May 26, 2009
Give us the money, or local TV gets it
So CTV has launched a campaign to get the CRTC to force cable and satellite companies to pay broadcasters for the right to carry their over-the-air (OTA) stations. But, being the clever marketers that they are, they're not calling it the "Government Should Force Cable Companies To Pay Us Fees That Of Course Will Be Passed On To Subscribers" campaign. They're calling it "Save Local Television."
Of course, this is purely emotional blackmail; there's just as much cause to call it "Save Our CEO's Executive Expense Account." But they know that "local" is a cause that is capable of rallying public support.
CTV says that they deserve the carriage fees, because otherwise cable companies are taking broadcasters' content for free and using it for profit. The problem with this is you could just as easily turn it around: the cable companies are currently performing a free service for the broadcasters by spreading their OTA content to a wider audience, thus increasing their advertising revenues, and so the broadcasters should pay the cable companies.
Fortunately, there's an easy solution to this debate: get the government out of the way completely. (Funny, that seems to be the solution to a lot of problems...) The CRTC should remove all regulations on which stations cable and satellite companies have to carry, where they have to be on the dial, whether they provide "simultaneous substitution," etc. Then, the broadcasters and cable companies can work out amongst themselves who will pay whom, and how much, and for which services - just like any other business deal.
The chances of the CRTC actually implementing such a system? Let's just say I'm not holding my breath...