Canadian television is about protectionism

There is a big discussion going on right now in Canada about the whole idea of a fee-for-carriage ‘tax’ being added to our cable bills in order to insure the survival of ‘local’ television. This tax being asked for by the over-the-air broadcasters is suggested to be in the area of $10.00 per month and you would see it added to your monthly bill.

While this might be an interesting discussion (see the embedded video of a recent discussion about this area of contention) Prof. Michael Geist points out another area that the over-the-air broadcasters are pushing for the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Television Commission – a government regulatory body similar to the FTC in the US) to force the cable and satellite companies to create a new policy of “program deletion”.

Currently in Canada our the television networks that are carrying US programming work under what is called “simultaneous substitution”. What this means is that our broadcasters must broadcast their purchased show (which has been purchased from the originating US broadcaster in most cases) at the same time that the show is being run in the US.

Part of the argument that Canadian broadcasters have used, and is being used in the current fee-for-carriage bullshit argument, is that this puts the Canadian content show, which they are required to carry as a part of their licencing with the CRTC, at a disadvantage since the US shows get the prime slots.

What the Canadian broadcasters want is for the CTRC to step in and mandate that when a Canadian broadcaster buys the Canadian rights to a US show the US based broadcast would be blocked coming into Canada for a seven-day window.

In other words, rather than the current simultaneous substitution policy, which allows for the programs to air at the same time and for the substitution of the Canadian broadcast on the U.S. channel (thereby leading to the annual complaints about Super Bowl commercials), the U.S. broadcast would be blocked altogether. That would allow Canadian broadcasters to air the U.S. program whenever they like and block the U.S. version altogether. – Prof. Michael Geist

On the note about “saving local television” and the fee-for-carriage argument that is going on before the CRTC I have been a cable subscriber on and off since it was first available in our community, as well as any city across Canada that I have lived in, and I can count on one hand that has had it’s fingers removed how many times I have watched any local television, cable or otherwise. The only thing that adding yet another $10.00 to an already outrageous cable bill that keeps climbing each year would be to either cut back to the most basic package or to cancel it altogether.

As far as t he idea of totally blocking the US broadcast version for seven days – well, good luck with that plan. As you can hear in the video below the old media mouthpieces still don’t understand that access to media is changing. For them PVRs and Internet streaming are still just blips on the horizon. As one person puts it everyone wants to watch their favorite shows in hi-def and on big flat screens.

All the arguments that are before the CRTC currently are nothing more than efforts to drag out the control of television to the benefit of the broadcasters for as long as they possibly can. None of the arguments put forth do anything to benefit the people who actually use the service instead we are be treated like never-ending cash cows.