If the CRTC is trying to wean the broadcasting system off of free money, it hasn’t been showing it in the past couple of weeks as it has renewed mandatory distribution orders for most services that have that special status requiring all cable, satellite and IPTV subscribers to subscribe to those services.
Every service whose status was up for renewal on Aug. 31 was renewed, with three getting an increase in their per-subscriber fee and one getting a decrease. Overall, the total goes up by seven cents a month per subscriber.
That may not seem like much, but it’s an upward pressure on TV package prices, and especially annoying for TV providers because their entry-level “skinny basic” offering must be $25 or less. Now up to 6.5 per cent of that price is spent on these mandatory services.
Here’s how it breaks down before and after, with links to the licence renewal decisions (CBC News Network, RDI, TVA and OMNI were not up for renewal):
|Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)||$0.31||$0.36|
|AMI télé||E: $0.00
|CBC News Network||F: $0.15||F: $0.15|
|Legislative Assemblies of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories||No fee||No fee|
|Réseau de l’information (ICI RDI)||E: $0.10||E: $0.10|
|TVA (distributed outside Quebec)||No fee||No fee|
|The Weather Network/MétéoMédia||$0.23||$0.22|
E and F denote separate fees for majority English-language and French-language markets. The price is based on the market, not the preferred language of the consumer or their TV package. Where only one language is specified, it’s because the service is only mandatory in that language market.
Details of the licence renewals for these services are below.
APTN requested $0.36 per subscriber per month, and was given $0.35. The CRTC agreed that the service was essential and needed the extra money to fulfill its mandate. New conditions of licence were imposed:
- 5.5 hours a week of news or current affairs programming on each feed
- 12 hours a week in Aboriginal languages (18 on APTN HD and 35 on APTN North)
- 20 hours a week of French-language programming on APTN East and 17 hours on APTN HD
- A weekly French newscast on APTN East by August 2018
Several requests for licence amendments were denied, including a reduction in Canadian content on the schedule from 75% to 70% so it could air non-Canadian Indigenous programming, a reduction in the requirement that 80% of programming be by independent producers, and elimination of a standard 10% maximum of professional sports programming.
A new Canadian content spending quota, imposed on all renewed licences, has been set at 55% of gross revenue.
AMItv and AMI télé
The English and French channels for people with disabilities was approved for renewal with no change to fees. Licence amendments were mostly common-sense bureaucratic stuff, but a condition that requires 500 hours of new fully described programming a year was eliminated. AMI will instead report on its original programming. A CPE quota of 48% of revenues will ensure money still goes into Canadian programming.
Renewed with an extra cent for inflation. Several exceptions to standard licence conditions were renewed, including one that allows it to not have described video because it uses both audio channels for English and French feeds. To compensate, it’s offering content for free to AMI to broadcast on its channel instead. The CPE spending quota was set at 53%.
Renewed with no changes in fee. The CPE spending quota was set at 55%.
The Weather Network/MétéoMédia
Probably the most at risk of losing mandatory distribution, the CRTC nevertheless decided to renew it, but it took a cent off the fee, arguing that TWN makes a lot of money off non-subscription revenue like advertising, unlike other mandatory services.
Legislative Assemblies of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories
This special case of a channel with mandatory distribution but no subscriber fee has been renewed with no expiration date. Legislative channels normally are required carriage and unlicensed, but this one sought the special status to ensure that satellite providers carried the channels.
Canal M was renewed with its rate doubled to $0.04. AMI audio was renewed at the same rate as before, also $0.04.