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CRTC working on affordability for Canadian TV viewers

MUMBAI: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has set out a roadmap that will maximise choice and affordability for Canadians television viewers.

By the end of 2016, viewers will be able to supplement an affordable entry-level service with the additional channels they want, either on a pick-and-pay basis or in small, reasonably priced bundles of channels.

By March 2016, Canadians will be able to subscribe to an entry-level television service that costs no more than $25 per month.This service will prioritise local and regional news and information programmes. News and information programmes enable Canadian citizens to better participate in Canada’s democratic, economic, cultural and social life.

Canadian consumers also expressed frustration that the basic packages offered by cable and satellite companies had become too large and costly.

Canadians will now be able to supplement the entry-level television service by buying individual channels that will be available either on a pick-and-pay basis or through small, reasonably priced packages. If they so choose, they will have the option of selecting theme-based packages—such as sports, lifestyle or comedy—offered by their service providers.

By December 2016, Canadians will be able to subscribe to channels on a pick-and-pay basis, as well as in small packages. In addition, Canadians will have the choice of keeping their current television services without making any changes, if these continue to meet their needs and budgets.

  • The entry-level television service will include:
  • all local and regional television stations,
  • public interest channels such as the Cable Public Affairs Channel and Aboriginal Peoples Television Network,
  • education channels,
  • and, if offered, community channels and the services operated by provincial legislatures.
  • Cable and satellite companies can continue to offer their existing packages of channels in order to provide alternative options to television viewers.
  • By expanding the current obligation to distribute one French-language channel for every 10 English channels to satellite companies, Canadians living in official-language minority communities will have access to services that meet their needs.
    Canadians living in official-language minority communities will also have access to educational programs in their language, including programs for children and youth.
  • Canada’s multicultural communities will have greater access to Canadian ethnic and third-language channels.
  • A code will clarify the wholesale relationship between television service providers and broadcasters, to the benefit of consumers.

The changes announced aim to build on ideas that the CRTC originally proposed in a working document published in August 2014 to maximise choice and affordability in the television services market.

During the Let’s Talk TV conversation, Canadians were clear that they wanted choice in the marketplace. Today’s decision gives them the ultimate choice. It supports those who want to subscribe to fewer channels, more channels, or who like the bundles of channels they already have. When coupled with other changes introduced by the CRTC, such as 30-day cancellation policies, it further empowers consumers to shop around and negotiate the deals that are best for them.

A dynamic marketplace creates incentives for cable and satellite companies to offer reasonably priced television services that meet the diverse needs and interests of Canadians, and for broadcasters to produce high-quality, original content that is compelling and attractive to audiences.

Multicultural communities: This decision aims to serve Canada’s diverse communities. It allows consumers to buy the ethnic and third-language television channels they want on either a pick-and-pay basis or in small bundles of channels. It also ensures that cable and satellite companies offer one Canadian third-language or ethnic channel for every non-Canadian third-language or ethnic channel they offer.

Members of Canada’s multicultural communities will have the freedom to choose the television services they want and will have greater and more affordable access to Canadian ethnic and third-language programming, as well as to non-Canadian programming.

Wholesale market: To support the changes announced and to ensure that viewers continue to discover, and enjoy access to, a diversity of programming—the CRTC introduced a code of conduct for broadcasters and television service providers. The code clarifies the terms and conditions under which wholesale agreements between the two are struck. For example, it ensures that cable and satellite companies offer independently-owned channels in at least one pre-assembled package and that channels cannot be unduly withdrawn from subscribers as a result of a commercial dispute at the wholesale level.

The content of the code will be finalised by September 2015 following an expedited public process.

In 2013, the CRTC launched Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians on the future of their television system, and how it can adapt to evolving technologies and viewing habits. The CRTC received more than 13,000 comments from Canadians during the conversation’s various phases.

This announcement is the fourth in a series of decisions that sets out a new, forward-looking framework for Canada’s television system, and which gives Canadians greater control over their television viewing experiences. The CRTC previously announced decisions relating to content made by Canadians, cancellation policies, local television and simultaneous substitution.

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said, “Thanks in part to the availability of broadband technology, viewers can watch television content at the times, in the places and on the devices they choose. Viewers are in control. Canadians have a World of Choice at their fingertips. Today’s decision is not about making choices for Canadians. Rather, it is about setting out a roadmap to give all Canadians the freedom to choose the television content that meets their unique needs, budgets and realities—which can even include free, over-the-air television stations. Each household will be able to find the right value proposition.

These changes are being introduced in a responsible and measured way to mitigate the impact on the Canadian economy and jobs in the television industry. We recognise that broadcasters need time to adapt their business and programming strategies, while cable and satellite companies need to update their informatics systems. There is nothing, however, that would prevent them from offering Canadians greater choices ahead of the schedule outlined by the Commission.”