Entertainment

CRTC to hear applications for new over-the-air HDTV stations

Canada's federal broadcast regulator will start hearings Tuesday on whether it will allow two new entrants in the over-the-air television market with the unique provision that their signals would be in high definition.

Canada's federal broadcast regulator will start hearings Tuesday on whether it will allow two new entrants in the over-the-air television market with the unique provision that their signals would be in high definition.

Toronto businessman John Bitove has proposed to start the first over-the-air high-definition TV network with stations in Canada's eight biggest cities. Another entrant, Yes TV, wants a licence to operate a station for the Toronto market.

The proposals have drawn stern opposition from television's big players such as CTV and Global, which argue that they are gearing up for the advent of HDTV, and competition for advertising dollars is already overly tight.

If successful, the Bitove HDTV operation would represent the first time a network has sprung into existence from a standing start, without a series of pre-existing stations or acquisitions bonded together.

Bitove's proposed network would offer English-language HDTV free of charge in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

Bitove, a former co-owner of the Toronto Raptors and head of Toronto's bid for the 2008 Olympics, heads Priszm Canadian Income Fund, which operates KFC and Taco Bell fast-food outlets, and Canadian Satellite Radio, which runs XM Satellite Radio in Canada.