TV networks win battle with cable companies, but war ahead

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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Those CTV and Global shows that come into your home courtesy of a cable or satellite company could soon hike your monthly bill - or even go dark - following a landmark ruling on how money flows in the broadcasting system.

The TV networks won their fight Monday before the country's broadcast regulator to negotiate a fee for their signal with cable and satellite providers, who have never paid before for those transmissions.

Gatineau, Que. -

Those CTV and Global shows that come into your home courtesy of a cable or satellite company could soon hike your monthly bill - or even go dark - following a landmark ruling on how money flows in the broadcasting system.

The TV networks won their fight Monday before the country's broadcast regulator to negotiate a fee for their signal with cable and satellite providers, who have never paid before for those transmissions.

But the Canadian Radio-television and Telecomm-unications Commission (CRTC) also wants the Federal Court of Appeal to review the new "value for signal" system before it kicks in.

And the Conservative government will have to decide whether it can live with the decision, or balk against the threat of increased costs for consumers by prescribing a different scenario.

The broadcasters had warned that the future of local TV programming depended on their getting a solid new source of revenue, with advertising dollars drying up and audience numbers dwindling. The cable companies posted an 11.9 per cent rise in revenues in 2009, a recessionary year.

If the court gives the green light, the industry and consumers will be in for a wild ride. Suddenly, cable and satellite companies would be forced to negotiate with conventional broadcasters for payment to carry their signals.

CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein underlines that payment can be in exchange for other considerations, and doesn't necessarily always involve cash changing hands. He is skeptical - as he was during last fall's consultation period - that consumers will see the cable bill hikes executives have been warning of.

"It's not the only game in town. After all, consumers can watch all of this on the Internet for free, and they might do that if you raise your cable company's freight too high," he told The Canadian Press.

"It's in the parties' own self interest to come up with a solution that's in the best interest of the consumer."

CTV's corporate vice-president Paul Sparkes celebrated the commission's decision.

"They have recognized that there is value associated with the content that we produce, so we're very happy with that," said Sparkes.

"I'd like to thank the thousands of Canadians who wrote in to the CRTC in support of our position and in support of local television."

However, the cable and satellite firms repeated their warnings of higher costs for consumers.

"Consumers are going to see increased bills on monthly basis for access to local programming, and that's the part that I find rather sad," said Mirko Bibic, Bell's senior vice-president of regulatory and government affairs.

Rogers vice-chairman Phil Lind added, "We think the CRTC has essentially placed a tax on cable and satellite customers, so they're going to pay more."

TV stations would be able to withhold their signals completely from a cable or satellite company if they don't like the way negotiations are going. Because they pay for the rights of a given television show in a given season, the cable firm would be blocked completely from transmitting it in any capacity.

Organizations: CRTC, Canadian Radio, Federal Court of Appeal Canadian Press Bell Rogers

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Recent comments

  • Fed Up
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    I am fed up with the cable and satellite companies gouging us. The CRTC has even admitted that the consumer is paying way too much for cable service and that increases have been astronomical but even though it is under their jurisdiction they won't do anything about it. I for one will get rid of cable if they add any more to the bill. For what we get - 22 showings of the same program on 22 channels (which are part of the 100's of channels they offer - HA) at the same time of the day, reruns, the same old movies that must no longer require royalties to be paid (e.g. My Zinc Bed!!!), I'll rent a movie now and then at a lot lower cost than I pay now.

    Maybe for once all consumers of cable and satellite service should band together and say come with the pliers and cut 'er off. Maybe if we hit them in the bottom line, they just might reconsider charging us again for services we already pay for.

    And as for Canadian content, most of it is crap that would never ever make it on TV if it weren't for the subsidies they get and the fact that the cable and satellite companies are forced to carry the programming.

    It would also be nice to see some of these regulatory agencies get some backbone and stand up to the big businesses. It appears to me that most of these agencies exist only to have staff and give someone job security.

  • R
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    The thought of having to pay more money for cable to watch local channels, especially CBC, is disturbing. Stop the packaging of stations in which customers are required to buy two channels they don't want to get three they do want in a five-station package. The easiest solution is to have the cable providers list all of the channel they can provide and allow the customer to pay for only those channels they want to purchase. The cable companies would then pay a fee to each station they carry based on the number of subscribers. Those channels that people do not subscribe to would be eventually dropped due to lack of revenue generation. The competition would come in how much competing cable companies would charge for similar channels. No successful business will carry products or services that do not generate revenue over the long term. Why is the cable television any different?

  • Lionel
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Given their profit margin, the cable monoplies could easily swallow these increases, but they will pass it on to us and call it a 'tax.' The get us coming and going.

  • Bill
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    The solution is simple: Pass the cost any of these channels wishing to charge to the cable and satilite companies on to the consumer, but make the channel optional. If they want to charge for me to watch Global, CTV, NTV, CBC, etc, then I should have a choice. Take them out of bundles, make them optional, and stand alone. As well, let the free channels occupy the best spots on the dial instead of forcing them to be carried in a first tier.

