Millions of Americans may be able to watch Canadian television programs all day and all night within a year. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is considering setting up a special facility in the border city of Windsor, Ontario, to feed a steady diet of Canadian productions to a dedicated cable television channel in the United States.
This Windsor station would transmit the programs to a satellite that would transmit them back to cable networks across the US, from Miami to Seattle and anywhere else in between.
One motivation for the Canadian cable channel would be to provide Americans with more information about Canada.
``It would be nice if Canada were better known in the United States than as the place where cold weather comes from,'' commented John Shewbridge, the CBC's vice-president of development.
Mr. Shewbridge has been spending the last two months or so developing a business plan for the Canadian channel. He intends to report to the board of directors of the government-financed CBC and its president, Pierre Juneau, next month.
If Shewbridge comes up with a viable proposal, if the board approves the plan, and if government clearances are obtained, the station could be on the air ``within a year,'' said Mr. Juneau.
This would be the first ``foreign'' channel available in all of the mainland US.
To Canadians, the idea of acquainting many Americans with Canadian television has special appeal because they watch such a massive amount of American television. Some three-quarters of all television programs available on either Canadian or American networks in Canada is of US origin.
``Most Canadians have more American TV available than the average American,'' said Shewbridge in a telephone interview from his Ottawa office.
That is because a much larger proportion of Canadian homes subscribe to cable TV with its multiplicity of channels.
A large majority of Canadians live within 200 miles of the US border. But through satellites and receiver dishes, US television is even available in Canada's far north.
By contrast, the availability of Canadian programs in the US has been slim.
As a rule, the three major networks ignore foreign programs, whatever their origin. Some Canadian productions have crept into the US by way of the Public Broadcasting System or cable networks.
If the CBC goes ahead with its Canadian channel idea, however, the potential audience would be the 38 million American households with basic cable service and possibly the 2 million or so with satellite dishes. At this stage, of course, it is not known how many US cable networks would carry the channel.
However, if a substantial majority of the networks did take it on, the potential 80 million to 90 million or so viewers would be more than three times the entire Canadian population of 25 million.
To Shewbridge, a Canadian cable channel would have two other advantages besides providing Americans with more information about Canada:
First, it would be a ``showcase'' for Canadian TV output and the artists, filmmakers, etc. involved. The program would draw from CBC itself, two Canadian private English-language TV networks, and educational television in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. It would also draw upon huge libraries of Canadian films and earlier TV shows.
``We could offer something new and unusual a cable subscriber could not get from the three networks or PBS,'' he said.
Second, it could provide a profit to the CBC. The government-owned but independently-managed network gets most of its $1.04 billion (US $700 million) in spending from the federal government.
The CBC has been facing strong pressures from the Canadian government to reduce its drain on the federal budget.