Report: Ads driving U.S. domination of Canada TV

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OTTAWA -- Canada's TV watchdog on Wednesday made public a report challenging how U.S. network series dominate primetime schedules here.

The 300-page Dunbar/LeBlanc report urges the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to re-evaluate the industry's long-standing simultaneous substitution policy, which it says encourages Canadian broadcasters to schedule U.S. TV shows in peak viewing times.

Simultaneous substitution allows Canadian broadcasters to air U.S. shows, replacing the U.S. commercials with Canadian ones.

The result, the report argues, is that Canadian series suffer as they're pushed to the margins on TV schedules here.

"In a very real sense, simultaneous substitution appears to be dictating the scheduling of Canadian English-language, over-the-air television networks -- pushing Canadian programs into non-peak viewing periods or into the summer months," said the CRTC-commissioned report, prepared by veteran lawyers Laurence Dunbar and Christian Leblanc.

Simulcasts are possible because Canadian broadcasters tend to air U.S. shows in the same time zone they have south of the border.

For the system to work though, the report argues, Canadian broadcasters must follow the schedules of the U.S. broadcasters so that the shows air at the same time.

Other moves the Dunbar/LeBlanc report calls for are the loosening of TV advertising limits and the licensing of more over-the-air TV stations to players unaffiliated with incumbent broadcasters.

The report will be considered by the CRTC in its January policy review for specialty and pay TV channels and broadcast distributors. The CRTC said the report may also cause it to re-think its radio and over-the-air television policies.
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