CRTC says no to CCTA, 49th Media

The CRTC has shot down two controversial proposals put forth by the cable companies and advertising upstart 49th Media, coming down on the side of broadcasters who had vigorously argued for months that both plans stood to undermine the Canadian TV trade. At the same time, the regulator left the door open for Toronto-based 49th Media to reapply.

The CRTC has shot down two controversial proposals put forth by the cable companies and advertising upstart 49th Media, coming down on the side of broadcasters who had vigorously argued for months that both plans stood to undermine the Canadian TV trade. At the same time, the regulator left the door open for Toronto-based 49th Media to reapply.

In an open letter to Canadian Cable Television Association head Michael Hennessy, the feds turned down the cable association’s plans to import premium U.S. channels including HBO, Showtime and ESPN – arguing that it would cut into the sale of programming rights to other broadcasters. The CCTA wanted to bypass existing broadcasters and sell the channels ‘as is’ to consumers on the digital tier.

49th Media was told its paperwork is incomplete and – if it wants to sell Canadian ads on U.S. channels, such as CNN and A&E – it needs to prove that the Americans are onside.

‘The application cannot be considered complete,’ wrote CRTC general secretary Diane Rheaume, but added that the commission made ‘no decision on its merits or on any related policy issues.’

Kevin Shea, head of 49th Media, admits he is discouraged. ‘The commission wanted to see signed evidence and we thought we provided that,’ he says. But 49th will likely reapply, after seeking stronger commitment from U.S. partners, he adds.

CRTC commissioner Stuart Langford filed a dissenting opinion with the response to 49th Media, arguing that the proposal should proceed to the public hearing phase, an encouraging sign for Shea. ‘I think the commission has clearly stated that this is a significant policy issue that need to be addressed,’ Langford notes.