Posted in Opinion, TV

CRTC has decided: It’s time to pay for free TV

So, it’s over. The Local TV Matters folks won. And we, the television consumers, will be the ones who end up paying for it.

OK, it’s not so simple. First, the CRTC’s decision on fee for carriage (I’m sorry, “negotiation for value”, which will mean a fee that we don’t call a fee for some reason) is being referred to a federal court to see if the commission even has the authority to impose it.

And it only applies to the English networks (CTV, Canwest and Rogers), though it will probably be imposed in a similar way for TVA and V.

And the CBC totally got the shaft, which they’re really angry about because they were counting on the CRTC deciding that Canadians should pay for something they’ve already paid for – and includes advertising on top of that.

And if the government isn’t happy with the ruling, it can just override it and impose its own will.

Rogers, like the other cable and satellite companies not named Videotron, is also mad, saying “Canadians lose” in this decision. Cogeco has similar arguments against the decision.

Other, more independent opinions include Don Martin, Andrew Coyne and John Doyle in the “agree” column, and L. Ian Macdonald in the “don’t agree” column.

You can read the full decision here.

How it works

Though not a complete victory for conventional television broadcasters, they have a lot to like from this decision. There are some minor changes to Canadian content requirements, more flexibility to transfer funding between conventional and specialty television assets, and the ability to add commercials to video on demand. But the big power the TV networks will have is the power to pull their signals and the programs they have rights to from cable and satellite networks that don’t offer them enough money.

In a system that somewhat mirrors what happens in the U.S., Canadian broadcasters (so far just the big anglo ones, though it’s expected the francophone ones will have a similar system) will have the choice between two options, which they’ll have to stick with for three years at a time:

  1. The status quo: No charge for carrying signals, and they keep all the benefits, including simultaneous signal substitution, guaranteed carriage, and preferred spots on the dial
  2. Negotiation. If they choose this route, no matter what is negotiated, they lose the benefits, including simultaneous substitution, which alone might be a big reason for stations to choose Option 1.

The key bargaining chip the CRTC throws in to give the broadcasters an edge in the negotiation process is the ability to force cable and satellite companies to block out U.S. programming they own exclusive rights to.

So, for example, if Global Montreal (CKMI) decides that Videotron isn’t paying enough, it can demand not only that Videotron not allow its subscribers to watch Global, but it can demand that Videotron black out House, Heroes, 24, Family Guy and a bunch of other shows on U.S. stations. Ditto CFCF for Grey’s Anatomy or CSI.

Ever try to watch a hockey game on Rogers Sportsnet and get a black screen? Expect to see a lot of that if there’s a fee dispute.

This kind of thing happens in the U.S., though usually it doesn’t last that long as consumers raise bloody hell once their stations go black. Expect no difference here.

As for how much it will cost, that’s up to the broadcasters and cable companies. Some have said $1 a month per station. But it could be anything. It might not even be a fee, but some other form of non-monetary compensation. In the end, assuming the TV networks decide to go the fee route, it will be whatever the market decides.

One thing to note is that another right the broadcasters lose if they decide to demand a fee is the right to mandatory carriage. Ideally, that could mean that individual consumers would be given the right to choose whether or not they want to pay for a certain station. But the requirement to block out U.S. programming probably means that won’t be an option – or at least would make it impractical.

So, instead of being a truly market-based solution (and one which would favour original programming over the import and resale of U.S. shows), the price for local TV will be whatever your cable or satellite company think you’d be willing to pay for hit U.S. shows. And you’ll probably be forced to pay every penny of it, tacked on to your television service bill in big red letters.

What about free TV?

If the broadcasters decide to go the blockout-and-blackout method, the question will inevitably come up: Won’t people just go to their website and stream the videos online, or hook up a pair of rabbit ears and watch their station for free over the airwaves?

Here, my mistrust of the big broadcasters leads to some speculative theories. For one thing, since most people with both cable TV and Internet get the two from the same company, the broadcasters could choose to restrict online access. If Videotron won’t pay the fee for CFCF, then CTV.ca could refuse to stream shows to Videotron Internet customers. Or, they could do what Rogers is doing with its on-demand website, and force people to authenticate subscriptions before they have access to online programming.

