The CRTC has renewed OUTtv’s licence, granting the channel must-offer status in English-language markets.
The renewal comes short of OUTtv’s request for must-offer status in both French and English, as well as pricing and packaging terms.
Known for its original first-run Canadian LGTBQ2+ programming, OUTtv argued that the terms should apply to all BDUs who serve over 2,000 subscribers to ensure those in smaller markets have access to LGBTQ2+ content.
OUTtv’s application also argued that in the current market, vertically integrated entities have an advantage because they control the distribution of their programming services themselves, unlike independents like OUTtv that must negotiate their distribution terms with BDUs. According to the network, linear television remains the most important distribution platform for OUTtv in terms of audience and revenues.
Dissenting opinion by Commissioner Claire Anderson
CRTC Commissioner Claire Anderson submitted a dissenting opinion, saying while she agrees with the decision to grant “must-offer” status to OUTtv, she believes the channel should be mandatorialy included in cable packages with the highest penetration rates, whereas the decision sets an “expectation.”
“Additionally, I would require that BDUs treat OUTtv fairly and avoid withdrawing the service, imposing punitive or retaliatory measures, imposing unreasonable rates, significantly altering the packaging or otherwise substantially reducing the wholesale payment for the service, because it furthers the objectives of the Broadcasting Act (the Act), and in particular subparagraphs 3(1)(d)(i) to (iii) and 3(1)(t)(iii),” wrote Anderson.
Anderson argues that much like the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), which receives mandatory distribution, “OUTtv is the only service to provide programming for, by and about the LGBTQ2+ community. The LGBTQ2+ is a historically marginalized group, which is even more apparent by the fact that this group has not been specifically mentioned by the Act…”
Brad Danks, CEO of the OUTtv Network, said while it’s continuing to review the decision, it is “generally pleased” that OUTtv will have must-offer status in English-language markets.
“Once implemented, this decision should help OUTtv continue to produce original programming of high quality and value for Canada’s 2SLGBTQ+ community and continue our efforts to distribute Canadian Content around the World,” said Danks, in a statement. “However we also strongly agree with the dissent of Commissioner Anderson that this decision falls short of what the Commission should have granted OUTtv.”
OUTtv’s must-offer status in English-language markets will be effective, starting March 1, 2023 to give licensed BDUs that do not currently distribute OUTtv sufficient time to do so.
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