Will be focused on community affairs, municipal politics, arts and culture, comedy and long-form interviews
Source: Montreal Gazette
MONTREAL — Anglophones in the greater Montreal area could get yet another television channel with local programming as soon as next spring.
On Thursday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission published an application from Videotron to create an English-language community television channel for the region, similar to its MAtv (formerly Vox) channel in French.
Producing 21 hours of original programming a week and with a budget of $6 million a year, the high-definition channel would air a mix of programming proposed by the community and original programs produced in-house, focused on things like community affairs, municipal politics, arts and culture, comedy and long-form interviews.
MAtv president Isabelle Dessureault said the plan is to launch the channel next spring if the CRTC approves the request this fall.
Montreal hasn’t seen English community TV programming since about 2000, three years after Videotron acquired CF Cable TV. Dessureault told The Gazette that the company started looking at adding English programming back to its community channel in 2009, “but when we started looking at strategic development for (the channel) we said that didn’t make sense.” So instead they decided to rebrand the community channel from Vox to MAtv and then move on creating an English version.
“At the time we didn’t want to announce anything,” Dessureault said. “We didn’t want the competitor to know about it.”
But with Videotron’s licence coming up for renewal this year, the English Language Arts Network and Quebec Community Groups Network announced they would put pressure on the CRTC to require Videotron to establish an English-language community television channel.
“There was a clear mandate for us to go very quickly with the announcement that we have that intention,” she said.
Like MAtv, MYtv will be exclusive to VIdeotron clients, and will be part of the basic package for analog and digital customers. The CRTC’s rules allow for cable companies to spend up to two per cent of their gross revenues on community television channels, which air no advertising. Videotron has applied to devote another two per cent to the English channel, a move that would create 30 jobs.
Bell Fibe, Videotron’s main competitor, is also launching community television programming in Montreal. It launched a French-language version last month and is waiting on CRTC approval for an English one. Bell’s community programs are only available through its on-demand service, while Videotron is proposing two linear channels that run 24/7.
Dessureault wasn’t impressed by Bell’s service, noting that for things like live interactive programming, “you can’t really do that on demand.” In addition to a linear channel, MYtv will be available on Videotron’s Illico on Demand service as well as Illico.tv.
Asked about the possibility of English-language community channels elsewhere, such as Gatineau or Sherbrooke, she said “I’m not sure that would be viable” because of the smaller budgets that would be allocated in those areas. But she said Videotron could offer the Montreal channel in those regions for programming that might interest anglophones elsewhere in Quebec.
The CRTC is accepting comments on Videotron’s proposal until Oct. 7. You can file them online at http://bit.ly/videotroncommunitytv
© Montreal Gazette