The CRTC has been hands-off on the Internet (and for good reason), so there’s nothing preventing the broadcasters from doing this.

As for getting programming over the air, a fee dispute would provide ample incentive for broadcasters to cripple or disable their transmitters. CFCF could find itself having sudden “technical difficulties” at its transmitter in the event of a dispute. Global’s CKMI is already putting out so little power as to be difficult to receive even in the Montreal area.

What this could do, though, is boost over-the-air reception for U.S. border stations. If enough Canadians get fed up of their broadcasters trying to bleed them dry, they could install an antenna big (or high) enough to capture U.S. stations.

But, of course, it’s unlikely to get that far. Because, as we all know, television providers and television broadcasters work together for the common good.

More awards shows, by decree

Another aspect of the CRTC decision concerns what’s called “priority programming”. This was a provision that required the big broadcasters to devote eight hours a week to expensive dramas, comedies and other scripted programs instead of wasting it on celebrity gossip shows and cheap news.

The CRTC has replaced that with a provision for “programs of national interest”, which include dramas and scripted comedies, but also documentaries and Canadian awards shows.

Yes, awards shows. The CRTC apparently believes that this is a type of programming so in danger that it requires a special status.

The other important part of this change is that instead of being time-based, it’s now revenue-based. They’ll be required to spend 30% of revenues on Canadian programming, and 5% on “programs of national interest”. Because this will be a percentage of revenues instead of a percentage of airtime (though Canadian content in general still has time-based minimums), hopefully this will mean more effort producing better-quality Canadian programming instead of just putting together the cheapest hour of television they can.

On the other hand, it might mean pooling all their money into whatever Toronto-based cop drama they can most easily sell to CBS.

Digital TV continues, mostly

Finally, the CRTC has decreed (with one notable dissenting opinion) that the digital TV transition should continue as scheduled, at least in all major markets. So analog television transmitters in markets of over 300,000 people and provincial and territorial capitals and any market with more than one television station will all have to transition to digital by Aug. 31, 2011.

In its call for comments, the CRTC acknowledged that many Canadians would be adversely affected by this and would need to buy digital converter boxes. But they don’t seem to really care.

I’ve already argued that this is an unnecessary move and will be unnecessarily expensive for both broadcasters and consumers. The reason is simple: The reason for doing this is to liberate TV channels above 52, and conversion to digital is unnecessary to accomplish this goal, because no Canadian market has more than two dozen television stations (including U.S. border stations), which could be reassigned to a lower channel if they’re currently above 52.

But instead of acknowledging that there’s nothing wrong with the way we’ve been broadcasting television since the 1950s, we’re willing to ditch a half-century-old technology and make a lot of people buy a lot of expensive equipment because some regulators think it looks cool.

29 thoughts on “CRTC has decided: It’s time to pay for free TV

  1. Jean Naimard

    Good.

    Anything that can drive a nail into the coffin of the mind-numbing boob-tube is good.

    Let the broadcasters and cable distributors battling over a few cents disgust the public and let them see that all that gooey ooze coming out of the boob-tube only serves to distract the People from politics.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    I’m in! But, in for a penny, in for a pound. If the Canadian television networks want us to pay for their signal, then we should have the right to choose which signals we pay for. So for example, as in my case, I have no interest in anything that Global has to offer then I should be able to opt out of having Global on the menu of stations provided by Videotron. Let’s have a little choice and see how things work themselves out.

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    1. Anonymous Al

      I agree! I’d go a la carte any day and consider a “pay-for-use” system. Why should any broadcaster be entitled to a share of monthly fees if the end user does not consume their product?

      Reply
  3. wkh

    I think I’m gonna get a US satellite dish and forget it all. I’m not sure the franco contingent of my residence will be down with this, however.

    Reply
  4. Fassero

    Let’s face it – the CRTC just wants to wash it’s hands of this and let the government and/or the courts sort it out. That being said, the networks won’t be stupid enough to threaten program blockage if they don’t get what they want. Every single time this has occurred in the US (right up to recent cases involving the Jan. 1 college bowl games and beyond), the broadcaster ends up capitulating for the simple reason that, without the distribution, they have to give MASSIVE rebates to corporate sponsors and advertisers for lost exposure.

