Pierre-Karl Péladeau, the big cheese behind Quebecor, caused a bit of a stink this week when he wrote an op-ed (published in French in Le Devoir and in English in the Financial Post) attacking the CBC over the fee-for-carriage debate, even though the CRTC has already decided that the CBC shouldn’t be able to charge cable and satellite providers for permission to rebroadcast its signals.
The CBC (or, more accurately, Radio-Canada) has been a bug up Péladeau’s butt for quite a while now. He’s angry that the government-funded broadcaster competes with his privately-run TVA network, and similarly how its all-news network RDI competes with TVA’s all-news network LCN.
It’s not that he doesn’t think there should be a public broadcaster. He just doesn’t want there to be one that competes with the private networks, offering popular programming and in particular taking U.S. programs and re-airing them for profit. The Radio-Canada envisioned by Péladeau is more like CPAC, contributing to the public dialogue but not with anything that people actually want to watch. Certainly nothing anyone would want to pay to advertise on.
In a way, I can see where he’s coming from. Imagine if you ran a business, and next door there’s a competing business that gets heavily subsidized by the government. I’m sure the CBC bosses and supporters have a ready-made retort to attack that comparison (CBC boss Hubert Lacroix touched on some of them in the National Post), but even if it’s not perfect, it still makes a strong point.
If only someone who’s not Pierre-Karl Péladeau (or from some government-hating conservative think-tank) would make it, it might carry more weight.
This week, though, Péladeau added another aspect to his anti-CBC rant:
Furthermore, the CBC has launched the Tou.tv website without consulting the industry, a move that jeopardizes Canada’s broadcasting system by providing free, heavily subsidized television content on the Internet without concern for the revenue losses that may result, not only for the CBC but also for other stakeholders, including writers and directors.
By “without consulting the industry”, he means, well, him. Tou.tv has programming from Télé-Québec, TV5, TFO and others. V and RDS aren’t included, but they have their own websites that provide video on demand.
TVA, meanwhile, doesn’t offer shows on demand online, even those shows that you’d think would get a pretty high audience there. Instead, it offers them on Videotron’s Illico on demand (Videotron, by wacky coincidence, is also owned by Quebecor).
Péladeau argues about “heavily subsidized television content”, which is hardly new to Tou.tv. Somehow, I suspect he might be a bit more angry at the fact that Tou.tv has become popular, and might even become a Québécois Hulu, leaving TVA in the dark.
Mind you, Hulu isn’t making money either.