CRTC Outlines Decisions on Over-the-Air TV, Simultaneous Substitution


OTTAWA-GATINEAU: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has issued two decisions related to some of the topics addressed in Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians, as well as a decision relating to the future of mobile television content.

After hearing from many Canadians who don't want to lose access to free over-the-air television, the CRTC put broadcasters on notice that should they decide to shut down their over-the-air transmitters, they will lose the regulatory privileges that come with over-the-air transmission. These include mandatory carriage on the basic packages offered by cable and satellite companies and the ability to request simultaneous substitution (the temporary replacement of the signal of a television channel with that of another channel showing the same program at the same time). The CRTC also announced it will examine the funding of local and community programming in 2015-16.

The CRTC also directly addressed the issue of simultaneous substitution, as many Canadians have complained that this has caused them to miss certain parts of live events. A decision has been made to prohibit simultaneous substitutions during the Super Bowl starting at the end of the 2016 NFL season (meaning the 2017 Super Bowl). It is open to Bell Media, the current right holder, to waive its simultaneous substitution privilege for the 2016 game. Local television stations will continue to be allowed to request simultaneous substitution, and cable and satellite companies will be allowed to do this for the time being. Cable and satellite companies will, however, no longer be permitted to perform simultaneous substitution for specialty channels.

Looking at the future of mobile TV, CRTC issued a decision that reinforces its commitment to an open Internet. It has directed Bell Mobility and Vidéotron to stop giving their mobile television services—Bell Mobile TV and, respectively—an unfair advantage in the marketplace, to the disadvantage of other Internet content. Bell Mobility must eliminate this practice by April 29. Vidéotron has planned to withdraw its app for BlackBerry and Android devices by the end of 2014. Vidéotron must now confirm by March 31 that this app has been withdrawn and ensure that any new mobile TV service it offers does not give it an unfair preference or advantage over similar services.

Jean-Pierre Blais, the chairman of the CRTC, said: “We heard Canadians when they told us that they rely on their local television stations for news and information. We also heard that missing parts of football games and other live events due to substitution errors is a major irritant. Canadians are also increasingly watching television in different ways, and they told us that they want an open communication system. We heard them.

“We are building a framework that takes into account today’s realities by acknowledging that some elements remain important to Canada’s television system, though for how long is an open question. Yet at the same time, we are setting the course for the future of television—a future where Canadians benefit from innovations and more choice. Today’s decisions, along with the others we will be releasing in the coming weeks, are the building blocks that will shape the television system of tomorrow.”