1957, Canada's fledgling cable operators formed the National Community
Antenna Television Association of Canada to represent their collective
interests to the public and varioU.S. government bodies. In 1968,
after the passage of the Broadcasting Act and the creation of the
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the
cable indU.S.try changed the name of its umbrella organization to
the Canadian Cable Television Association (CCTA). Over the last
three decades Canada's cable operators have certainly dramatically
altered the character of Canadian television services, by extending
the range of programming and services available to Canadians and
opening the door to the "500 channel universe."
first Canadian cable televisioussystem was established in London,
Ontario in 1952 (though it was preceded by a Montreal cable system
that delivered audio-only service until later the same year). Cable's
original purpose was simply to improve the quality of over-the-air
reception from local and regional TV stations. In London, Ontario
in 1952 the cable TV system delivered the CBC signal from Toronto
and the U.S. networks from border cities. In 1963, Canadian cable
TV operators began using microwave technology to deliver services
to rural and remote communities.
In the 1970s cable subscriptions rose sharply. By 1977, the number
of households subscribing to cable passed 50%. Currently 95% of
Canadian TV households are passed by cable and 81% of those households
subscribe to cable services. Through microwave relay and satellite
systems, cable TV services are available in more than 2,000 small
and rural communities across Canada.
cable business has been extremely lucrative for most CCTA members.
Between 1983 and 1993, cable rates rose an average of 80% compared
to a 31% increase in local telephone rates and a 47% increase in
the consumer price index. Moreover, the CRTC only regulates the
basic subscription rate charged by cable operators, but 96% of subscribers
chose a package of channels known as extended basic whose rate is
other media industries, cable is now characterised by a significant
level of corporate concentration; the largest nine companies account
for 80% of total subscribers. With over 30% of all Canadian cable
subscribers, and close to 45% of all English-Canadian subscribers
under its corporate banner, Rogers Communications is the dominant
national firm. In Quebec, Le Groupe Videotron accounts for close
to 60% of all subscribers.
expansion of cable in Canada in the 1970s can be attributed to a
number of regulatory decisions made by the Canadian Radio-television
and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). In 1969, after much public
pressure and lobbying from the CCTA, the CRTC permitted cable systems
operating at a distance from the U.S. border, as in Edmonton and
Ottawa, to use microwave distribution technology to gather U.S.
broadcast signals. Cable's success as a distribution technology
was directly related to its ability to provide Canadian households
with U.S. signals they either could not otherwise receive or received
poorly with conventional roof-top antennae. In 1975, the CRTC declared
that cable was a "chosen instrument of public policy" and developed
detailed regulations concerning the signals and services that cable
companies can or must provide, the rates charged subscribers, the
provision of a community channel, and more.
In many respects, cable was the first of the much ballyhooed new
technologies. Aside from its early use of microwave technology,
Canadian cable TV initiated the use of satellite-delivered services
when in the 1970s it offered the House of Commons proceedings to
subscribers across the country. Cable companies also developed the
first alpha-numeric television services in Canada. Home shopping
and real estate services have been available in larger centers for
several years. Some cable systems also offer travel information,
electronic mail, video games, and instructional services. Cable
companies are involved in a number of field-trials to deliver broadband,
interactive home services.
the local level, the member companies of the CCTA have supported
community channels for over 25 years. In 1993, 225 community channels
across the country provided more than 235,000 hours of programming.
For all but the smallest cable companies, community channels are
a condition of their license to operate. Cable companies mU.S.t
make available both space and equipment to community groups and
individuals interested in producing television programming; the
cable operators are legally responsible for all the material broadcast
on the community channels. Although they were initially envisioned
as a great experiment in citizen participation and democratic communication,
the community channels have by and large developed into rather paternalistic
institutions that avoid controversial and politically-charged programming.
Instead, local council meetings, local sports events, and multicultural
information programming make up the bulk of the offerings on most
Canada moves forward into age of interactive information and entertainment
services, the CCTA mU.S.t contend with the looming possibility of
competition from Canada's telephone companies. The CCTA has argued
repeatedly that cable operators are better suited to providing Canadians
with access to the information superhighway. CCTA companies are
currently engaged in an elaborate project to improve the interactive,
multimedia, transactional capabilities of cables systems, including
a plan to establish national interconnection via cable. The CCTA
has also maintained that, unlike the telephone companies, cable
operators are committed to protecting and supporting the production
of Canadian material in the interests of reinforcing Canadian sovereignty
and cultural identity.
Robert E. Cable Television and Telecommunication in Canada: An
Economic Analysis. East Lansing, Michigan: Division of Research,
Graduate School of BU.S.iness Administration, Michigan State University,
Diane. "Competing Channels: Regulators Debate Television's Future."
Macleans (Toronto, Canada), March 22, 1993.
Television. Ottawa, Canada:Statistics Canada, 1971--.
Television in Canada. Canadian Radio-Television Commission.
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Mike. "Canada Test Angers Border Broadcasters." Broadcasting
(Washington, D.C.), June 8, 1992.
Timothy. Beyond Broadcasting: Into the Cable Age. London:
British Film Institute, 1984.
Karen. "Canadian Co-op Combats Yank Satellite Attack." Variety
(Los Angeles, California), May 17, 1993.
"Striking Out at TV Violence." Variety (Los Angeles, California),
May 17, 1993.