Starlight Canadian movie channel tries CRTC again by Tony Wong

Jan 29, 2014

The backers of Starlight, a channel to showcase Canadian movies, are reapplying to the CRTC but this time without the mandatory carriage.

Source: Toronto Star

Starlight, the proposed all-Canadian movie channel, is mounting a comeback after being denied mandatory distribution by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The venture, backed by prominent Canadian filmmakers such as Robert Lantos and David Cronenberg, has renewed its application to the CRTC.

This time around it seems they have dropped the request for mandatory carriage, which had proved controversial with cable and satellite providers.

“It’s just a straightforward category B application, there’s no mandatory distribution request,” said a CRTC spokesperson.

Unlike Category A channels, which must be carried by digital and cable providers, Category B channels are optional. Which means that it’s up to Starlight to make a deal with distributors.

“Starlight will be an English-language specialty television service devoted to Canadian movies, particularly feature films and documentaries intended for theatrical release,” says the application to the CRTC.

The CRTC will hold a hearing into the application April 8. The deadline for submission of interventions and comments is Feb. 28.

The CRTC denied the application in August 2013, saying the proposed programming may duplicate existing channels and that it “did not demonstrate that Canadian feature films are unavailable in the broadcasting system.”

However, the CRTC did say the channel would have contributed to “Canadian expression and reflect Canadian opinions.”

Mandatory carriage would have allowed Starlight to collect 45 cents a month from every cable subscriber and a prominent spot in basic cable services.

Starlight is arguing it offers a unique service because Canadian movies accounted for only 5.2 per cent of programming on English language pay TV services in 2011.

They say all feature films intended for theatrical distribution will be presented without commercial interruption.

In the original application Starlight had said one hundred per cent of programming would be Canadian if they received mandatory carriage.

Under the current application, Starlight is proposing that at least 85 per cent of its programming be devoted to Canadian content.

“While this level is far higher than for any other drama-oriented service in Canadian history, we believe it may be commercially sustainable assuming prudent management.”

Starlight failed in its last application after being attacked by the major cable, satellite and Internet providers because of its request for mandatory carriage. Competitors said it was a tax on Canadian TV viewers, while Lantos has said those same companies have thrived over the years under government protection.

Starlight executive and veteran film and television producer Mark Musselman confirmed that this was a new application. However, he said no one was available to respond on Wednesday to a request for more information.

© Toronto Star