Canada’s largest telecommunications company would like Canadians to pay for what they want to watch on tv – including your local or regional 6pm newscast.
Bell Media Inc., the offshoot broadcasting division of Bell that owns CTV, CTV 2 and a number of specialty channels made the announcement last week in a statement for CRTC’s consultation on the future of Canadian TV proposing “pick and pay” options for all television channels not included in basic packages, and a new model to ensure the long-term sustainability of local programming.
“These proposals support the modernization of Canada’s successful broadcasting system in an era of rapid change, balancing flexibility and choice in TV programming with consumer demand for content of quality, variety and value, alongside the cultural imperative of a unique and relevant Canadian voice in broadcasting.”
Bell proposes broadcast distributors should have continued flexibility to include discretionary Canadian services in basic packages and offer a range of TV packaging options, while also having the ability to make all Canadian discretionary services not in basic available to consumers on a pick and pay basis.
Bell supports greater competition among programming services and increased flexibility for all channels to ensure Canadians continue to have access to the highest-quality viewing options. The proposal would depend on a commercial marketplace that enables negotiations between broadcasters and distributors for any channel without carriage rights.
“Bell agrees with Canadian consumers that they shouldn’t have to pay for channels they don’t want just to get the channels they do. In addition to the extensive range of TV packaging options we make available, we seek to offer pick and pay as an option to consumers,” said Wade Oosterman, President of Bell Residential Services. “Free-market negotiations are essential if pick and pay is to deliver on the promise of consumer choice, giving broadcasters and distributors the ability to develop the innovative and competitive business models required to make it work.”
Bell also wants to re-write what local television is all about, “Canada’s broadcasting system is built on a foundation of local television programming. However, the sector is no longer financially sustainable and to date none of the regulatory measures implemented to address the issue have managed to address the structural deficiency of an advertising-only funding model.”
“Canadians everywhere value local TV because it connects and informs them about their communities. We need to act now to ensure local TV can continue to fulfill this mandate,” said Kevin Crull, President of Bell Media. “The CRTC’s consultation offers the opportunity to consider an innovative and up-to-date model that aligns with what consumers want from their broadcasting system.”
Bell proposes to convert local conventional TV stations into local specialty services, which would continue to be subject to local programming requirements and be carried as part of basic packages. Like other specialty services, local channels would be able to charge wholesale rates to broadcast distributors, subject to existing CRTC must-carry regulations applicable to local broadcasting. The combined revenue from advertising and wholesale fees supports a stable and sustainable future for local programming for all Canadians.
This move however, would see consumer’s cable bills rise once again with no reassurance or true local programming on the channel. For instance, CTV currently airs the minimum amount of hours required by their license for local programming, roughly 14 hours per week. The rest of the schedule comprises mostly of American content.