Canada's broadcast regulator renews TV licenses for five-year term

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s broadcast regulator said on Monday it will renew the broadcast licenses for the country’s biggest television service providers, and it also partially approved Rogers Communications Inc’ application to run a national multilingual service.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said the licenses for distributors that collectively provide television service to three-quarters of the Canadian market will be renewed as of September for five years, rather than the typical seven.

The regulator had already warned the country's largest television distributors - BCE Inc BCE.TO, Rogers RCIb.TO, Quebecor QBRb.TO and Corus Entertainment CJRb.TO - not to expect lengthy extensions.

In a separate decision, the CRTC granted Rogers a three-year license to operate a foreign-language channel called OMNI Regional. The channel will be granted mandatory distribution during that time, meaning broadcasters will be required to include it in basic TV service.

However, the CRTC called the approval an interim measure, saying the application for the channel did not fully meet the regulator’s expectations for a service that would reflect Canada’s ethnic communities.

As such, the regulator also issued a call for applications for a national, multi-ethnic service that would be given mandatory distribution.

Rogers had proposed making OMNI a national channel after its elimination of ethnic newscasts sparked an outcry from viewers and concerns of a lack of diversity on Canadian television.

The regulator has taken an aggressive stance in support of consumer choice in recent years, including mandating “pick and pay” options for television viewers. Last month, it strengthened its net neutrality rules, saying all data delivered online should be treated equally by internet service providers.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by David Gregorio