OCTOBER 22, 1980
I am very pleased to welcome you this morning on behalf of the Directors of Canadian Cablesystems Limited and those of Premier Communications Limited. As you are aware, these two companies have now merged to form what is likely the world’s largest cable television organization with over 1.3 million subscribers in Canada, the United States and Ireland.
My purpose in talking to you today, however, is not particularly to outline all the things we are doing around the world, but rather to talk very specifically about Victoria. I hope this will be the first of many opportunities we will to keep you up-to-date on what Premier/CCL is doing in the City and in B.C. in general.
I also hope to open up a dialogue about what we can do to improve the services we provide to the community a community of which we are all very proud.
Mind you, dialogue is not a problem in Victoria. City is well known to the CRTC for being a lively place for outspoken opinions. They may in fact use terms other than lively to describe what goes on here, but then in fairness you probably have some other ways of describing the CRTC from time to time. It is not just the presence of the B.C. legislature that makes Victoria such an outspoken community; it is the interest that the community shows in what goes on in their broadcasting industry.
Although those of us in the CCL/Premier organization may not always agree with everything that is said, we really like the openness of the frank dialogue that always goes on in this City. Nothing is worse for a communicator than to have a blah environment.
At the CRTC Hearing last June we made a number of promises that involved the City of Victoria. The first of these was to hold our first combined Board Meeting in British Columbia. That Board Meeting is taking place today in the Empress Hotel, and I am sure will be just the first of many that we will hold in the West.
But beyond that people in broadcasting are always telling you how great it will be. We promised a lot. We intend to deliver.
Let’s be specific about some of the things that we are planning for Victoria.
1. Expand the Plant
We did rebuild the Victoria cable plant several years ago, and in fact now have a good reliable system. However, it is our intention to expand the capacity of the plant to a minimum of 36 channels by December 1985. More important, it is our intention to make the system even more reliable by making it two-way.
A two-way system will allow us to monitor the status of the system so that rather than waiting for our subscribers to tell us there is a problem, we will be able to pick this up and dispatch crews to fix the problem immediately.
As I will describe in a moment, however, there will be other benefits to making the system two-way. The addition of more channels we also feel is necessary because we believe that the main reason for cable is to provide more choice. Let’s look at some of those choices.
2. New Channels
We are planning our system upgrades in stages. The Victoria system should be at about 27 channels by the Fall of 1981 and these are some of the new additions we are hoping to provide to you.
• Educational. We have assigned Channel 18, which is sometimes known as E (for Education of course) to the Provincial Government who are themselves planning to provide 2-3 hours of educational programming per day for the early part of next year, with a fuller schedule to be developed throughout 1981. This will be provided under the auspices of the KNOW organization of the Provincial Government. I will, however, leave it to Dr. Walter Hardwick and others to make the detailed announcements in due course.
• Transportation. It appeared to us that we could provide an excellent service by providing flight arrival and departure information for the airlines, with an emphasis on any problems that may be occurring. The same could be done for ferry sailings, trains, or even highway data. We are now working to develop a very meaningful channel of information in this area.
• Environment. Travellers, boaters, fishermen and many others depend on constant up-to-date specialized weather information. We believe that we can provide this not just on a local basis but also with constant updates on the provincial and national weather scene, possibly utilizing satellite photographs. We may not have all these features on day one, but we are working closely with computer and data processing firms in Vancouver to develop some of these new features.
• Financial News. We are not just talking about stock exchange quotations, but possibly the provision of complete business and investment information services from sources such as Reuters.
• Consumer Channel. CCL has established a most helpful comparative shopping channel in the East. We hope to combine this with other useful information dealing with health, exercise, diet menus, budgeting, community events and other consumer information.
• Broadcast Repeats. CCL has always been very sensitive to the need to provide more exposure to the best of Canadian productions. We plan to dedicate a channel to the rebroadcast of Canadian programming so that more Canadians will get a chance to watch more of what their own country creates.
• Expanded and Improved News Service. We envisage that this will be a replacement for the current Broadcast News service with more emphasis on local news and hopefully improved graphic presentation.
