Bell has launched Fibe Alt TV, billed as Canada’s first widely available app-based live TV service

Bell has launched Fibe Alt TV, billed as Canada’s first widely available app-based live TV service. With no traditional TV subscription or set-top box required, Alt TV is accessed through the Fibe TV app and offers up to 500 channels on the screen of your choice. Initially available to Bell Fibe Internet customers in Ontario and Québec, and coming to Atlantic Canada and Manitoba, Alt TV will start at $14.96/month with select Fibe Internet packages. It offers access to two TV streams at a time with customers able to add individual channels to build their own packages.

The CRTC has issued a competitive call for applications for a new television service offering national multilingual and multi-ethnic programming including news and information. If licensed, the service would receive mandatory distribution on the digital basic service starting in 2020. As an interim measure, the CRTC has approved the licensing and mandatory distribution of Rogers Media-owned, multilingual, multi-ethnic channel OMNI Regional on all digital basic television packages in Canada. With CRTC concerns the service won’t fully meet the needs of Canadians, OMNI Regional is receiving mandatory distribution for a three-year period only and may not be renewed.

The CRTC has renewed the licences of the large French-language television groups Groupe TVA, Groupe V, Bell and Corus and the large English-language television groups Bell, Rogers and Corus for a new five-year term effective September 2017. In doing so, the CRTC also imposed new hurdles for local TV licence renewals with station owners now required to give 120 days notice of an intended closure to allow for public hearings. Commercial English-language stations will continue to be required to broadcast at least seven hours of local programming per week in non-metropolitan markets and at least 14 hours per week in metropolitan markets. Local programming requirements for commercial French-language stations will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, using a benchmark minimum of five hours of local programming per week.

As part of Monday’s license renewals, the CRTC is adopting a five per cent PNI or “programs of national interest” expenditure requirement for all services within the groups, of which at least 75 per cent be allocated to independently-produced programming. In their interventions, the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) and Writers’ Guild of Canada (WGC) noted that the Bell and Corus groups had averaged an eight per cent PNI expenditure level from the 2011-2012 to 2014-2015 broadcast years. The DGC submitted that existing spending be maintained and proposed that the PNI expenditure requirement for all three groups be set at nine per cent, while ACTRA proposed that it be initially set at eight per cent and increased annually over the next licence term. Media unions were quick to decry Monday’s policy changes with Unifor saying the decision will do nothing to stop further cuts to local television news. The WGC also called the changes “a major blow to Canadian screenwriters – and Canadian audiences.” Executive director Maureen Parker said the cuts “could mean the devastation of Canadian domestic production,” amounting to an over $200 million loss for PNI over a five-year licence term.

As part of Monday’s bulk release of CRTC regulatory decisions, the commission has approved Bell Media’s request to delete required contributions to MuchFACT, the Much-funded Foundation to Assist Talent. The MuchFACT program contributed as much as $2 million a year to Canadian music video and digital content creation. The commission also granted Bell Media’s request to delete the condition of licence requiring adherence to a terms of trade agreement with the Canadian Media Producers Association; for Book Television, Fashion Television and MTV2, to delete the condition of licence requiring that no less than 25 per cent of all Canadian programs broadcast by the licensee, other than news, sports and current affairs programming, be produced by independent production companies; for Bravo!, to delete requirements to contribute to BravoFACT; for TMN Encore, to delete the condition of licence, as part of its expenditures on Canadian programming, to devote a maximum of $500,000 to the preservation and restoration of Canadian films; for The Comedy Network (TCN), to delete the expectation the licensee direct 75 per cent of expenditures on original Canadian production to independent production companies; for Space, to delete the expectation that the licensee acquire a minimum of 75 per cent of all original, first-run Canadian programming, other than news and current affairs broadcast on the service, from independent production companies; and for MTV, to delete expectation that the licensee acquire programming from independent production companies and allocate $50,000 in each broadcast year to independent production companies for concept and script development.

The Handmaid’s Tale is now Bravo’s most-watched broadcast ever, according to final Numeris data which confirms 793,400 viewers watched the April 30 premiere episode, also making it the most-watched series premiere on a Canadian Entertainment Specialty channel this broadcast year. Preliminary live plus same-day audience data for Episode 3 of the series shows an audience increase of 21 per cent over Episodes 1 and 2. The series is now averaging 722,600 viewers per episode.

Troy Reeb, senior VP of news, radio and station operations for Corus Entertainment tweeted that more investigation is merited after Global News videographer Jeremy Cohn was arrested Tuesday night at the scene of a fatal collision in Hamilton. Freelance journalist David Ritchie is facing a charge of obstructing police stemming from the same incident. Hamilton Police say they are still investigating.

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