    Lost in the shuffle is this – Rogers has the City stations. Shaw looks to be picking up Global. That means on the English side of things, CTV – which might have just postponed the bankruptcy filing papers by a few days while this is sorted out – is really the only dog who could bark. Never mind signal substitution – if I was a CTV exec after this, I’d be crapping in my pants of the thought that Rogers….Shaw….maybe Bell…..some kind of consortium in there….they go right down to LA in May and start buying US shows left, right, and centre for their channels and go back to CTV and say “okay, how much do you think carrying your signal is worth now?!?!?”

    By the way, unless there’s something in the fine print, will the fee-for-carriage allowance still mean that the distributors will still have to abide in forcing consumers to take a “basic package” that includes Canadian network stations? That would be the greatest outrage of all. If fee-for-carriage means that local television can be treated like specialty in terms of consumer choice, I’d bet that millions of Canadians would drop local stations in a heartbeat if it saved $15-$20 or more on their bills.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      If the broadcasters decide to go the fee-for-carriage route, they would forefeit the right to mandatory carriage. But because pulling the channel would also mean blocking out U.S. programming, it would become difficult to do this on a subscriber-by-subscriber basis.

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    2. Kevin

      >Every single time this has occurred in the US (right up to recent cases involving the Jan. 1 college bowl games and beyond), the >broadcaster ends up capitulating for the simple reason that, without the distribution, they have to give MASSIVE rebates to >corporate sponsors and advertisers for lost exposure.

      I guess you’re not a fan of the Oscars. WABC pulled its signal from Cablevision the day of the Academy Awards. Cablevision went to the wire, then backed down.

      Looking at all these arguments, I fail to see anyone really understanding the situation. Right now cable companies make billions by charging customers for something that is free over the air. If you want to put up an antenna, more power to you!

      But the actual content providers/creators (and I won’t disagree if you say there should be more Canadian-created content) aren’t making enough money to keep doing what they’re doing. Right now they’ve got enough of a float to keep going for another few years, but that’s not going to last without fundamental changes, namely asking cable companies to cough up and actually pay for what they transmit.

      Otherwise you sound like a bunch of people squawking that gas is too expensive. “I paid $100 a month for this pipeline! Now you want me to pay for oil too?!!

      Reply
      1. ATSC

        Kevin… from my point of view, the real situation as I see it is that the CRTC allowed the broadcaster to do what they wanted the past decade or so. They allowed them to own all (if not the majority) of their affiliates. Shutdown local Master Controls, and have everything come out of their Toronto headquarters. The French Networks have done the same with Montreal being the Master Control hub. Global even did this with their local news productions. Now, after all this has been done to hurt the local stations, they come back complaining that their business model is broken, and that they want a fee for carriage. But, they want a fee for carriage but they don’t want the BDU’s to pass this cost onto the consumer. Now how crazy is that? Any business will pass on the costs of doing business to their customer. So, the BDU’s will pass the cost onto the subscribers. And who are the subscribers. Usually people who are not aware of what their options are about TV. A lot of them are older people. That means an entire segment of that is probably on a fixed income pension. they don’t do much in order to cut costs. So they have Cable/Sat to at least have some sort of entertainment. So, what do the greedy networks do? They figure out a way to suck more money from people who cannot afford it with the CRTC. No, No, No!

        As for the point about content providers, I really don’t see a benefit for them. CTV and Global will simple use the money to pay the higher costs of purchasing US shows that they themselves made by trying to out bid each other. The Canadian content providers still sell shows. They may not sell as many. But the product stays with them. they can sell their shows to the US market as well. For them, the problem becomes after their first window of presentation in Canada. How do you sell reruns to another station, or station group. Have you seen what is going on with Global? They have Canadian produced shows on one of their speciality channels. They run the shit out of the shows on several of their owned channels to the point that the public is sick of them. Now, as a producer of the content, try and resell reruns of that same show. Who is going to air it? So, your possible rerun revenues are flat. Who made that mess? The BDU’s? The Consumer?

        Reply
      2. Fassero

        That’s actually incorrect. Disney and Cablevision settled and the Oscars telecast was resumed on WABC about 15 minutes into the show.

        Reply
  5. Jim J.

