Saturday, 12 July 2014

Canadian Television: Time for More Choice

Today, I read an article in The Toronto Star by Michael Geist discussing the changes to broadcasting regulations that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is considering, which would radically alter the way Canadians watch TV (see: The CRTC's make-or-break moment).  Canadian TV viewers could finally see an end to paying for channels they don't want in order to get the channels they do want and may even be able to get their cable or satellite TV service from someone other than Canadian big boys, Bell, Telus, Rogers and Shaw - legally.  If these changes take place, Canadians can expect a lot more choice and a lot less regulation.  But don't pop the cork on the champagne just yet, because there are a lot of corporate and special interest groups out there that are fighting tooth and nail to defend the status quo, or even make things worse for Canadian TV viewers.

Television Service Providers and Content Creators Line Up to Defend Status Quo

Unfortunately, it is not in the best interests of some folks to allow Canadians more choice in how they watch TV.  Indeed, why would the likes of Rogers, Bell, Shaw or Telus want the CRTC to open the Canadian TV marketplace to competition when the status quo allows them to rip off Canadian consumers and get away with it because potential non-Canadian competitors, like American providers DirecTV and Time Warner Cable, are frozen out of Canada?   The simple answer is that they don't want more competition.  So much for capitalism and free markets.

The folks here in Canada who make TV content don't want competition either.  Nope.  They want to keep regulations in place that shove their content down the throats of Canadian TV viewers, which is why the usual suspects - groups like the Canadian Media Production Association (CMPA), ACTRA and the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) - are lining up to vigorously defend the status quo.  They don't want Canadians to be able to choose not to watch Canadian programming.  They want to continue making you pay for channels and programming you don't want to watch.  Make no mistake about it.  These special interest groups are the enemies of Canadian consumer choice.  They're the same people who want to keep the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in the hands of the federal government so that they can keep making Canadian taxpayers foot the bill for what they deem to be good Canadian content.  Unfortunately, there is a major disconnect between the producers of TV content and the consumer in Canada.  This is why, for example, some Canadian TV shows that were recipients of the Canadian Screen Awards, or at least nominated for them, were the same shows that got cancelled for lack of viewership (see: Critically Acclaimed Canadian TV Shows Cancelled).  It seems that the arts community in this country has a penchant for rewarding mediocrity. 

Canadian Content Providers Want to Limit Your Choices Even Further

As if the status quo wasn't bad enough for Canadian TV viewers hungry for more choice, Canadian content creators want even more restrictions put in place to protect them from competition.  According to Geist's Toronto Star article referenced above, the Can-con (short for Canadian content) lobby wants Canadian content regulations imposed on online video services, like Netflix.  In other words, they want to make services like Netflix carry a certain amount of Canadian content and make them pay for the production of more Canadian content.  This will mean less choice for you and more money out of your pocket as the costs of providing money to finance more Canadian content will ultimately be passed on to you, whether you're a fan of such content or not.

Let Canadians Choose

The market, ie. the Canadian TV viewer, should decide what kind of programming, Canadian or otherwise, gets shown on television, not the starving artists and protectionists that fill the ranks of lobby groups like CMPA and ACTRA.  Yes, I understand that there are many folks who want to promote Canadian content.  For them, I have these words: If you want Canadian content, then you pay for it!  Don't ask other Canadian TV viewers like myself to foot the bill for your interests.  As for the starving artists and Can-con protectionists I just mentioned: if your product sucks and you can't get anyone to buy it or watch it, don't assume that it should be the responsibility of all Canadian TV viewers to fund it.  Instead, find a way to make your product better so that it is more marketable, just as you would have to do in any other business.  And if you can't do that, then I suggest you find another line of work. 


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