Rogers pacts for Chinese channels


TORONTO -- Canadian cablecaster Rogers Communications Inc. said Tuesday that it will shortly begin marketing nine Chinese-language cable channels from mainland China to Canadian digital TV viewers.

The state-run Chinese channels, dubbed the Chinese Great Wall TV package, secured broadcast licenses last week from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, clearing their final hurdle before entry into the Canadian market.

"We think there's a huge market for these services in Canada," Rogers Cable vp and general manager David Purdy said, indicating that the Chinese channels will be sold as one package to digital subscribers on a discretionary basis.

Rogers worked with Chinese Central Television, mainland China's national TV network, to introduce the mostly Mandarin-language channels to Canada.

The nine Chinese services -- CCTV-4, the Satellite Channel of Southern Television Guandong, Southeast TV Station, Jiangsu International TV Channel, Beijing TV, CCTV Entertainment Channel, Dragon TV, China Yellow River Television Station and Hunan Satellite TV -- are represented internationally by China International Television Corp.

To secure CRTC approval, Rogers had to overcome criticism from certain quarters of the Chinese-Canadian community that the cablecaster was providing a mouthpiece for the Chinese communist regime by partnering with CCTV, a state-run agency, to bring the package of channels here.

In its decision, the CRTC said it received petitions from Chinese-Canadians who insisted that the Great Wall package was not traditional media but rather conveyed "lies, fabricated stories, or pieces of misleading news" from the Chinese Communist Party.

Purdy turned aside concerns regarding political content and editorial policy, insisting that the channels represented mostly news, entertainment and variety TV content and amounted to more consumer choice for Chinese-Canadians.

"We don't approve what channels come into this country. We leave that to the CRTC. It's not our job to censure TV channels," Purdy said.

The Rogers executive said that the cabler already airs TV channels from Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere in Asia that offer opposing views from those found on mainland Chinese TV channels.

Bringing the Great Wall package to Canada also was opposed by Fairchild Television and Multivan, both Vancouver-based Chinese-language TV services, as well as New York-based NTDTV. All told the CRTC that introducing mainland Chinese TV channels would disadvantage homegrown Canadian Chinese-language services.

To ensure Canadian-Chinese-language TV channels remain competitive once the Great Wall package is sold here, the CRTC ordered Rogers to sell the package only to digital TV subscribers that already pay for and receive Fairchild, Multivan and other homegrown services.

Canada has an estimated 1.5 million Chinese-Canadians, most of who live in Vancouver, Toronto and other urban centers.

Purdy said that Cantonese-speaking Canadians, mostly from Hong Kong, have lived here for some time, while Mandarin-speaking Canadians are largely newer immigrants.

At the same time, Purdy insisted Chinese-Canadians have integrated themselves into Canadian society and represent an increasingly prosperous TV market.