    But instead of acknowledging that there’s nothing wrong with the way we’ve been broadcasting television since the 1950s…

    Come to think of it, all those bank machines you see everywhere weren’t really necessary, either. Think of all the bank teller jobs we could have saved if we had just stuck with the proven, reliable system of human tellers that had served us so well since approximately the 18th century.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Except in this case, we’re replacing something that works with something else that’s more expensive. And the new thing doesn’t really have any advantages, other than the ability to broadcast in HD, which most people who get their TV from over the air don’t really care about.

      Reply
  6. Karine

    Well, I’ve been considering letting go of my cable box and go for Extreme internet and just watch TV from there. At this point the inconvenience of not being able to watch some TV shows in real time would be outweighed by the savings…

    Reply
  7. Serge

    Re “The CRTC has been hands-off on the Internet (and for good reason), so there’s nothing preventing the broadcasters from doing this.” — refer to the New Media Exemption Order’s provisions regarding undue preference.

    Reply
  8. ATSC

    Just a few points on my end concerning what you wrote.

    1 – The Digital converter boxes you are talking about are only needed if you want to receive ATSC digital signals over the air, and have them displayed on your old tube TV. These boxes are very inexpensive. They can range from $50 – $80. I have even seen them being sold for $30 on Craigslist Montreal. If you already have a new flat screen TV, you don’t need a digital box as it built into those models.

    2 – As for receiving Digital Over the air signals, this is a major improvement over analog signals. The picture image, and the picture lock you get will impress anybody once they see it. In certain parts of the city, an indoor antenna can even get you some US border stations. With a outdoor antenna, most of the major US border stations can be received. NO fees, No Cable/Sat bills, and NO CRTC bullshit.

    3 – If you would like to see what possible channels you can get in your area with a outdoor antenna, simple go to this FCC site.

    http://www.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/maps/

    Enter your Postal Code, or your full address, and you will get a list. Remember, this is based on a outdoor antenna, and is only a sample reading. Installing a proper Antenna will vary. But, at least it will give you an idea.

    4- I really don’t care for what the CRTC wants to do with this fee for carriage. I hope the Conservative government puts a end to this whole mess. This is bad for the consumer. People should not be forced to pay for what they do not want. The Canadian broadcasters are trying to force the public to pay for what is suppose to be free over the air.

    5- As for the CBC/SRC, how stupid can these people be. They joined the CTV gang in hopes of getting more money sucked out of the pockets of Canadians, and now, they are left holding the bag. Congratulations, not smart enough to see what was going to happen anyway. Like, the CRTC is going to allow the CBC/SRC signals to be removed from BDU’s if they didn’t get the fees they wanted. Hello, why are we funding you in the first place? You cannot deny service to Canadians. They have already payed for it.

    6- As for the comments about possible scenarios that might have CTV requiring Videotron blocking access to video sites to cut access to their programs. Let me tell you something. There are places on the net that can sell you a IP id that is different from the one you might have with your present provider. They can even show that your coming in from another country. And it cost a lot less than Cable. So, if you really want to piss people off, there are ways to get around.

    7- In the end, if the CRTC, Broadcasters, and BDU’s want to piss off the Canadian consumer, you will get people looking for alternative ways to access TV. Sure, they can rely on old people with pensions that they can suck more fees off of. But that base will die off. The younger crowd knows how to move around with new technology, and they’ll figure out a way to side step you all. Just go ahead and piss them off.

    Well, that’s my 2 cents.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      1 – The Digital converter boxes you are talking about are only needed if you want to receive ATSC digital signals over the air, and have them displayed on your old tube TV. These boxes are very inexpensive. They can range from $50 – $80. I have even seen them being sold for $30 on Craigslist Montreal. If you already have a new flat screen TV, you don’t need a digital box as it built into those models.

      But how many people have brand new TV sets and don’t have cable or satellite service? Over-the-air is used primarily by people who don’t watch a lot of TV, or who aren’t rich enough to afford TV service. These people are the least likely to have the proper equipment – or want to buy a converter box.

      2 – As for receiving Digital Over the air signals, this is a major improvement over analog signals. The picture image, and the picture lock you get will impress anybody once they see it. In certain parts of the city, an indoor antenna can even get you some US border stations. With a outdoor antenna, most of the major US border stations can be received. NO fees, No Cable/Sat bills, and NO CRTC bullshit.

