The carriage fee debate: it’s b-a-a-a-k!

CBC radio alert: What does yesterday’s decision by the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal to allow private broadcasters to negotiate carriage fees mean for consumers?
I’ve been asked to speak to this issue today on a cross-country marathon of CBC syndicated radio stations. It’s a bit like being asked to explain Charlie Sheen, but I’m giving it a shot. I guess since TV does indeed feed my family, I’m the objective, no horse-in-the-race, cable-paying consumer advocate CBC radio trusts. Either that or Doyle was busy.

In a 2-1 decision, the court decided broadcasters like CTV and Global can go to providers like Bell and Shaw and negotiate a carriage fee, the same kind of direct cash grab specialty channels now enjoy as part of your cable or satellite bill. Right now, if you get TSN or Showcase or History or Bravo, you pay so many cents a month for that pleasure. CTV, Global, CBC, City–they’ve always been free. That court decision means not for much longer.
Or does it? The fact that Bell and Shaw now own CTV and Global (and Rogers owns City stations) would seem to make this all moot–what’s to negotiate? The CTV team can meet the Bell team in the same boardroom. If you’re the new guys in charge at CTV, are you really going to try and hold your new bosses up for cash?
Even if that conversation takes place, isn’t this just money going from one pocket and into another? Actually, no, it’s about moving money out of your pocket to add to the Bell pant load. At least five bucks a month worth, the providers have been saying all along.

No so surprisingly–despite the fact they stand to gain in the short term–the cable and satellite guys are still saying nix to this deal. Especially Rogers, who have already stated their intention to appeal, but there are already rumblings the others will follow. That means everybody waits until the Supreme Court signs off. Imagine if all that money went into creating Canadian TV shows instead of paneling law offices.
The cable and satelitte providers have said all along that they will pass along the extra carriage fee costs to the consumer. Will this be the last straw for folks already paying $60 bucks a month of 500 channels and nothing’s on? You can already stream The Office or 30 Rock or The Big Bang Theory now at your favourite network dot com. Do we really need to pay a cable bill and an Internet bill? No wonder Rogers is wary of anything that rocks the status quo.
There’s more to this: right before an election, will the government pull a hero move and step in and shoot down this carriage fee cash grab? It’s an election winner–anybody who stands up for free beer, hockey or TV in Canada will always get re-elected.
Besides, those dire, “broken business model” slogans look out of date now that CTV is back to bragging about how they just made a record haul from ad sales for the Academy Awards. You don’t hear about stations being shut down any more, either, now that things are all under one cosy roof.
Hear it all crammed into a five minute CBC radio rant. I’ve already spoken with the folks in Halifax, Windsor, Cape Breton and New Brunswick, but check me out in Whitehorse (3:45 ET). Victoria (running at 5:50 PT; thank you Jo-Ann Roberts.), Sudbury (4:10), Charlottetown (4:20), St. John’s (4:40), Winnipeg (4:50), Yellowknife (5 p.m.), Calgary (5:20), Edmonton (5:40), Toronto (5:50) and Vancouver (6:15).

4 Responses to “The carriage fee debate: it’s b-a-a-a-k!”

  1. I have a question. If we will have to pay more for the same channels shouldn’t the cable companies be able to (or have to) offer all channels a la carte? I only watch the HD channels offered by Shaw but i have to pay for everything plus the sports channels. I would be a lot happier paying for the 20 to 40 channels I actually watch. My bill should come down accordingly.

    Is this on the table?

    Thanks, Trevor

    Reply
  2. The typical monthly cable /internet bill was on my mind as yesterday (Feb 28th) I watched the Rogers CityTV Toronto news reporter breezily cut apart a crisp Twenty AND a Fifty dollar bill with a pair of scissors during their 6 p.m. telecast. Offically, it was a segment about contributing to either a RRSP or tax-free savings account.

    Reply
  3. I just heard the Blogger on CBC – was unaware of this one before – and I wanted to add that instead of just complaining about things like paying for all the unused channels, it would seem better if scads of people just got rid of it. We got rid of our cable subscription around 1996 and have virtually not missed it at all. And certainly, the benefits far outweigh losing out on the few shows that are actually worth watching.

    I doubt that I’ll ever convince anyone to do this, but if people thought seriously about taking this action, they could fairly easily convince themselves (I’m guessing that many still do TV because we’re creatures of habit and just never really think about toasting it).

    And with the ‘net, people can often catch shows there, as you pointed out with Big Bang. But I’d bet that if people didn’t even do that that they’d find it’s easy to just avoid completely… we sure found that! But either way, if enough people did this and made it known to the cable companies as to ‘why’, they’d scrap these huge charges and get rid of all the silly stations that few people want.

    My $.02. Cheers, Brett.

    Reply
  4. Well, we live in a world where power companies can illegally gouge consumers, get hit with a fine for doing so, then apply for, and get, permission to have the very same customers they gouged pay the fine.

    So, yeah, this is gonna hurt…

    Reply

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