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The Globe and Mail

New broadcast hearings ordered on fee-for-carriage

CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein

Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick 2008

The federal government has ordered the broadcast regulator to hold more hearings and report on the request by television networks to charge cable and satellite companies for using their local signals.

This fee-for-carriage system is a bone of contention between the networks and the distribution systems.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission last year held hearings on the networks' demand for fee-for-carriage and turned them down.

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Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore said the cabinet wants the CRTC to hold new hearings and produce a formal report on the implications of such a system.

The networks, hard hit by falling ad revenues, want to collect millions of dollars from companies that deliver their signals to subscribers.

The cable and satellite firms are loath to charge customers for signals that can be pulled in free over the airways.

"We've directed the CRTC to consider what fee-for-carriage would mean for Canadians, because this is an issue that affects them directly," Mr. Moore said in a release.

He said the CRTC must take into account the impact on consumers, in particular the impact on affordable access to local and regional news, information and public affairs programming.

It must also look at how it would affect the communications industry at a time when new business models are emerging.

"This is an opportunity for the CRTC and the broadcasting industry to look to the future, to find innovative solutions, always with the consumer in mind," the minister said.

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