      Picture lock is a double-edged sword. It also means that if there’s noise in the signal, instead of a snowy image you get no image at all.

      Besides, people who watch over-the-air TV don’t care that much about the quality of the image, they just care that they can watch their show. And they care that they used to pick up WVNY but can’t anymore since they went digital.

      4- I really don’t care for what the CRTC wants to do with this fee for carriage. I hope the Conservative government puts a end to this whole mess. This is bad for the consumer. People should not be forced to pay for what they do not want. The Canadian broadcasters are trying to force the public to pay for what is suppose to be free over the air.

      Why is it “supposed” to be free over the air? Is there some fundamental right to free TV, or is it just because it always has been free and therefore always should be?

      6- As for the comments about possible scenarios that might have CTV requiring Videotron blocking access to video sites to cut access to their programs. Let me tell you something. There are places on the net that can sell you a IP id that is different from the one you might have with your present provider. They can even show that your coming in from another country. And it cost a lot less than Cable. So, if you really want to piss people off, there are ways to get around.

      “Sell” being the operative word here. People who watch TV over the Internet tend not to want to pay for it.

      7- In the end, if the CRTC, Broadcasters, and BDU’s want to piss off the Canadian consumer, you will get people looking for alternative ways to access TV. Sure, they can rely on old people with pensions that they can suck more fees off of. But that base will die off. The younger crowd knows how to move around with new technology, and they’ll figure out a way to side step you all. Just go ahead and piss them off.

      This is true, but for many things (like live sports), the only way to get around the broadcasters is through piracy. And there will always be a battle to shut that down.

      Reply
      1. Jeepers

        I have a new flat screen TV and no cable or satellite. We use our TV primarily for DVDs and gaming. I would ideally like to be able to watch such things as the olympics and election coverage, but so far I haven’t figured out how to get any reception, but I don’t care enough to really try. (Turned on the new TV and it didn’t seem to get any channels.) So I now watch 0 TV.

        Reply
      2. ATSC

        I understand what your saying. I was in fact one of those who didn’t really care what my basic analog reception use to be. But, once I got that HDTV at home, plugged in the old indoor antenna, I noticed the killer digital reception I was getting. And a picture lock image that made all the old analogue stations look like VHS. At that point, I had to go for the outdoor antenna. And I have no regrets at all. In fact after a year and a half, the set-up has paid for itself if I take into consideration basic cable subscription costs.

        What I’m trying to point out is that the old ideas of who used to watch over-the air antenna TV has changed. This due to the technology shift. People who are fed up with this whole Cable/Sat bills should not feel stuck without options. There are options. All you have to do is do your homework. Look at the option of OTA, and see what can be done. It may not work for you. But, for God’s sake, at least look at. The technology has changed. And there are plenty of new stores in Montreal that have added OTA antennas and related gear. Much more than when I got my set-up done three years ago.

        Of all the major stations in the Burlington/Plattsburgh market all of them reach Montreal. The only one that is a problem receiving in Montreal is WVNY-DT. And this is mainly because they are using Channel 13. VHF channel use is not very good with ATSC. All the other stations are using UHF. Much better.

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      3. ATSC

        Oh yes, one more point that I forgot.

        Yes, I do believe that local over the air TV should be for free. The airways are public. Not belonging to a corporation. To get a license, you have to agree to certain things. And one of those things is that you will serve the area that you got a license to. You get to advertise, and that is how you will make your money. If this model is no longer acceptable to your business model, then simply return your OTA license, and apply for a speciality or pay Tv license. Then you can as for fees, or even ask for a subscription fee. But, you cannot have it both ways. I say return your license, and leave somebody else offer local over the air TV that is interested in doing it.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          That’s a perfectly reasonable argument to make, but the response would be to do just that: turn in their licenses. Over-the-air TV networks are starting to lose money, and many small-market stations are shutting down because advertising revenue doesn’t pay for them anymore.

          The result would probably end up being little or no local TV outside of the biggest cities.

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      4. Jensai

        Actually, I know many people who have gone the OTA route – crystal clear HD picture quality with less compression for their new TV’s. They are simply tired of being forced to pay a new TV tax every so often. It’s not like they are dirt poor – just that they’ve had enough. And people are returning to antennas because they realize how good the quality is. Today’s antennas are designed using the same principles, after all, electromagnetic propagation hasn’t changed in the last 100 years – but are constructed with better materials. The only thing is you do not get specialty channels, but there’s also torrents for downloading shows from networks that you can’t get OTA.

