On Monday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will finally get down to meeting about the future of conventional broadcast television, and through a series of hearings lasting at least a week, will hear arguments from broadcasters, cable and satellite companies, unions, producers, and maybe even a few television watchers, about whether those who freely transmit television signals over the airwaves should be paid a fee by cable and satellite companies currently mandated to distribute that signal. If it does, it will then have to decide who pays for it, how much it will be (or how it’s negotiated) and where the money will go.
To prepare for it, TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin has a long panel discussion with four experts: the uncomfortably smiley Ian Morrison of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting (who supports fee for carriage), the knowledgeable but detached Grant Robertson of the Globe and Mail, the nerdy Michael Geist (who, like Andrew Coyne, supports deregulation and increased consumer choice), and Norm Bolen, who represents producers (and supports fee for carriage) as president of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association.
In the Globe and Mail, the story is told through the eyes of two former Canwest E! network stations: CHCH Hamilton, which was bought by Channel Zero and is trying to build a business model around being an all-news station during the day (70 hours a week of local news), and CHCA Red Deer, which it seems hasn’t been missed much since it was shut down on Aug. 31.
Meanwhile, even though the deadline for public comments has passed, both the Local TV Matters people and the Stop the TV Tax people are still running ads. The former has created a new one, which as usual vastly oversimplifies the issue.