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CRTC’s version of Pick-and-Pay leaves out Canadian 24-hour news service and leaves many questions for the industry

CMG is disappointed that the CRTC has announced major changes to the Canadian television landscape that exclude the public broadcaster’s all-news service from the basic package but leave in the option of including American channels at no additional cost. Generally, the announced changes could have significant impact on what Canadians watch and on Canada’s broadcasting industry as a whole.

The skinny basic seems to give Canadians, regardless of income, access to news and information, something the CMG has fought for; however by excluding Canada’s two major public French and English news services, the Commission is doing a disservice to Canadians. CBCNN is not offered as part of the basic package in the English market, and RDI is not offered as part of the basic package in French, a disappointing about-face for the CRTC which had in the past encouraged wide distribution of the public broadcaster’s 24-hour news services.

“While the skinny basic includes CBC and other local stations, provincial educational broadcasters, Aboriginal People’s television (APTN), and CBC’s French and English networks RDI and CBCNN in minority language communities, this is not enough,” said Carmel Smyth, National President for the Canadian Media Guild. “We believe in this 24-hour media environment, Canadians have the right to access essential information from Canadian news services, and the decision is particularly galling when U.S. networks can be included at no additional cost.”

Smyth added she has serious concerns about other decisions from the Let’s talk TV review. “It will be important to monitor what the new rules do to the industry, how independent and freelance workers are affected and what jobs are lost.”  The CMG is also disappointed the CRTC missed an opportunity to discuss increased funding for creating Canadian content.   “We are concerned about the implications of decisions such as removing Canadian content rules from day-time television, abandoning genre protection, and the missed opportunities to require new players in the system such as Netflix to make a contribution to Canadian content. Our view is that these moves weaken the broadcasting system for everyone, and could hurt smaller channels, decrease the range of Canadian stories and programming available, and adversely affect jobs in the industry.”

CMG had proposed the CRTC create a Canadian Public Service Media Fund which would force distributers to help support local programming including news, provincial and community broadcasters, as well as innovative, diverse programming on all platforms.

Here are some highlights of the recent Talk TV decisions:

A small basic package
This basic package will include all local and regional stations as well as CPAC, APTN, provincial education and community channels; as well as CBCNN in French speaking communities and RDI in English communities. In regions with no provincial broadcasters, providers will offer a channel from another province. The major U.S. channels can be added to the package at no additional cost.

The cost of the package will be a maximum of $25 a month, and the change comes into effect a year from now (March 2016).

Canadians can buy additional channels either individually or in small packages, including theme-based packages such as Sports. Providers must offer more Canadian channels than non-Canadian ones.

All-News Channels requirements strengthened
The Commission has announced encouraging new measures requiring all-news services to adhere to journalistic codes such as the RTNDA Code of (Journalistic) Ethics; to invest in newsgathering with “news bureaus in at least three regions” in addition to the location of the news service’s live broadcast facility; to have 95% of their programming be from news categories; and have the capacity “to report on international events from a Canadian perspective.”  CMG as well as other interveners at Let’s Talk TV hearings had made the case for such reinforcement for all news services. We will look forward to the policy document details.



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