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The BookTelevision logo.

BookTelevision told to stick to books Add to ...

BookTelevision is going to have to stick with books, instead of simply drawing on them for inspiration when making programming decisions.

The Bell Media-owned speciality station asked Canada’s broadcast regulator to free it from restrictive licence conditions insisting that it air programs about books and the people who write them, and allow it to show more comedies and dramas that were loosely inspired by the written word.

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The broadcaster told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission the channel “has suffered” from low ratings and lacklustre subscriber numbers, and wanted to turn it around by offering a wider array of programming so it could compete in a crowded market.

The CRTC outright rejected the bid, something it has been doing with more regularity as it forces broadcasters to live with the terms of previous deals rather than allowing them to come back and renegotiate once a channel is on the air. It rejected a similar request last week, telling Bell Media it couldn’t increase the amount of animated programming and reduce Canadian content on the Comedy Network.

“The commission is of the view that Bell has not provided any concrete proposals to demonstrate how the proposed changes of licence would be in keeping with the nature of service for which BookTelevision was licenced or benefit Canadian programming,” the commission wrote in its decision.

Bell Media had no comment on the decision.

The channel was licensed with the understanding it would broadcast talk shows, dramas and documentaries based on books. It agreed that only 35 per cent of its programming would be made up of dramas and comedies, but wanted that increased to 50 per cent. It also wanted restrictions lifted on the amount of drama and comedy it can show during primetime.

Bell hoped the changes could attract new viewers with comedies and dramas. A sampling of its schedule for July 17 shows two episodes of Writer’s Hotlist that are repeated later in the day and four episodes of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Bell had warned the commission that the channel needed to boost its subscriber count to prosper, but the CRTC said it didn’t see any evidence that it was endangered by its programming requirements.

The channel posted a $2.9-million profit in 2012, according to CRTC filings, which was 147 per cent higher than the year before. This came despite a 2.3-per-cent decrease in subscribers to 946,165, largely due to a 62-per-cent cut in programming expenses to $684,588 from $1.8-million in 2011.

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