LOWER MAINLAND, B.C. OCTOBER 23, 1980
I am particularly pleased to welcome you all here for a short discussion about some of the plans that Premier has for subscribers in many of the municipalities in the Lower Mainland. This is certainly a topic which is getting well aired these days. I was on the Gary Bannerman Show the other day and one caller said that if they heard one more word about all the wonders of cable television, earth receive stations, etc., they would throw their set into False Creek!
But we cannot get away from this rapidly developing phenomena. The average Canadian family has his television set turned on about 6 hours a day. This does not mean of course that one person watches 6 hours of television, but various members of the family will be watching various programmes that appeal to them for about this length of time.
With over 90% of the television viewers in the areas served by our subsidiaries already on cable, I believe that cable companies have a responsibility to improve the quality and variety of the programming available to you.
Now that Canadian Cablesystems Limited and Premier Communications Limited have been allowed to merge, we can bring to bear the combined experience of the companies on improving our services to you. Together the two companies are likely the world’s largest cable television operation with over 1.3 million subscribers. We at Premier are proud to be part of this aggressive new Canadian organization.
I might add that the reason for our being here today in particular is that we made a promise to hold our first meeting of the combined Boards of Directors in the West – what I hope will be the first of many. We did just that by holding the meeting of the CCL Board yesterday in Victoria and the Premier Board today in Vancouver.
The two companies made a number of other promises. We are fulfilling these as rapidly as we can. Today is a good opportunity to review some of these with you:
1. Repatriate the Ownership
Just to show that there are other things beside constitutions that can be brought back to Canada, we promised to bring the control of Premier back to Canada. This we have successfully done. The partial ownership of Premier by CBS in the United States has now been returned to Canadian hands.
2. Expand the Plant
Vancouver has a long and proud history in the cable industry as it was one of the first major cities to be extensively cabled. As you are likely aware, however, this did leave Vancouver with a reliable plant but one which was ageing and had relatively low capacity compared to the newer operations in Canadian cities and elsewhere. We promised in a two stage process to first increase the number of channels that would be available to viewers in the Vancouver area from 17 to 24, and I am pleased to say that this interim rebuild is already underway.
We expect to be able to meet our objective of having this in place by the end of 1981. In a moment I will describe some of the potential uses for these new channels.
We further announced, however, our intention to expand the capacity to a minimum of 36 channels by December 1985. More important, we announced our intention of making the system even more reliable than it is now by making it fully two-way. This two-way capability allows us to monitor the status of the whole system so that we do not have to rely on our clients to tell us when or where there may be a problem.
As I will describe later, there are other advantages to having a two-way system. But for a moment let us talk about what we can do even in the interim to provide more choice to Vancouver and to the systems served by our Fraser Cablevision system.
3. New Channels
Education. 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 education 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 be allowed to carry this to our Vancouver 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 to 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.
4. Making 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 easier 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.
5. 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.
6. Purchasing in British Columbia
We indicated that wherever we could we would purchase components for the rebuild or ultimate over build of the system in British Columbia. We are pleased to say that we placed our first order for equipment with the Century III organization in Vancouver just a few weeks ago.
7. Research in British Columbia
We also indicated that we would develop a research facility in British Columbia and locate this in a Discovery Park. We have already started recruiting for this expanded research and development function. You may have seen our ads in the paper several weeks ago. We have not yet made a final choice on a Discovery Park location as the Foundation is still wrestling out the final details with the municipalities or educational institutions involved.
7. Community Programming
I hardly need remind this group of the job Channel 10 does in the communities we serve. They even show up at events where I did not realise they were planning coverage. It appears that I will be next year’s United Way Campaign Chairman and therefore attended the very enthusiastic Schrum football game last Friday evening. Sure enough Channel 10 was on the job and will rebroadcast the game for those who could not attend.
Our plans are well under way for the establishment of separate studios in Burnaby and Richmond. Part of the interim rebuild will be the equipment necessary to split the programming capability so that we can serve the surrounding municipalities on a stand alone basis as well as tying them into an overall community channel network for matters of general interest.
8. Western Representation on the Board
The Board of Premier Communications will form an important link with the communities we serve. We promised to expand the Board to have over 60% western representation. Already 8 of the 13 Board members are from the West and I am pleased to say that at the Premier Board meeting this morning we approved the expansion of the Board to 16 with the 3 additional members all being from the West. This will more than meet our undertaking. We have also greatly improved the representation on the Board and will have two representatives from Victoria, one from Whonnock, one from Surrey and several from the Greater Vancouver area.
We committed to many other proposals that would be of benefit to British Columbia.
We committed to financing 10 music specials to give exposure to new talent in British Columbia. These will be started next year.
We are already setting up a film production fund, part of which will be spent in B.C. to promote our growing film industry.
We committed to provide a satellite uplink to help B.C. talk to the rest of Canada. As the CRTC pointed out, this is something we may not be able to do directly ourselves, but we are still planning to meet this commitment possibly on a joint venture with another organization that has the right to install an uplink.
There are many other things I could tell you, but perhaps the most important is that we truly want to establish a good dialogue with the communities we serve. Ultimately, you are the people who can best help us to help you. We are interested in your opinions or thoughts at any time and look forward to working with you to give Vancouver and the Lower Mainland truly world-class cable systems.