As you may know, there’s a battle going on between Canada’s broadcasters and its cable/satellite companies. The broadcasters, CTV, Canwest Global, CBC, and others, want the CRTC to impose a fee-for-carriage, alleging that their signals are being distributed without compensation. The cable and satellite companies, Rogers, Bell, Shaw, Telus, and others, view such a fee as a “tax” on their subscription fees. The CRTC will examine the issue again in policy hearings beginning November 16th.
Both sides have started to encourage supporters to get involved and to contact the CRTC directly. The cable and satellite companies have launched Stop The TV Tax, while the broadcasters have launched Local TV Matters. They’re both on Twitter too: @stopthetvtax and @LocalTVmatters. If you want to submit comments, you have until November 2nd to do so:
I like that the issue is getting Canadians involved. Here are my thoughts on the issue:
- As I wrote back in May, I think it’s disingenuous of the broadcasters to position this as a “save local” issue.
- If it was really about saving local programming, the broadcasters would have no problem guaranteeing that funds raised from the fee-for-carriage would go entirely toward local programming. They aren’t willing to do that.
- Local TV doesn’t matter. Local content, reporting, and community service matter, but none of those things require a TV station.
- Is it really a coincidence that the broadcasters only started complaining loudly about this when the economic crisis was in full swing?
- The local stations are still available for free via antenna. If there’s a fee associated with accessing them via cable or satellite, I want the ability to opt-out (ideally they’d be opt-in).
The fee-for-carriage wouldn’t result in an incredibly large amount of money for the broadcasters, so it’s not going to solve all of their financial troubles. It’s more of a stop-gap solution. They’re still going to lose money and viewers. Isn’t it time to rethink the strategy? Focus energy on something constructive?
As I’ve said before, we need to allow sick businesses to die so that healthy, innovative ones can take their place.