  • Graham
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Rogers vice-chairman Phil Lind, no one placed a tax on you. You stole content for years and made profit on it. Now you have the nerve to complain you can't steal any more ? You are lucky you are not in jail. It's like taking a teat away from a baby. Wha! Wha! Wha!


    'However, the cable and satellite firms repeated their warnings of higher costs for consumers.' Yeah well, they would have jacked up the rates even if they had won this ruling. They don't fool anyone.

  • IKS
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    If they expect the consumers to pay this, they better remove the unsolicited commercials we are forced to endure. Why do we need to pay for advertising that we do not wish to be exposed to so that these companies can generate revenue from the the sale and viewing? Maybe they need to be double taxed as well if this is the route they want to go down.

  • Manuel
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Well youll get no support from me. I used to work at a television syudio and its nothing more then greed kicking in.
    They get millions from advertising and pay salaries to staff that would feed several famalies. Yet they see a cable company turn a profit and they want in.
    Absolute greed and if my cable bill raises ill cut it.

  • John Doe
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    Well, if they give us the opportuinty to exclude the canadian channels, that either repeat the US shows most people want, or produce very poor quality canadian shows that most don't want I'm all for it. As for me I'd be quite happy to use rabbit ears for NTV and local CBC, and completly exclude all the Global networks.

  • Fed Up
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    I am fed up with the cable and satellite companies gouging us. The CRTC has even admitted that the consumer is paying way too much for cable service and that increases have been astronomical but even though it is under their jurisdiction they won't do anything about it. I for one will get rid of cable if they add any more to the bill. For what we get - 22 showings of the same program on 22 channels (which are part of the 100's of channels they offer - HA) at the same time of the day, reruns, the same old movies that must no longer require royalties to be paid (e.g. My Zinc Bed!!!), I'll rent a movie now and then at a lot lower cost than I pay now.

    Maybe for once all consumers of cable and satellite service should band together and say come with the pliers and cut 'er off. Maybe if we hit them in the bottom line, they just might reconsider charging us again for services we already pay for.

    And as for Canadian content, most of it is crap that would never ever make it on TV if it weren't for the subsidies they get and the fact that the cable and satellite companies are forced to carry the programming.

    It would also be nice to see some of these regulatory agencies get some backbone and stand up to the big businesses. It appears to me that most of these agencies exist only to have staff and give someone job security.

  • R
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    The thought of having to pay more money for cable to watch local channels, especially CBC, is disturbing. Stop the packaging of stations in which customers are required to buy two channels they don't want to get three they do want in a five-station package. The easiest solution is to have the cable providers list all of the channel they can provide and allow the customer to pay for only those channels they want to purchase. The cable companies would then pay a fee to each station they carry based on the number of subscribers. Those channels that people do not subscribe to would be eventually dropped due to lack of revenue generation. The competition would come in how much competing cable companies would charge for similar channels. No successful business will carry products or services that do not generate revenue over the long term. Why is the cable television any different?

  • Lionel
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Given their profit margin, the cable monoplies could easily swallow these increases, but they will pass it on to us and call it a 'tax.' The get us coming and going.

  • Bill
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    The solution is simple: Pass the cost any of these channels wishing to charge to the cable and satilite companies on to the consumer, but make the channel optional. If they want to charge for me to watch Global, CTV, NTV, CBC, etc, then I should have a choice. Take them out of bundles, make them optional, and stand alone. As well, let the free channels occupy the best spots on the dial instead of forcing them to be carried in a first tier.

  • Graham
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    Rogers vice-chairman Phil Lind, no one placed a tax on you. You stole content for years and made profit on it. Now you have the nerve to complain you can't steal any more ? You are lucky you are not in jail. It's like taking a teat away from a baby. Wha! Wha! Wha!


    'However, the cable and satellite firms repeated their warnings of higher costs for consumers.' Yeah well, they would have jacked up the rates even if they had won this ruling. They don't fool anyone.

  • IKS
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    If they expect the consumers to pay this, they better remove the unsolicited commercials we are forced to endure. Why do we need to pay for advertising that we do not wish to be exposed to so that these companies can generate revenue from the the sale and viewing? Maybe they need to be double taxed as well if this is the route they want to go down.

  • Manuel
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Well youll get no support from me. I used to work at a television syudio and its nothing more then greed kicking in.
    They get millions from advertising and pay salaries to staff that would feed several famalies. Yet they see a cable company turn a profit and they want in.
    Absolute greed and if my cable bill raises ill cut it.

  • John Doe
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    Well, if they give us the opportuinty to exclude the canadian channels, that either repeat the US shows most people want, or produce very poor quality canadian shows that most don't want I'm all for it. As for me I'd be quite happy to use rabbit ears for NTV and local CBC, and completly exclude all the Global networks.