• Additional Station. We understand that a new station, using the familiar call sign KCPQ, will start broadcasting from the United States sometime this Fall. The fare they will offer will be quite different from that provided by the regular U.S. networks or PBS. We expect that we will continue to carry this to our Victoria subscribers.
• TV Listing. With all of the new channels we also plan to have an electronic TV guide, so that through your television set you can get a preview of what is coming up on all these various stations.
Our aim is have channels such as the above available to our viewers by the end of 1981, subject of course to CRTC approval. We have already applied for approval to add such new services.
3. Make it All Easier to Use
It must be obvious of course that to access all these new channels a subscriber would have to have a converter. As you know, most TV sets now have a rotary dial that only allows access to 12 TV channels. For anything beyond this one needs a special device allowing access to 36 or more channels.
We expect that many new models of converters will be coming out in the next few years. To make it easy for our subscribers to obtain these we plan to launch a converter rental programme. This will give a subscriber the option of either purchasing his or her own converter or renting the device by paying for it on the regular cable invoice.
4. B.C. Parliamentary Bureau
Our approach would be to establish a Parliamentary Bureau in or near the legislative building which MLA’s could conveniently use to tape or broadcast live whatever comments they may wish to make directly to their constituents via cable. We believe the MLA’s will like this feature as it gives them a way to express directly to their constituents their views on new matters of local interest.
We are not talking about coverage of the B.C. Legislature itself, although this is something we have had discussions about with the Provincial Government. We are, however, planning to change the current House of Commons channel and add to the present programming presentations or discussions by members of the B.C. legislature.
We have so far received enthusiastic support for this concept from all parties and are at the moment working to finalize the details.
5. Security Systems
Victoria has been selected as one of three major experiments by the CCL/Premier group for the start of a major new cable service – we call this Victoria Cableguard Limited.
This is a security service covering fire, medical and police alert systems monitored constantly by the cable company. This is another area where we require a two-way system and one of the advantages of upgrading the plant to this capability.
The initial area for this system will be in Gordon Head and we will begin marketing this new service in early November.
6. Community Programming
I have left to the last a very important community service provided by your cable company – the community channel on Cable 10. I am particularly proud to announce that on Saturday, November 1st Channel 10 will itself be ten years old. A number of special events are planned to celebrate this event.
The variety of community events covered by this channel is really amazing. Just to take the programme for a few days next week one would see:
• Your City, Your Ideas (coverage of Victoria’s first Urban Conference dealing with the downtown core);
• Chamber of Commerce Presents (Mr. Jim Kinnaird, President of the B.C. Federation of Labour);
• Money Talk (financial matters discussed by experts);
• Cable 10 Sports (Victoria-Esquimalt Midget Hockey);
• Music Victoria (students from the Victoria Conservatory of Music);
• Arts Calendar (members of the arts community are interviewed by Erika Kurth);
• Tuesday At Nine (synagogue refurbishing and the Women’s Centre);
• Current Affairs (interesting personalities are interviewed by Hassan Sunderani);
• Pets Galore (grooming is the topic by the Island Cat Fanciers Association);
• Canadian Forces Pacific (a film entitled Full Speed Ahead produced by the Canadian Forces Base in Esquimalt).
I could go on but I believe this adequately points out the broad range of topics and interests covered on this lively channel.
With all of the above events we still hope to leave some room for the introduction into British Columbia of pay television. But this is a topic in itself.
BENEFITS TO BRITISH COLUMBIA
I have talked very specifically about Victoria. Obviously there are many other things that we are doing that will benefit the Province.
• We are purchasing components for our rebuilds in British Columbia where possible. A recent order was placed with Century III, a manufacturing plant in Vancouver.
• We are pushing ahead with the film production fund, a portion of which will be spent with British Columbia’s growing film industry.
• Next year we will start producing a series of musical specials to expose the talents of young musicians in British Columbia.
Finally, I should point out that Victoria will be well represented on the new Board of Directors of Premier. Ian Stewart has already been appointed to the Board. We have in mind a future draft choice to be added before the end of December to add to the input that the Victoria community will have on the future developments of the Premier systems in British Columbia.
We are all very sincere about wanting your input in how we can improve our service to Victoria. I would be very pleased to discuss any ideas you may want to raise at this point or at any time in the future.