If you’re a digital TV subscriber in Quebec, you’re soon going to start seeing a new TV channel in your basic package. Last week, the CRTC announced it was giving Quebec ethnic TV channel Natyf TV a broadcasting licence and ordering all providers to add it to their basic service and pay $0.12 per subscriber per month.
The order took effect Sept. 1, 2023, and lasts five years. The decision was announced at 11am on Aug. 31, 13 hours before the order came into effect. It was one of several decisions the commission put out in the days before the end of the broadcasting year as it rushed to meet its deadlines.
The next day, realizing that this may be a bit short notice, the CRTC wrote a letter saying providers should add the channel “as soon as reasonably possible.”
(For context, Natyf’s application was filed in April 2021 and the hearing to discuss it was held in January.)
Another ethnic channel?
Natyf’s application was opposed by TV providers and some broadcasters for two reasons. The TV providers argued they couldn’t spare money for yet another mandatory service while still maintaining a $25/month limit on basic packages. (A request to increase that limit was denied on Sept. 5, with the CRTC arguing the providers hadn’t made a case that it was necessary, almost to the point of implying that inflation wasn’t a thing.)
OMNI, ICI and TV5, meanwhile, argued that Natyf’s mandate overlaps with theirs. OMNI is the national ethnic broadcaster, while ICI is specific to Quebec. TV5, meanwhile, sees diversity as core to its mandate.
The CRTC rejected those concerns, finding that Natyf’s mandate is to serve Quebec’s francophone racialized communties, which isn’t served directly by ICI or TV5. Specifically, Natyf proposes to serve mainly the Black community but also Arabic, Hispanic and South Asian.
Another must-carry channel
While no one is going to cry too many tears for Canadian telecom companies, this new mandatory channel does put tighter screws on TV providers who have to squeeze a profit out of a $25 government-fixed-price product where an increasing amount of that goes out the window in ever increasing mandatory wholesale fees.
Ten years ago, when the CRTC last reviewed what services should have mandatory carriage, Quebec TV providers had the following services and mandatory fees:
- APTN: $0.25
- CBC News Network: $0.15
- The Weather Network/MétéoMédia: $0.23
- CPAC: $0.11
- Canal M: $0.02
- Avis de recherche: $0.06
- TOTAL: $0.82
Since then, despite the CRTC’s apparent desire to increase consumer choice and limit the number of services with mandatory carriage to only the exceptional ones, the numbers have only gone up. (Avis de recherche is so far the only service to lose this status, and all but The Weather Network have seen their per-subscriber fees increase.)
Here’s how it stands now:
- APTN: $0.35
- AMI-télé: $0.28
- Canal M: $0.04
- CBC News Network: $0.20
- CPAC: $0.13
- The Weather Network/MétéoMédia: $0.22
- TV5/UNIS: $0.28
- OMNI: $0.19
- Natyf TV: $0.12
- TOTAL: $1.81
So besides the other pressures of inflation, TV service providers now have to take an additional 99 cents out of that $25 fee and send it to must-carry services.
Natyf is already available on Bell TV services. Videotron, Cogeco and Telus systems in Quebec should be adding it soon.