United front: CTV, CanWest

Canuck cablers want paid for signals

Canadian broadcasters CTV and CanWest Media, normally rivals for Canadian primetime dominance, on Thursday acted together in asking for compensation by cable and satellite TV services for their signals.

CanWest CEO Leonard Asper told a CRTC hearing into the future of Canadian television that cable giants demand deregulation "but have profited from regulations that allow them to expropriate the signals of local stations without charge."

CTV and CanWest asked that the CRTC order cable operators to pay an average CAN$2.40 a month per subscriber for carriage of conventional broadcast signals.

Cable operators, who ap-peared last week at the regulatory hearings, bitterly oppose the fee-for-carriage proposal as consumers already receive conventional signals for free.

CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein asked Asper what consumers would gain from their pitch for hiked cable and satellite TV rates.

"We're talking about retaining, maintaining, sustaining what they already have," Asper replied.

CTV CEO Ivan Fecan warned Canada's TV regulator not to bow to demands to end so-called genre protection, in which a U.S. cable channel that offers similar programming to that available from an existing Canadian channel is barred from entry into the market.

Cable operators contend that an end to such protections will increase consumer choice and control over how TV programming is packaged here.