CRTC OKs 7 more homegrown HD channels


TORONTO -- Canadian broadcaster High Fidelity HDTV Inc. on Monday overcame charges of genre "squatting" to secure regulatory approval for seven more homegrown high-definition (HD) channels.

The move brings to 12 the number of Canadian HD channels that High Fidelity is launching into the domestic market, via domestic cable and satellite TV operators.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission awarded Toronto-based High Fidelity new broadcast licenses that include ones for "Clash HD," a channel about human conflict, "Aqua HD," an ocean sport-themed service, "Crafts & Hobbies HD," and "Seniors Life HD."

The CRTC also greenlit market entry for the science-themed "Eureka! HD" service, "Center Stage HD," featuring musical performances, and "Women's Sports HD," devoted to women's sports, and looking to do better than rival broadcaster CTV's failed "WTSN - Women's Sports Network" service.

During the CRTC licensing process, cable giant Rogers Communications Inc. questioned why the CRTC would consider licensing Canadian HD channels that might not launch, a move that would bar similar genre-themed foreign, especially American HD channels, from eventually making their way into the Canadian TV market.

But the CRTC didn't buy Rogers' arguments, and approved all seven licensing applications from High Fidelity.

John Pannikar, co-founder of High Fidelity, took exception with Rogers accusing his company of staking claims to particular HD channel genres, allegedly to prevent foreign broadcasters from getting into the Canadian market at a future date.

"That (Rogers' intervention) made us chuckle. We've launched all four channels for which we were previously licensed. And we intend to launch all seven of the new channels," Pannikar added.

CRTC protections for Canadian TV channels stipulate that existing un-launched services not guaranteed carriage on domestic broadcasters and satellite services can preclude foreign services in the same programming genres from receiving permission to eventually launch and compete here.

But Pannikar insisted High Fidelity was not looking to "squat" in Canada's HD spectrum to prevent foreign services from coming here.

Canadian cable and satellite TV giants traditionally prefer sponsoring foreign, mostly American sports and movie channels entering the Canadian market because the CRTC imposes few conditions on their carriage here, and domestic carriers can charge high mark-up fees from domestic subscribers on wholesale rates they must pay the foreign channels.