Canadian local avails conversion bid denied

CRTC denied application by Toronto-based Media de Novo

TORONTO -- Canada's TV watchdog on Thursday said no to converting local avails on U.S services like A&E and CNN into Canadian commercials and hard cash for homegrown programming.

The CRTC denied an application by Toronto-based Media de Novo to sell ad time on U.S. cable channels' local avails to direct an estimated $285 million over seven years into the production of Canadian shows.

The bid was pitched as a solution for Canada's broken broadcast model, and a possible end to a fractious industry debate between broadcasters and cable giants over retransmission fees.

But the CRTC chose to maintain the status quo where Canadian viewers watch two minutes per-hour of "local avails" on stateside channels that are used by domestic carriers to promote Canadian shows or new products, including mobile phones.

"The commission's policy is intended to ensure that local availabilities are used for the benefit of the Canadian broadcasting system and primarily to promote Canadian programming services rather than for the direct financial benefit of any party," the CRTC ruled.