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        1. Fagstein Post author

          The latest statistics show 90% of Canadian TV watchers have cable or satellite service. Perhaps that will change as more people use OTA digital. So far I’ve seen anecdotal evidence but no statistics.

          Most people pay for TV service because they want more than local channels: live sports, specialty channels, cable news, etc. Some of that you can get by downloading or streaming it online (legally or not). But many of it can’t, or people can’t be bothered.

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  9. Gary Kubisek

    It’s time to deregulate the cable TV industry. The CRTC has got itself into a quagmire in trying to protect Canadian content – whatever that is exactly. How much Canadian content is actually on Canadian airwaves – it seems abysmal and minimal when one looks at the schedules of CITY-TV, A, Global, CTV, SUN-TV etc. One could even say it’s laughable that these stations are even considered Canadian.

    One of the main problems is that the TV industry is controlled by three big companies so there is no real competition. Shaw/Global, Rogers, CTV and control what is on the screen. If everything was deregulated, the free market would take over and it would be a different picture. The consumers will be the winners. The consumers certainly aren’t the group that the CRTC has interest in – but you should. To simply say that Canadians can afford another increase in cable and satellite bills to prop up multi-billion dollar corporations such as CTVgm in insulting, degrading, mind-numbing, and arrogant on the CRTC’s part.

    Before deregulation, there was a problem with the cell phone business, and now there are new companies offering new products.

    The CRTC will never keep the public happy, only either the broadcasters or the cable companies. However the broadcasters are probably feeling a lot morre comfortable with this decision, which many of us consumers do not like. But we have no voice it seems like. The CRTC has many close friends in the industry who influence them and do not let them think impartially. A third-party should be making these decisions actually.

    Ironically though, Shaw did not own Global at the time of the hearings, and Rogers was very quite as a broadcaster, because they make a lot more money in the cable industry than running CITY-TV and OMNI. Is this not a conflict where you have a broadcaster owning distribution systems anyways?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Before deregulation, there was a problem with the cell phone business, and now there are new companies offering new products.

      There are new companies entering the cellphone market because the Canadian government set aside spectrum for new entrants, prohibiting Bell, Rogers and Telus from bidding for it. Had they not done that, the Big Three would have scooped up all that spectrum to prevent new competition from entering the market.

      This was not deregulation, it was the opposite.

      Similarly, your argument about deregulation of broadcasting and/or broadcast distribution seems to be based on wishful thinking. I don’t think the CRTC is preventing anyone from entering the market in either sector. In fact, I’m sure they’d welcome any serious newcomer.

      Rogers was very [quiet] as a broadcaster, because they make a lot more money in the cable industry than running CITY-TV and OMNI. Is this not a conflict where you have a broadcaster owning distribution systems anyways?

      Yes, it is.

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  10. Roger Stradler

    “If CTVgm lost money on the CTV network in the past year, it did so because it overspent for content. It bid outrageous amounts for the Olympics based on no business criteria other than making sure the CBC didn’t get Vancouver…”

    … and the irony of this … is that even though CTV spent all that money for the rights to be the Canadian exclusive for the Vancouver Olympics … I was so un-impressed with the quality, and nature of the CTV coverage … that most of the time … I was watching the NBC, American Network coverage of the Olympics … even if (naturally) NBC was highlighting the American Athletes.

    The NBC coverage – was – in my opinion – much more professionally done – better events coverage and professional commentary – and focused on the Olympic sports events themselves – rather than the “Party People” or “Fans” and Events and merchandise surrounding the Olympics.

    Many times I found myself saying to the Canadian CTV Olympic hosts and commentators … “Oh be quiet and go have another BEER would ya !” or “STFU and go buy yourself another set of red Olympic Mittens… O.K.?”

    And then I’d switch immediately over to the NBC coverage … and watch the actual Olympic events themselves with professional broadcasting commentary.

    And the Canadian industry and regulatory folks are asking the viewers to pay more money for this ????

