I'm Mad as Hell

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and I can't do a thing about it

Code Beige at the CRTC

I guess it was to be expected. The CRTC took many months and countless opinions and distilled the results into a watery half decision that will satisfy no one and resolve little.

I don’t know if the commission is still gunshy from its poor decisions to allow the cable companies to rape and pillage Canadians in the past. I am not sure whether the terrible rulings in the past that allowed Canadian broadcasters to undermine content rules and kill local television make the current CRTC fearful of their own decision making ability. Maybe they are afraid of a government that stomped on their last mobile telephone decision. Whatever the case, the current ruling that the networks can claim money from the cable and satellite companies for what are by license free over the air services will lead to no easy resolution of the ongoing battle. Why? because the ruling was half-hearted at best.

Typical of today’s CRTC they have said it was okay to charge for network signals, unless you are the CBC, but they want the two warring sides to work out a fee schedule. Are those not the two sides that haven’t been able to come to an agreement for the past twenty years?

Further, the brave souls at the commission add they are not sure whether they have the right to even make this ruling and have sent their opinion to the courts for an opinion. Why not a Royal Commission?

If I had to make a guess I would say the CRTC’s favorite color is beige, no gray, no beige, no…you get the idea.

The best Canadian response to the ruling so far is by the Globe’s increasingly irrelevant television columnist, John Doyle. He writes, “With any decision it reached, it would have underlined why its own existence is a necessity.” Huh.

Look, it is no secret that I do not believe the networks should be allowed to charge for their signals. They accepted a license that provides for free access to their signals. For years they made fortunes. Broadcasting was called a license to print money and the network owners took great advantage of that license. Ivan Fecan and the Aspers are not living in tenements in Toronto and Winnipeg. Every time CTV and Global were given the opportunity to protect Canadian TV they chose the U.S. option. Global was behind the CRTC decision that did more to kill local TV than any other single cause: Global won the right to use anything produced by any local station on any other station in Canada and call it local. Thus a show produced in Toronto could now be deemed local content in Calgary or Halifax.

What burns me almost as much as having to pay for free TV is the fact that I will not be given the choice if and when the policy comes into being. The networks are demanding must carry status. That means that all cable and satellite users will have to pay for network TV even if they don’t watch CTV or Global. Call me a crazy democrat but I believe the viewer should have the right to opt out of taking a channel if we are forced to pay for it. I want the CRTC to rule out any must carry and to put an end to bundling. As a consumer it should be my right to pick and choose the channels I will pay for. The CRTC promised this some time ago but has never followed up.

Let CTV and Global charge cable and satellite for their signals correspondingly allow me choose to watch them with rabbit ears or an antenna for free.

Oh, and what about local television? Wasn’t the point of the exercise to save local TV? Isn’t that what CTV and Global told us? I didn’t see any part of the CRTC ruling that changed local content rules. I didn’t see a call for more local content. In fact the word local doesn’t appear in the decision. I guess the networks and the commission are betting on the short memories of a disengaged populace.

Yes the networks are having some financial difficulty. In case you haven’t noticed, so are most Canadians. We are coming out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Everyone agrees that this is not the time to raise taxes, hell, even the NDP agrees, so the last thing we need is a new TV tax. Will CTV and Global survive? That should depend on their ability to get eyeballs back from the internet, from specialty channels, not on their ability to get a guaranteed annual income. Canadians should not be punished for their entertainment choices or for the failure of corporate broadcast giants. That’s bad policy.

The numbers that have come out recently speak to the CRTC and the networks being out of touch with the Canadian reality. Canadians are sitting in front of their computers more than they are watching TV. CTV and Global raised their spending on U.S. content, dropped spending on Canadian shows and they lost even more money in the process.

Bad decisions all around. The CRTC, CTV, Global, welcome to the 21st century. Ten years later and they have barely noticed.

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Filed under: Media Commentary, Political Commentary, , , ,

8 Responses

  1. Call me an optimist, but I think this is the first of probably many decisions that will give some choice to viewers. This is (imo) the precursor to unbundling and hopefully, some hard choices to be made by a spine-stiffened CBC board. Ok. So I’m a foolish optimist.

  2. brenda craig says:

    Love the code beige, code gray stuff.
    For the most part, there isn’t much to watch on tv anyway. The news content, I get from the internet. So, if cable passes its costs to broadcasters onto consumers, watch cable subscribers leave the building on mass. Click.

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