I'm Mad as Hell

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and I can't do a thing about it

The CRTC Must Die

Every time you think the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, has finally been chastised and in the process, learned a lesson, the bozos who run the circus come up with a new and silly act meant to help the broadcasters. And, as is usual with these folks, somehow ends up diminishing our choices as consumers and costing us more money in the long run.

Last time the genius’ at the CRTC had the brilliant notion that behemoths Rogers and Bell should have the right to tell their sub-buyers like Teksavvy what they could charge for internet use. This blew up in the CRTC’s face when most Canadians saw through the money grab by the big providers and began a protest that made the suggestion disappear faster than a Liberal leader in the 21st century.

At just about the same time the sages who run the CRTC suggested that the need to tell the truth by broadcasters should be somehow loosened so that less honesty and less truth could become the norm. This was at a time when Sun TV was on the drawing board. Either they, the CRTC, were too stupid to make the connection, which is highly likely, or they were attempting, as some suggested, to pander to the Tory government by making it easier for a Fox-north like entity to succeed. Either way, it blew up in their collective faces.

Oh, and let’s not forget the plan to allow CTV and Global to charge cable and satellite companies to rebroadcast what is by license and by law a free service. Somehow this notion was approved but has disappeared from the landscape. It was left to the broadcasters and the distributors to somehow work out the charges. My guess is that Rogers said no way, we won’t pay and the entire issue went poof. If it had any legs after that I suspect the acquisition of CTV by Bell and Global by Shaw doomed the concept. Now the broadcasters are the distributors too. Funny the CRTC didn’t see these events coming even after they broke their own rules years ago by allowing cable and satellite companies like Rogers and Bell to own TV stations. It was inevitable. Only the egg-heads at the CRTC didn’t see the end of competition coming.

So, now that all their recent plotting has failed miserably, the brainiacs at the CRTC have come up with a new plan to strengthen the oligarchies that run broadcasting in Canada while at the same time diminishing the viewers’ options. This time the CRTC is asking interested parties, there will be no public hearings so interested parties mean those who are stakeholders, the people who will make more money, to comment on how new media should and could be forced to provide Canadian content and contribute to those people who provide Canadian content.

On the surface this sounds so sensible. Who’s against more money for Canadian shows and who wouldn’t like to see more and better Canadian TV? Apple pie and ice cream right?

Wrong! When looked at more closely the CRTC is attempting to regulate an industry that it has no right to regulate. Sure I can see why CTV, Rogers and Global want to make it more expensive for Netflix and Apple to do business. If Netflix has to charge more for their service, there is less likelihood that my fellow Canadians will sign up. In the end this means more customers for the broadcasters and distributors. Why not ask? I would if I owned CTV or Global.

Instead of looking at the apple pie and drooling, think of it this way: Netflix and Apple are really no different than your local video store. They provide access to content that is not delivered by cable, satellite or over the air. Their content, like the video store is mostly TV series’ and movies, the stuff you can buy at Walmart or rent at Blockbuster. Interestingly, Rogers provides this rental service in big video stores and Bell and Rogers both offer pay-per-view movies. Ask yourself whether Blockbuster or your corner video store should be forced to provide Canadian content or help pay for Canadian production? Obviously, this is a ludicrous idea. Well the concept is no more ludicrous at the Netflix store.

The latest argument by the broadcasters is that Apple and Netflix have begun to fund and buy programming that will go directly to their service and bypass TV, cable and satellite. Please, someone, explain what the difference is between this and videos that are made to be sold directly to the public without ever being broadcast? There are thousands of them. Disney is a big producer of this sort of content. Perhaps we should go after Disney to provide Canadian content and money for Canadian production. Hell, you can buy the Disney videos in Canadian stores. It’ll never happen. I can hear the guffaws coming from the Magic Kingdom just at the suggestion.

Seriously folks, I think we can all recognize a protectionist scam that is being devised by the broadcasters in Canada along with the CRTC. Hurt the new guys and you help yourself. Luckily the Tory government has already come out against the idea. Tony Clement has said, “…it is a way to strangle the competition.”

The time has come to scrap the CRTC. They are tools of the oligarchs who own and run broadcasting and telecommunications in this country. They have succeeded in providing Canadians with one of the most expensive mobile phone systems in the world, one of the highest cost internet systems in the world, and a national television system that is ruled by three owners who have steadfastly fought every initiative to make Canadian programs and play them in prime time. All they, the networks, really care about is their bottom line. Fair enough, they are businesses. But isn’t that why we created the CRTC? To regulate those businesses so that they serve Canadians. So far all I see is a CRTC that wants to regulate Canadians in the service of Rogers, Bell and Shaw.

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

14 Responses

  1. A Nonymous says:

    The old argument was that if TV companies and cables companies were using our SHARED airwaves (airwaves/wirless/radio is a shared medium, it is why the CRTC had to exist) or over municipal lands (who gave Rogers permission to string cables around public property or even your own home?). And in return that entity had control over that resource.

    The fact is with the internet there is very limited control. Rogers, Bell, etc. don’t own that infrastructure they don’t serve you the majority of your packets. This service (internet) and services ON it don’t follow the same patterns as previous services the CRTC legislated. The only patterns it tends to follow is that Rogers and Bell leverage infrastructure that we have subsidized (before you claim rogers laid it down themselves, the municipalities granted them local monopolies, free from competitors, that is a subsidy) in order to serve us internet. So legislate Rogers and Bell, don’t legislate anyone down the line.

