The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) this week announced that it will be forcing Bell TV and Shaw Direct to add a slew of additional stations to their Direct-to-Home (DTH) subscription satellite television service.

Under existing policy, Bell TV and Shaw Direct must offer their subscribers: an affiliate of each national television network; five English- and five French-language CBC stations; one television station per province from each major Canadian broadcasting ownership group, and two stations from each of the other Canadian broadcasting ownership groups.

Saying this was not enough, the CRTC is now demanding that Shaw and Bell make available virtually every local, regional, and community channel in Canada to everyone of its customers.

The decision means that Bell TV will be forced to carry at least 43 additional television services by August 31, 2012 when its conversion from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 is complete while Shaw Direct will have to distribute all 80 stations that receive funding from the Local Programming Improvement Fund by January 1, 2013, after it launches it new satellite in 2012.

“Canadians in all markets should have access to their local television stations” said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC.

In order to deliver these additional low demand channel, Bell and Shaw will be required to invest tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of dollars in new satellites, new broadcasting equipment and new receivers in order to acquire and distribute the additional signals.

The changes will also mean that hundreds of thousands of consumers will be required to upgrade to new satellite receivers.

Add it all up and the new CRTC demands could end up costing Canadian satellite television consumers hundreds of millions and perhaps billions of dollars in new equipment and added programming fees over the next few years.

For High Definition television (HDTV) owners, the decision could also have a significant impact on the quality of television images they receive since Shaw and Bell will be forced to increase the level of video compression in order to squeeze more channels onto existing satellites.

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