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CMG at the CRTC today: a voice for local and free TV

The Canadian Media Guild brings its campaign to preserve local over-the-air TV after 2011 to the CRTC today. [Follow the proceedings live all day today. CMG is expected up after the lunch break at about 2 p.m. ET.] We’re the little guy in a room full of broadcast executives who appear in packs before the commission, arguing that they can’t possibly afford to pay to convert over-the-air transmitters to digital in smaller cities and towns across the country.

Instead, they argue that when the signal goes dark to 11 million Canadians in 2011, it’s OK to expect them to pay for so-called “skinny” or low-cost cable and satellite packages if they want to get any TV at all. Their option to get free TV over-the-air with rabbit ears will be cut off.

The CMG has taken a different approach to this issue for the past couple of years. We discovered a cost-effective approach for broadcasters to make the switch to digital, called “multiplexing” – several broadcasters sharing a single transmitter. It would actually provide more choice to people who rely on over-the-air TV.

Our view is that local news operations will become ever-more imperiled if they have to rely on cable and satellite to beam them into viewers’ homes and that over-the-air is still the best way to deliver local same-time TV.

So here we are. Read our remarks. With Big Broadcasters and Big Cable and Satellite “with access to a lot of capital engaged in death match” to paraphrase CRTC commissioner Tim Danton today, CMG is bringing forth a third option – one that is rooted in ensuring that Canadians from coast to coast enjoy the same access to TV, one that understands that local news is the very root of our information system—and to make the case for special funding for broadcasters who produce and air Canadian programming of all kinds in prime time.

Wish us luck.

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