CBC/Radio-Canada calls for better, less expensive, more accessible Canadian television

April 8, 2008, Ottawa

CBC/Radio-Canada proposes that the broadcasting system be revamped to provide higher quality television services at a reduced cost to Canadians.

The national public broadcaster made the following recommendations to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) this afternoon:

  • A small, low-priced, basic all-Canadian service, giving Canadians more choice in selecting which additional Canadian and foreign discretionary services they want.
  • A level playing field that would give conventional broadcasters access to subscription revenues, enabling them to continue to play their cornerstone role in the system and to maintain or enhance the quantity and quality of their Canadian programming offer.

“It’s time to rebalance the regulatory regime to properly support conventional broadcasters,” Michel Tremblay, Vice-President of Strategy and Business Development, said. “That, in our view, means doing two things: giving Canadians access to a basic, all-Canadian package of core services, and giving conventional broadcasters access to subscription revenues.”

Only Canadian, local, over-the-air television services and services deemed of significant importance would be a part of a basic package. All other types of services, which are often included in large, expensive basic packages – such as US television networks, time-shifted channels, specialty television channels, and audio channels – would become part of discretionary packages. By reducing the size of the basic package, consumers would have more choice, their basic subscription would cost less, and a core set of Canadian programming services would receive priority distribution.

“This approach would best fulfil the cultural, social and linguistic objectives of the Broadcasting Act, while at the same time being very consumer-friendly, much more so than is the case today,” said Sylvain Lafrance, Executive Vice-President, French Services.

CBC/Radio-Canada has also put forward the recommendation that conventional broadcasters receive subscriber fees to support Canadian programming initiatives – either new initiatives or to sustain what is currently at risk from weakening advertising revenue. Specialty channels already charge cable/satellite television providers these fees in return for their programming. But conventional broadcasters, as the principal investors in original Canadian television news and entertainment programs, must today provide their programming to cable/satellite television distributors for free.

“Our proposal would remedy a long-standing inequity and establish a level playing field,” said Richard Stursberg, Executive Vice-President of English Services. “Conventional broadcasters have long been the cornerstone of the Canadian broadcasting system, but financial realities – especially the steep decline in ad revenues – are putting the system at risk. Access to subscription revenues is one way of ensuring that the cornerstone doesn’t erode, which would benefit both the broadcasting system and the Canadians it exists to serve by guaranteeing that Canadians can continue to watch high-quality, original Canadian television news and drama,” Stursberg added.

Together, the combined effect of more choice for Canadians and a level playing field for broadcasters will help prevent further erosion in the quantity and quality of Canadian programming available for Canadians.

About CBC/Radio-Canada

CBC/Radio-Canada is Canada's national public broadcaster and one of its largest cultural institutions. With 29 services offered on Radio, Television, the Internet, satellite radio, digital audio, as well as through its record and music distribution service and wireless WAP and SMS messaging services, CBC/Radio-Canada is available how, where, and when Canadians want it.

Through this array of activities, CBC/Radio-Canada brings diverse regional and cultural perspectives into the daily lives of Canadians in English, French and eight Aboriginal languages, in nine languages on its international Radio service, Radio Canada International, and in eight languages on its Web-based Radio service RCI viva, a service for recent and aspiring immigrants to Canada.

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