OTTAWA, Ont. — The days of flipping from radio station to radio station while hauling cross country are over.
In a decision sure to be welcomed by truckers, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) gave the green light to applications by three groups, including the two biggest U.S. satellite radio companies, to launch digital, subscription-based radio in this country.
The three approved applicants include:
Canadian Satellite Radio, owned by John Bitove, former co-owner of the Toronto Raptor basketball team. Bitove partnered with Washington-based XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., the No. 1 U.S. subscription-based satellite radio. Bitove told media he hopes to have digital radio offered in Canada by Christmas time.
New York-based Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., the No. 2 U.S. player, has teamed up with Canada’s Standard Broadcasting Inc. and the publicly owned Canadian Broadcasting Corp.. The venture had initially been announced back on Dec. 10, 2003 but it has taken more than a year to attain CRTC approval.
“Our agreement with CBC/Radio-Canada is an exceptional example of a time- honored brand joining with SIRIUS to bring an innovative national service to Canadians,” Joseph P. Clayton, President and CEO of SIRIUS, had said at the time of the venture’s formation. “Sixty of our 100 premier channels are commercial-free, and this makes SIRIUS an ideal match for Canada’s public broadcaster and its unparalleled Canadian programming content.
The final approved application was submitted by Canadian broadcasters Astral Media Inc. and CHUM Ltd., which also applied to offer digital radio using land-based transmitters, and had promised to provide more Canadian content than the other two applicants.
“In rendering our decision we had to acknowledge the reality that in satellite, due to the unavailability in Canadian satellite alternatives, we will be building on services serving the U.S. market,” the regulator’s chairman, Charles Dalfen, told media. He added that digital radio offers “more choice and diversity for consumers, particularly those in rural and remote areas.” The decision partly reflected the reality that many Canadians were already illegally tapping into digital/satellite radio in the United States, and it was difficult to stop, Dalfen acknowledged. Canada has no satellite facility that can distribute digital satellite radio broadcasting.
But the CRTC also provided ground rules to go with its permission. At least 10 percent of the channels offered to Canadians must be produced in Canada. At least 85 percent of the music and programming on those Canadian channels must be Canadian and at least 25 percent of the Canadian channels must be French-language.
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