Okay, stick with me for a second, when the Canadian government creates a regulatory body who are the men and women appointed to that body supposed to protect? If you think, like I do, that it is the Canadian people then you may be wrong.
If the CRTC, The Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Committee is any example, then we the citizens have got it all wrong. These guys seem to think they have been appointed to protect the interests of the industry giants. The bigger the giant, CTV and Canwest/Global come to mind, the more protection they need. At least that’s what it appears to be looking from the outside in.
Their latest move, and it has nothing to do with the media, is to keep secret the names of companies that violate the “Do Not Call” regulations. These are the telemarketers that break the law and call you even though your name and telephone number is on their “Do Not Call” list. Why is the CRTC protecting the scofflaws? Well, if they were to be put out of business who would the CRTC regulate?
The answer to the last rhetorical question is what’s behind the CRTC considering forcing the cable and satellite companies to pay CTV and Canwest/Global for delivering their signals. Never mind the facts, that their licenses clearly state that they are free services. Never mind the benefits that these companies already have given to them, like “must carriage”, that is they have to run the “over-the-air” stations, sometimes delivering them to places that would not normally get their signal. They get the best spots on the TV dial, ensuring higher ratings and more advertising dollars. And, let us not forget the simulcasting, that is substituting the Canadian feed for the U.S. feed when they are running the same program, perhaps the biggest dollar give-away to CTV and Canwest/Global of all. Simulcasting is the single biggest reason the Canadian networks grew and prospered in the past. Oh yes, that and the shameless hawking of U.S. programs that were picked up for nickels and dimes compared to the cost of actually producing something. All these benefits and the networks want more. They want the cable and satellite companies to pay them for their “free” service.
Guess what folks, the cable and satellite companies will not pay CTV and Canwest/Global. You will. It’s estimated that your cable bill will rise six dollars before taxes and you won’t get a single new service or program. Oh, and even worse, you won’t have any choice in the matter. Remember, the new charges are for “must carry” services. You can’t opt out of getting CTV or Canwest/Global or paying for them.
So here we go again. The CRTC who are supposed to be protecting our best interests have created a new hidden tax on all of us that will go straight into the coffers of the two largest media conglomerates in the country.
Now let’s get back to the original rhetorical question, why is the CRTC doing this? They are protecting the big guys because if they go down the CRTC will have nobody to regulate. That sounds like they have been regulating them in the past. Fat chance. When I worked at Global we had gone at least a dozen years without meeting our CRTC regulated license agreements. Did the CRTC shut us down. No. They renewed license after license on the promise we would do better next time. We never did.
The same is true for all kinds of stations. Omni, Vision, History TV and Discovery Channel to name just a few, are channels that have at best played semantic games with their license agreements and at worse flouted the terms of their licenses. Have any of these guys been sanctioned? Sometimes they get a five year license instead of a seven year license. Poor babies.
The TV industry in Canada is facing tough times. Advertising is way down because of the recession. But most stations are holding their own, making do, like they have in half-a-dozen recessions in the past.
What’s changed? CTV is in trouble. Why? Is it the recession? Only in small part. The biggest problem CTV has is that they went on a buying spree for two decades. They bought lots of local stations and they bought and opened lots of cable stations. Buying Chum/City was the last and biggest purchase. This has left them with a huge debt they can’t service in tough times. Is that our fault? Why are we paying for their greed? They got into this trouble because they wanted to keep others like Canwest/Global out. If they had taken care of their own business instead of worrying about Canwest/Global’s they would be in far better financial shape.
The dummies at Canwest/Global are even nuttier. They are in big trouble, on the verge of bankruptcy. Is it the recession? Absolutely not. These Bozos continue to keep The National Post going despite the fact that it is robbing millions of dollars from their primary business. The only people in Canada who don’t realize The National Post has failed seem to be the owners. They also bought Alliance Atlantis paying way too much for a company that was itself reeling and doing it at a time that Canwest/Global could not afford to add to their debt.
So the new tax on TV the CRTC is imposing is to help two large private media conglomerates get out of predominantly self-inflicted problems. I ask again, is that the CRTC’s job? Are they there to protect CTV and Canwest/Global or are they there to protect us?
The answer my friends is obvious…