Maple Leaf Cablers Up Against Deadline


Ottawa -- Canada's MSOs are racing to meet a July 2
government deadline to find room for four new channels. But it's highly likely that at
least some of them won't make the deadline, and U.S.-based cable channels could suffer the

The new channels in question are Talk TV, Star TV, Report
on Business Television (RoBT) and Canadian Learning Television.

Known in the industry as "The Four Orphans," they
were licensed in 1996 by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
(CRTC) with an unusual provision.

The CRTC stipulated that Canada's cable systems must give
the orphans a 15 percent-penetration rate through digital distribution by Sept. 1. If they
fail to do so, the orphans can demand analog carriage.

Canadian MSOs have been unable to attain the 15 percent
penetration rate. They have until July 2 -- due to a requirement of 60 days' notice -- to
notify the CRTC how they will remedy the situation.

Rogers Cablesystems Ltd. was tight-lipped about its

Cogeco Cable Canada Inc. was more candid: Vice president of
marketing and communications Tom McCutcheon said the operator hasn't signed carriage deals
with any of the Orphans.

Meanwhile, Shaw Communications Inc. president and CEO Jim
Shaw Jr. said his company has signed digital-only deals with "three of The Four
Orphans. And we haven't heard yet when RoBT was going to launch, but in fact, we would
look for it to come onto digital also."

Those deals include only digital distribution for the
channels, but the Orphans could receive the coveted analog carriage if the Sept. 1
penetration deadline isn't reached.

In that case, channels that already have analog carriage --
almost certainly U.S.-based ones -- would be bumped.

However, the CRTC hasn't decided if the Orphans will have
to forfeit their analog-carriage rights, CRTC spokesperson Denis Carmel said. This means
that Shaw and other MSOs might still have to make room for them on analog by Sept. 1, no
matter what deals they've signed.

A CRTC decision is expected in the next few weeks.