ExpressVu Visits Day Two of CRTC Hearings

The second day of hearings conducted by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission that's focused on potential changes to Canada's television marketplace featured the largest satellite TV service north of the border.

Bell Canada, operator of Bell ExpressVu, argued that regulators should recognize "key differences" between the small dish services and cable operators.

"Clearly what is called for is responsible regulatory symmetry equitable, but not necessarily identical," said Mirko Bibic of Bell Canada, as quoted by press outlets during the CRTC hearing.

His argument: Satellite companies have different technological considerations since they serve a national market. The four big cable providers - Rogers, Shaw, Cogeco and Videotron - operate on a regional basis.

The CRTC is considering, among other things, allowing broadcasters to assess fees for cable and satellite TV carriage of their signals. In addition to those discussions, regulators are considering whether certain domestic programmers should continue to be protected from foreign competition.

The hearings have pitted broadcasters and independent programmers against pay-TV services. Broadcasters and programmers fret that they could lose business if regulators give too much of a tweak to the rules.

"To the extent that maximizing audience becomes the key driver of programming decisions, we can expect the channels serving niche audiences would dissolve, and be replaced by an abundance of programming selected from only the most popular areas with diversity the loser," said Ian Morrison of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

The group said wholesale de-regulation being sought by cable and satellite TV operators would siphon more than $600 million from Canadian program production budgets. The beneficiary of that would foreign television services, the group said.