Satellite radio comes to Canada

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OTTAWA, Ont. –The CRTC has announced the approval of three subscription radio licences and the establishment of a licensing framework for satellite subscription radio services.

The Commission approved on June 16 the licence applications of SIRIUS Canada Inc. (SIRIUS Canada) and Canadian Satellite Radio Inc. (CSR) for subscription radio services to be delivered by satellite and terrestrial transmitters, and the application by CHUM Limited (CHUM/Astral) to offer subscription radio services uniquely through terrestrial transmitters.

"These decisions foster the objectives of the Broadcasting Act and balance the interests of Canadian consumers, the radio industry and the music industry," said CRTC Chairman, Charles Dalfen. These licences will harness new technologies for Canadians and give Canadian talent exposure to listeners across Canada and indeed, North America both through new Canadian channels and air-play on U.S. channels. New and emerging artists should benefit especially from the airtime that is being reserved for them."

The newly licensed services will add new programming to the Canadianbroadcasting system. There will be more choice and diversity for consumers, particularly those in rural and remote areas, where broadcasting choices are limited.
The availability of Canadian subscription radio services also enables consumers to access authorized Canadian services through their subscriptions.

Subscription radio via satellite radio services
The Commission placed conditions on the two newly-licensed satellite radio services, designed to ensure the broadcast of Canadian content and to benefit established and new Canadian artists.

The Commission is requiring that the satellite subscription radio licensees offer:
At least eight original channels produced in Canada. A maximum of nine foreign channels may be offered for each Canadian channel; At least 85 per cent of the musical selections and spoken word programming broadcast on the Canadian channels must be Canadian;
At least 25 per cent of the Canadian channels must be in the French language; At least 25 per cent of the musical selections on tthe Canadian channels must be new Canadian musical selections;
A further 25 per cent of the selections must be by emerging Canadian artists.
The licensees must also contribute at least 5 per cent of their gross annual revenues to initiatives for the development of Canadian talent, such as FACTOR or MusicAction funds which assist the development of new musical artists. These contributions will be contributed equally to the development of English and French-language talent.

Building on established services

The Commission considered that building on the services now provided using U.S. satellite facilities represents the optimal solution for providing satellite radio services to Canadians at this time.

The Commission noted that for the foreseeable future, satellite subscription radio services will not be available in Canada via satellite facilities that are owned and operated by Canadians.

In Notice No. DGTP-007-04 – Proposed Clarification to the Government Satellite-use Policy for the Delivery of Broadcasting Services, 21 October 2004, the Departments of Industry and Canadian Heritage stated:

Canada has no satellite facility capable of distributing digital satellite radio broadcasting and is unlikely to have such a facility in the future. Canada has not secured with the International Telecommunications Union the required spectrum resources at the S-band to develop its own specialized satellites.

In addition to the Canadian channels produced by the satellite service licensees:

SIRIUS Canada will offer programming channels provided by U.S.-based SIRIUS Satellite Radio inc., which owns 20 per cent of the shares of SIRIUS Canada. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Standard Radio Inc. hold the balance of the shares, with 40 per cent each.
CSR will offer channels provided by U.S.-based XM Satellite Radio Inc.

CSR owner John Bitove, is a Canadian citizen and resident.
As noted, the satellite-based licences are subject to certain conditions.

CSR and SIRIUS Canada each have up to 150 days to advise the Commission whether they will accept the conditions.
Subscription radio via terrestrial transmitters
The Commission also approved the application of CHUM and its associate,

Astral Media Radio Inc., to offer a service comprising 50 channels produced entirely in Canada, of which at least 20 per cent will be in the French language. This licensee also intends to offer five channels intended for the Aboriginal, Chinese, German, Italian and South Asian communities. The music broadcast by these channels must respect the minimums required by Commission regulations: notably, for popular music, 35 per cent Canadian content, and, in the case of French-language channels, a minimum of 65 per cent of musical selections in French. In addition, CHUM/Astral must contribute 2 per cent of its gross annual revenues to initiatives for the development of Canadian talent.

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