CRTC megahearing on TV begins Monday

10 days, 118 presentations. That’s what’s on the agenda for a CRTC hearing that begins on Monday. There’s the usual big players like Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Quebecor, Telus and Cogeco. There’s the interest groups like the Canada Media Fund, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Writers Guild of Canada, and labour unions. And there are some individuals thrown in as well.

But there’s also Google, Netflix, Disney.

It’s hard to oversell the importance of this hearing. It isn’t about reviewing a single policy, or approving a single acquisition or new licence. It’s about everything having to do with television regulation in Canada. A working document posted Aug. 21 contains 28 proposals concerning television policy (and a 29th about when to implement changes). It ranges from how consumers choose which channels to buy from their distributor to how accessible programming is for those who can’t see or hear to things that could change the very nature of specialty channels or how you define local television.

And the CRTC is going to try to review this all in two weeks, and rather than deal with the issues one at a time, it’s going to deal with them all simultaneously as each group steps forward to present its opinions.

I put together a story in Saturday’s Gazette that lists the big issues at stake that affect consumers (the online version contains some more issues than the print one does). Packaging flexibility is the big focus of media, and simultaneous substitution is also mentioned a lot, but there are far more issues.

The commission is clear that the proposals outlined in its discussion paper aren’t necessarily what it’s going to do, but are meant to start discussions. Nevertheless, it gives a lot of insight into how it’s thinking. And even with just the changes proposed there, a lot of how we watch and pay for television would change.

For more on the issues at stake, I would invite you to read the series posted on (a website I’ve written for, though not for this series) and the series posted to Media in Canada or my post from June outlining the issues as they were presented then. Or you can read all 2,552 interventions filed in this proceeding.

Unusually, the CRTC will continue accepting comments about these policies during the hearings, through that most sober and intelligent method: online discussion forums. They’ll be open until the end of the hearing on Sept. 19.

If you want to watch the hearings, CPAC will be webcasting them. The CRTC will also have audio feeds in English, French and with no translation. Or you can go to 140 Promenade du Portage in Gatineau and see the hearings in person.

For Twitter commentary, good bets are editor Greg O’Brien, policy wonk Kelly Lynne Ashton, the CRTC Hearings official Twitter (which will post links to documents) and the hashtags #CRTC and #TalkTV.

Further reading


5 thoughts on “CRTC megahearing on TV begins Monday

  1. Dilbert

    Your gazoo article has this:

    “Simultaneous substitution protects Canadian stations’ rights to U.S. programs in Canada and means Canadian advertisers don’t have to buy ads on U.S. border stations. It’s the trade-off for getting direct access to NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. It has been estimated this brings more than $200 million in revenue to Canadian TV stations, though it could be much more than that, especially if you include indirect benefits.”

    You forget to note that the vast majority of that money goes right back out of Canada to pay for the programming, and that programming costs have been rising rapidly in the last few years. The Canadian OTA broadcast industry is like a crack addict, turning the money they take in as quickly as possible into MORE of what costs them so much… vicious cycle.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I didn’t forget. But I don’t have the room to go into depth about each topic. As it was the story took up more than half a page.

      There are many advantages and disadvantages to simultaneous substitution. But buying U.S. TV series and reselling them to Canadians remains a profitable exercise, much more so than original Canadian programming.

      Ending simsub might push Canadian broadcasters to invest more in original programming, and it might drive down the price of acquiring U.S. network shows. Or it might just deprive Canadian networks of hundreds of millions of dollars, forcing them to make drastic cutbacks to what they do produce.

      Either way, I find it very unlikely that ending simultaneous substitution will result in more money being spent on Canadian programming. The math just doesn’t make sense.

  2. NaBUru38

    I simply don’t understand why it’s allowed for companies to offer both cable services and television channels. I believe that companies like Bell and Rogers should be split.

    Also, genre exclusivity equals monopoly. Why on earth would a government give a monopoly to Discovery Channel, MTV or The Movie Network?

  3. Mortemer

    I am wondering if the “Skinny Basic” package can also include the major US Networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX).
    The majority of Canadians live near the US border and probably able to pick up these US channels over the air.
    A basic cable channel offering should be in line with what can be picked up by OTA.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I am wondering if the “Skinny Basic” package can also include the major US Networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX).

      You’re not the only one. It could, since TV providers don’t pay the U.S. networks to distribute their signals. But some providers, like Videotron, don’t include them in the basic package.


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