CRTC issues broadcast license bid refusals

Glassbox, CBC denied bids for new channel, programming changes

TORONTO -- Canada's TV regulator is biting back.

After a string of defeats at the hands of the federal cabinet, the de-fanged Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has stunned broadcasters by denying recent industry bids for new channels or programming changes.

The CRTC turned thumbs down to cross-platform broadcaster Glassbox Television launching a national French-language channel Aux TV to complement an existing English-language version of Aux TV.

The regulator ruled the proposed French-language Aux TV service would compete on the turf of existing Quebec TV music channel Musique Plus, and that Glassbox had not been precise on how it might avoid a turf battle.

Also this week, the CRTC denied a bid by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to amend its broadcast license for Bold, a cable channel originally called Country Canada and aimed at rural Canadian families, to include big-city dramas like the British sci-fi series "Doctor Who" and the Vancouver-set "Da Vinci's City Hall."

The regulator conceded rural Canadians may like urban dramas, but added that wasn't the original programming remit for Bold. So the public broadcaster was given 30 days to provide an "alternate programming proposal" for the niche channel.

This week's decisions contrast with a CRTC that in recent months had been rendered toothless after the federal government reversed a regulatory decision on foreign ownership of local mobile companies, and forced the regulator to hold hearings on first-time retransmission fees for broadcasters after the CRTC twice denied the revenue-raising proposal.

CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein last week urged politicians in Ottawa to consider introducing a single set of legislation to cover phone, cable and broadcasting companies here so the regulator can stay relevant amid continuing industry convergence.
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