CRTC to take cable packing issue Thursday
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Mar 17, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

CRTC to take cable packing issue Thursday

Cable revamp proposals pure pick-and-pay approach and a so-called skinny-basic model


Canadians could be getting more control over what they watch on the small screen.

On Thursday the federal broadcast regulator is to unveil the next phase of a TV rules reboot that has already relaxed Canadian content requirements.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is now turning to channel unbundling options following a two-week public hearing last fall.

Proposals on the table include pure pick and pay and a so-called skinny basic model. The latter would require cable and satellite providers to offer a slimmed down all-Canadian service that includes local stations and provincial educational channels.

Consumers could then select and pay for individual specialty offerings and foreign largely U.S. network feeds at additional cost on top of the basic package. The proposal differs from full a la carte, approach where consumers could select only the channels they want on a stand-alone basis.

The CRTC has also proposed capping the basic service at between $20 and $30 a month although Bell Media in its submission said the comparatively low price would stifle innovation and network improvements.

It has noted that some specialty channels “might not survive in a pure pick-and-pay world,” while Shaw Communications in its submission said pure al a carte offerings would trigger cascading economic and cultural consequences as niche producers are squeezed out.

The CRTC is altering the regulatory landscape amid a new wave of streamed on demand digital services sold “over the top” of regulations governing carriers of traditional TV.

The CRTC last week said it would not impose a “Netflix tax,” saying it would curtail growth and innovation in an emerging industry. It also eased Canadian content requirements on traditional broadcasters during daytime hours while leaving overall investment and prime time quotas unchanged.

As well, the CRTC will prevent the substitution of Canadian ads for foreign/U.S. spots during the Super Bowl, but stopped short of an outright ban on a practice that generates some $250 million a year for the TV industry.

The CRTC said it would allow “sim-sub” to continue since it helps stations keep their local audiences for news and other programming.

Bell Media has challenged the Super Bowl move, however, calling it legally flawed since it singles out the live event.

The unit of Montreal’s BCE filed a Federal Court motion seeking leave to appeal the Jan 29 ruling, saying the regulator erred in law and exceeded its jurisdiction.

Toronto Star

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