Local TV Matters – It’s all about choice

September 17, 2009, Ottawa

It can all get pretty confusing. You open your cable bill every month and once again the cable companies have decided to raise your rates again.

And at the same time you’re being asked to fork over more of your hard-earned dollars, the cable companies are reporting record profits. – Does that seem fair? Do you think anyone is looking out for YOUR interests?

We’re pleased to see that today, the Canadian government issued an order in council asking the CRTC to explore how negotiating a fair value for broadcaster’s local TV signals would impact Canadian consumers like you. We’re happy to hear that, like us, they’re focused on putting the interests of consumers and Canada’s local television front and centre.

In fact, ensuring Canadian consumers are protected from having to pay more for “value for signal” is one of the key reasons behind the local TV matters campaign.

There seems to be some confusion surrounding this issue, particularly given the misinformation being put out there.

Let’s try to clarify a few pieces of the puzzle.

Canadians work hard for their money and—we hope—are fairly compensated for the work they do. That’s how it works—you help to provide a service and you get some form of reasonable compensation in exchange.

Apparently, the cable companies see it differently. For decades, they have received our local television signals for free, charged their customers for it and made a nice profit.

This model means local television stations across the country have had to rely primarily on advertising to sustain their day-to-day operations. But for years, advertising revenues have been decreasing as the number of channels has increased, to the point that this model is no longer sustainable. In other words, to maintain the diversity of local voices in the Canadian broadcast industry, things have to change.

“Great,” you say. “But I’m still going to have to pay.” Well, the fact is, those profitable cable companies could CHOOSE not to charge customers more than they already pay for local TV.

Cable and satellite companies pay over $300 million dollars a year to US specialty services and over $1.9 billion dollars to Canadian specialty and pay services. While some of these are popular services, very few of them are as popular as CBC, CTV, or Global. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see a little less money going to channels that don’t have a vested interest in your community.

Through a fair negotiation process, some of the fees paid to specialty channels could be redirected to Local Television, without any need for raising your rates-they’re paying that money out anyway, why not have a fair share go to your local broadcaster?

Many people believe they are already paying for their conventional TV services when they pay their cable bills.

Cable companies enjoy big profits (2 billion dollars in profit last year alone) — with higher profitability than even the oil and gas industry.

In the last 5 years, they have increased their rates 6 times faster than US cable rates, so, if it’s true that we’re already paying for conventional TV services, cable companies don’t need to raise your rates again, and they can certainly afford not to.

Cable companies talk about offering Canadian consumers “real choice.”

We think it’s time for cable companies to choose: whether or not to take their customers’ and their communities’ interests into account. We also think it’s time for the CRTC to restore some balance to the broadcasting system in Canada.

We welcome the transparency of a fair process moving forward to discuss this critical matter – a process that involves all Canadians, and one that enables us to protect local television service, and your pocketbook before it’s too late.

Steve Guiton
Chief Regulatory Officer

More info:

CBC/Radio-Canada offers CRTC solution to failing model for conventional television broadcasting

Search highlight tool