Bell proposes Freesat service for Canada

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009
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Bell proposes new “freesat” service as part of innovative public policy solutions to benefit Canadian consumers and broadcasting industry

OTTAWA — Bell today proposed a series of innovative public policy and regulatory recommendations designed to address financial challenges facing the broadcasting industry, including a proposal to provide Canadians who currently rely on analog over-the-air television with a package of local and regionally relevant over-the-air television channels free of charge as part of the transition to digital broadcasting.

If conventional broadcasters do not replace all their analog towers with digital towers, many Canadians are at risk of losing access to over-the-air television channels. Bell’s “freesat” proposal would guarantee consumer access to these TV channels, helping avoid any new tax on consumers or a government bailout for Canadian broadcasters. Consumers would be required only to purchase a compatible satellite dish and digital receiver.

“Our ‘freesat’ proposal addresses the needs of Canadian consumers who rely on over-the-air television channels,” said Kevin Crull, President, Bell Residential Services. “If Bell’s recommendations are accepted by the CRTC, then consumers would be able to receive a package of at least five digital TV channels without having to subscribe to Bell TV. For many consumers, that’s more channels than they can access today over the air.”

Bell Canada submitted its proposals to the CRTC as part of a licensing renewal proceeding underway for Canada’s major broadcasters. In contrast to proposals from broadcasters, “freesat” and other solutions put forward by Bell would benefit consumers without impairing the company’s ability to compete in broadcasting distribution.

Many of Canada’s leading broadcasters are arguing they need new sources of funding to support a changing business model, including a “fee-for-carriage” that would essentially amount to an additional tax on satellite and cable companies’ customers. Bell’s proposals would help eliminate the need for fee-for-carriage or any increase to other subsidies.

“Our ‘freesat’ proposal offers significant public interest benefits,” added Mirko Bibic, Bell’s Senior Vice-President, Regulatory and Government Affairs. “It would be good for Canadian consumers and it would enable Canadian broadcasters to save hundreds of millions of dollars by not having to construct new digital infrastructure.”