It happened on Oct. 29, but it seems few people either noticed or cared. The first news story came out two weeks later that Radio-Canada has stopped livestreaming of its RDI all-news network online.
The reason? “Faciliter les discussions avec les câblodistributeurs”.
Some reaction online (including the video above) was negative, suggesting that Radio-Canada doesn’t get it, that we own the corporation and that the cable companies have nothing to fear from online streaming.
Here’s what gets me though: RDI is a must-carry network for cable and satellite. There’s no choice in the matter. The CBC even forced StarChoice to include it as part of its “English essentials” basic package last year. Because of this, the wholesale rate is set by the CRTC: $1 for RDI in francophone markets and $0.10 in anglophone markets.
So, what kind of discussions are we talking about here? There’s nothing to negotiate.
Besides, RDI isn’t the only one doing this. CPAC, the political affairs channel funded by the cable and satellite companies, also streams for free online. In fact, it annoyingly starts playing automatically when you go to the CPAC website.
I understand the worry from cable and satellite companies: if broadcasters stream all their stuff for free, then consumers might realize they’re being gouged and start cancelling their television services.
But for the public broadcaster to pull its feed, to intentionally deny access to its services from Canadians, solely to please the cable and satellite industry, that’s outrageous.
I sent an email to Alain Saulnier, who was quoted in the Cyberpresse piece, asking for clarification, but there was no response.