    The problem is that the cultural groups who benefit from the Can-con stuff become shrill advocates of any expansion of government programs. They know which side of the bread is buttered. You get Can-con protection, you pay the government back by banging the drum for day care, foreign interventions, more taxes, more regulation, more government. More government is what brings home the bacon for politicians. More government, more face time on TV, more patronage jobs to give out, more pork, more kickbacks, more everything.

    The big corporations pay back the politicians more directly with extremely lucrative post-retirement gigs sitting on boards of directors, getting cushy lawyering jobs, etc. with plenty of remuneration in the form of per diems, consulting fees, travel junkets, and so on. You could say there is a revolving door between the big, protected and subsidized corporations and the halls of power. Lobbyists and politicians get corporate gigs, corporate bigwigs run for office (or place their children, sons-in-laws, nephews, etc. in parliament) and vice-versa.

    As for serving the overall, broad interests of the public, what’s in it for the politicians? Nothing really. It is a far more effective strategy to blow off the general public and then concentrate on buying votes in only a small number of critical ridings and regions where they can get a huge bang for the patronage buck. Even if they make the public so mad that their political party is wiped out from parliament, I think you will find that the top politicians, the ones who sold the public interest down the river, felt no pain at all but transitioned into the sweet, remunerative arms of the same special interests to which they gave away the farm.

    There is no downside to politicians making bad decisions against the public interest and plenty of upside. That’s why I wouldn’t waste much time trying to appeal to politicians’ common sense or decency w.r.t. regulatory decisions. You’re caught in the perfect storm of media and culture-group complicity, massive corporate lobbying and kickbacks in the form of the revolving door, and the natural tendency of politics to attract (I’ll try to put this as politely as possible) craven and morally stunted people. I’m not talking about SOME of the political parties, I’m talking about ALL of ‘em. It is the very nature of government to make everything it touches into a monopoly, and it is the nature of monopolies to become corrupt and to invite more corruption.

    To sum up, better to spend your time and money seeking freedom and choice from the internet, FTA, DirecTV, and OTA TV (especially if you can get US signals), buying stuff from Amazon, downloading torrents, etc. than waiting for the politicians to do the right thing. The right thing for you is the wrong thing for them.

    Reply
    1. ATSC

      Funny on how you mentioned the better quality of Olympic coverage from NBC than CTV. I had the same impression. I spent most of my time watching it on WPTZ-DT than CFCF-TV. The only time I was actually watching CTV was when they had Hockey games that NBC was not covering. I was so hoping that WPTZ-DT was going to add Universal Sports to it’s sub-channel during the two Olympic weeks of broadcasting, but they stuck with ThisTV instead. Oh well!

      I also agree with your last paragraph.

      Reply
  11. Tux

    All this crap is why BitTorrent is great! Watch any show in high quality, whenever you want, on whatever device you want, commercial and extra fee free. All I can say is that I already pay Videotron 150-odd dollars a month for my cable, internet, and phones, and if they jack up the prices they’ll lose my cable business and I’ll just download shows. Simple as that. I will encourage everyone I know to do the same.

    Reply
  12. Alex H

    What I think is funny in all of this is that the main players in the cable and sat markets are also the players who have been sucking in CRTC mandated fees for the cable specialty channels they operate. They have been the ones slurping at the gravy train, creating endless variations of channels using the same small programming mass (please see things like HGTV, DIY, and other channels all using the same content, all packaged in ways that you end up paying for them no matter what).

    What is obscene is paying not only for delivery (which for the cable company doesn’t cost more than $20 a month), but also having to pay $1-$2 per channel to see mostly reruns and long runs of commercials. Trying to get a single channel from any of them is impossible, there are all sorts of minimums, packages, bundles, and links that make it impossible to do anything cheaply, and certainly not without filling the cable company’s coffers either directly in what they make on your cable fees, or indirectly on the money they redirect to their own affiliated companies running the specialty channels.

    The real solution for the CRTC is to limit the number of mandatory minimum channels, and to provide every broadcaster, over the air or specialty provider, with the same exact payment per subscriber. There should be no difference between the two. All packages should be eliminated, with only a one to one requirement for US and Canadian offerings (you have to take one Canadian channel for every US channel).

    It would likely lead to the collapse of the specialty channel gravy train, but in the end that isn’t a really bad thing, is it?

    Reply

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