Broad proposals for changing Canada's TV delivery system

Canada's broadcast regulator has issued broad new proposals that could, if adopted, dramatically alter how Canadians receive and pay for their television.

The proposals issued Thursday by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission include requiring cable and satellite providers to offer a basic service made up primarily of local Canadian channels, something CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais calls ``skinny basic.''

The CRTC is also proposing a so-called pick-and-pay structure that would allow Canadians to choose individual channels, on top of a basic service.

And it suggests the price of that basic service could be capped at between $20 and $30 per month.

The proposals, which have evolved through consultations with the public and industry over the past year, will likely result in a major departure from the current TV content delivery model, Blais said Thursday in an interview.

"How Canadians consume television content, what is television content, how technology is influencing that, is so significant that I expect out of this there'll be considerable change,'' he said.

But at least one consumer group says the CRTC hasn't gone far enough and should allow Canadians a ``pure choice.''

"What store do you walk into, or anywhere else, where you're told you've got to buy certain things before you can buy what you want?'' said Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers' Association of Canada.

Consumers should be allowed to buy TV channels one at a time, without having to pay for a basic service, no matter how pared down, he said.

"It makes absolutely no sense as far as the consumers' point of view.''

Still, Cran said he understands the CRTC has a mandate under the Broadcasting Act to ensure a certain amount of Canadian content, and that programming is delivered that reflects ``Canadians to Canadians.''

Industry Minister James Moore first indicated last October that he'd like to see more choice for Canadian television consumers.

The government then laid out its plans to overhaul the country's TV distribution system in its speech from the throne, which included a proposed ``pick-and-pay'' service structure.

Other proposals unveiled Thursday include requiring service providers to offer build-your-own channel packages or allowing them to continue offering the same packages that are currently on the market.

"(Service providers) would be required to allow subscribers to build their own custom packages of discretionary programming services,'' the CRTC said in a table incorporated in a new notice of hearing.

"(Service providers) could still offer pre-assembled packages.''

At the same time, the regulator proposes allowing local TV stations to shut down their transmitters, a move that might not sit well with consumers who prefer to get their TV programming over the air.

"It's an idea that we want to explore,'' said Blais, who stressed that the proposal is open for debate.

Roughly eight per cent of Canadian TV viewers get their content using antennas, without paying a service provider to deliver programming.

The CRTC also proposes allowing television stations and networks to count revenues from online or other delivery platforms toward their overall revenue base.

The regulators says it has not yet decided which options it will enforce, and is giving the public until Sept. 19 to offer comments on the proposals online.

A public hearing will also be held Sept. 8 in Gatineau, Que.

A number of companies, most of them in eastern Canada, already offer basic service plans and ``pick-and-pay'' options.

But some service providers have said they need the ability to rework contracts with television program suppliers if the CRTC wants true ``pick-and-pay'' pricing for consumers.

The regulator touches on that in its notice, proposing that program suppliers be banned from demanding ``unreasonable penetration-based'' rates for their programming.

In the end, Blais said that while consumers should benefit from more choice through the changes, they will have to pay something for the services they receive.

Otherwise, he said, the programs they want simply would not exist.

"You have to, to a certain degree, be concerned about the underlying economic model,'' said Blais.

"Canadians love to have that great content, but it still has to be made and paid for.''

Once new regulations are adopted, the CRTC said it expects them to come into force by December 2015.

 

Photo credit: angeladonadio.com

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  1. Are these guys nuts? posted on 08/21/2014 07:31 PM
    Are these guys nuts?

    Everyday more and more people are disconnecting cable and satelite for antennae and internet.... How out of touch can they get? Who would pay for compressed crappy picture when you can stream it with better results and for FREE.

    Cable and satelite have both gone the way of long distance phone calls...
    1. Richard posted on 08/22/2014 07:52 AM
      @Are these guys nuts? Actually they are bang on...People don't want to pay for a channel hey will never watch in order to get one they will watch. That's why they are leaving,

      As for for streaming having better quality...Ive never seen it but that's me

      Finally networks are starting to only stream to people who subscribe to cable or satellite...As people cancel their subscriptions, they lose there cut so they wont be providing free streaming
  2. ric posted on 08/21/2014 07:56 PM
    Other than cell phones, satellite and cable tv are probably the biggest scam there is. When I go to the store, they don't make me buy jam and butter just so I can get a loaf of bread. I have about 30 channels that I've never watched, yet I pay for them. I wanted 1 channel for my elderly parent but I had to get a package of 6. If they charged normal rates, people wouldn't have illegal dishes (at least half of my friends do).
    Let me pay for the channels I want.
  3. pat keane posted on 08/21/2014 09:34 PM
    Before I pay for Canadian content I will just watch the sunset.ty
    1. Richard posted on 08/22/2014 07:54 AM
      @pat keane Another Canadian who wont support Canadians
  4. Rick posted on 08/22/2014 02:49 AM
    I think THEY should pay US to watch their crap. There is absolutely nothing that is broadcast without first being vetted for its ability to attract consumers.
  5. LMAO posted on 08/22/2014 07:33 AM
    At the same time, the regulator proposes allowing local TV stations to shut down their transmitters, a move that might not sit well with consumers who prefer to get their TV programming over the air.

    "It's an idea that we want to explore,'' said Blais, who stressed that the proposal is open for debate.

    Roughly eight per cent of Canadian TV viewers get their content using antennas, without paying a service provider to deliver programming.

    Oh great give them more license to gouge the general public and force them to pay exorbitant fees. Pink Floyd had it right 13 channels of S%^**&^ on the TV to chose from. People have tuned out because it's all crap.

    The media corporations will continue to lose viewers because of their stupidity and greed. That 8% probably can't afford the cable or satellite subscription anyway. There is so much good entertainment now with radio and DVD's and You Tube that who wants to pay $200 a month so someone can dictate what you watch. All we need is radio GAGA.
  6. Joanne Percy posted on 08/22/2014 12:43 PM
    What is not mentioned in the article is at what cost the "pick-and-pay" channels will be offered. The providers charge a hefty fee for their pre-assembled packages. I am see providers pricing the individual channels in such a way as to make the pre-assembled packages more attractive to the average consumer. I fail to see how this will result in a fairer system.
  7. Terry posted on 08/23/2014 12:04 AM
    The only Canadian content I would be willing to pay for is Team Canada World Junior hockey, Team Canada Men's and Women hockey, NHL Hockey, and the CFL. That's part of my Canadian culture. In the meantime, no charge digital television (CBC,CTV, NBC,ABC,CBS,FOX, ME TV and PBS) requiring only a home made antennae and a fifty dollar digital converter. Works fine for me.
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