional television broadcasters does not justify such a measure.”

The CRTC said it needed to set the deadline for conversion from analog to digitalbecause otherwise Canadian TV viewers might turn to foreign services to access high-definition fare. The U.S. deadline to go digital is Feb. 17, 2009.

The CRTC also noted that the proportion of revenues spent by the English-Canadian networks on local programming continues to decrease and the regulator said it will be bringing this issue up with the individual networks at their next license-renewal hearings. But it didn’t propose any immediate changes to the rules governing how much the networks have to spend on local shows.

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