  2. Serge says:

    This one needs a bit of fact-checking and a bit of thinking through. Ignoring the nits, the main point seems to be that the CRTC made some wrong decisions, came close to making some other wrong decisions, and has now been asked to do something that would come to a wrong decision, so what we should do is get rid of the CRTC. That doesn’t really follow, though. If what we need is smarter regulation, then it’s not “the CRTC must die”, but “the CRTC must improve”. If what we need is total deregulation, as you argue, then we should certainly get rid of the CRTC — but you don’t need to highlight wrong or potentially wrong decisions that the CRTC has made or might make to get there. If deregulation is the right answer, then it doesn’t really matter what the CRTC does. It’s always the wrong thing.

    • hlbtoo says:

      My main point Serge is that if the CRTC was created to regulate industry they have failed. They have been industry backers and supporters. They have and continue to make policy and pronouncements that are anti-public at large and pro-big business. That being the case we, the Canadian public. would be better off without them.
      I am sure the Ministers of Industry, Transportation and the like can do a better job protecting us and regulating television and telecommunications than the CRTC.

  3. Hub says:

    You also forget Quebecor. They own Videotron (cable TV, internet, cellphone, videostore – like Rogers but in Quebec), various TV channels in Quebec and outside (that channel you mention above) as well as news paper. It does not change much of the argument, it actually fuels it.

    After all, the is the same Videotron that wanted to ask a few years ago to have companies like Apple or Youtube pay for the bandwidth as well.

  4. Crockett says:

    Well said.

  5. Guspaz says:

    “Oh, and let’s not forget the plan to allow CTV and Global to charge cable and satellite companies to rebroadcast what is by license and by law a free service. Somehow this notion was approved but has disappeared from the landscape.”

    Yeah, it migrated right off the landscape and onto my cable bill, where it shows up as a 1.5% “Local Programming Improvement Fund” fee.

  6. Dave says:

    But then what would replace it?

    Under NAFTA, existing regulators ie. Wheat Board, CRTC, our medicare system etc. all got grandfathered in. Any replacement regulator will face, GATT tribunal challenges and counter-levies from American media conglomerates in an instant.

    As noted above, if the CRTC is subject to regulatory capture – we need a changed CRTC, something that can be done within the existing CRTC mandate – it is just a matter of policy and emphasis. But don’t expect the Harper government to do so. I expect they will de-regulate the media sector in accordance with their “conservative” ideas transferred from the United States.. In short, to call for the destruction of the CRTC.

    The CRTC has had a positive influence (in the distant past) – remember the Canadian content rules on radio in the early 1970’s – that made the Canadian music industry. It may, repeat may, now be able to stand on its own but the American cultural onslaught remains problematical. The Canadian television and film industry have been struggling as has the CRTC with its various rulings – but it is better than the alternative.

    • hlbtoo says:

      I don’t care Dave…if they are hurting the Canadian consumer, we are better off without them.
      BTW here’s an interesting story: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2011/06/08/technology-mobile-roaming-wireless-oecd.html

      • Dave says:

        Saw that. It is really a capitalism issue. Why do you think Kevin O’leary is always jonesing for a subscription based business model?

        Cell-phone providers, tel-co providers, cable, internet etc. are all jostling for our business. Give them low “teaser-rates” to start and jack them up later (Hello Virgin moblie – Wind is in the early teaser stage), lock them in with penalizing contracts, and make switching and retaining your phone/data a real hassle. Don’t get me going on about the service call centres in India or the inteminable holds. There is a reason most people text on their cell phones – the rent is too damn high!

        Okay, with that off my chest, how do you make the CRTC better? Some possibilities:

        1. Get out of regulating content on the internet.

        2. It sucked I know but the land-line system had some well developed “Basic Terms of Service” that were mandatory on the Telcos. Do the same thing with wireless, cell-phone and internet contracts – that way at least there is a level playing field. As part of that:
        a. make your telephone number follow you;
        b. consumer disclosure of the total cost and the data limits – everything is hidden now in the fine print – together with “average consumer” model of how much their service will cost. This is similar to Transport Canada’s “fuel efficiency” measures (which I still have to convert to mpg to make sense) but at least the basis of calculation would be known.
        c. annual rate increases only with 45 days advance notice – perhaps limited to a single calendar day?
        d. no penalties or a limited penalty ie. $100? for changing providers.

        This is not a complete list – it does however provide for at least somewhere that consumer concerns can be addressed by changing the Basic Terms of Service.

        3. Require all the “wires” be treated as common carriers.

        This is not intended as the be-all and end all – go get the CRTC to look at other countries/plans etc.

      • hlbtoo says:

        Great post Dave…your insight and thoughtfulness unfortunately disqualify you from ever getting a job with the CRTC.

  7. Cvanden says:

    Did you know that the president of the CRTC writes in his CV that “he led the drive to establish the International Competition Network, the umbrella organization for all competition authorities from around the world, and became its founding chairman” ? Don’t you find a bit ironic that the same person is now supporting an oligopolistic stronghold on the Internet in Canada?

  8. mitch says:

    I say, do away with crtc,. I like American blockbuster movies,. I like to get the good movies with the good actors, I do not wish to be forcefully purchase global, ctv, etc,to get the right to get the movie channels, …. I wouldn’t buy a chevy cavalier,. be get a Toyota Tacoma,.

    reorganize the remnants after dismantling this oppressive organisation,. removing censoring in its entirety,. prioritize on producing marketable programing, if it is good, channels will want it,. if I like it, I will get the channels it is on.

    I would buy the, full size chevy pickup,. if it was offered and the dollar to dollar value optimal.

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