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CRTC releases 5th part of new TV policy

The CRTC released the fifth step* in its revision of Canada’s television policy yesterday (2015-96; backgrounder), dealing with the distribution of programming services to cable and satellite subscribers.

Highlights of 2015-96:

– $25 skinny basic that

  • must include local and regional TV stations; mandatory carriage channels; CPaC; provincial education, legislature and community channels; and local AM and FM radio stations
  • may or may not, depending on the cable/satellite provider, include one set of the US 4+1 TV stations (“4+1” refers to ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, and a PBS station), and
  • subscribers must buy before picking & paying for other services, or building their own package

– Cable and satellite providers may offer their own, alternative skinny basic that includes discretionary services, if they also offer the ‘vanilla’ skinny basic described above

– Cable and satellite providers must also offer subscribers the option of buying discretionary services one by one (pick and pay), or buying “small, reasonably priced packages”, by next March (2016); they must offer both pick and pay, and small packages, by next September (2016)

– subscribers must buy the skinny basic package to access pick-and-pay or optional packages

– half of the discretionary TV services offered by cable/satellite companies must be Canadian, but apart from the all-Canadian vanilla skinny basic, no rules are set for the number or proportion of Canadian services that subscribers should buy

Details we do not yet know:

  • How the CRTC will monitor compliance with the new $25 skinny basic provision:  will it resume collecting – and publishing – the cable/satelllite basic rate information that it stopped collecting more than a decade ago?
  • Will the CRTC establish a process to periodically change the $25 skinny basic rate to take inflation into account, or simply allow changes to the $25 basic rate one case at a time (by applying conditions to the licences of cable/satellite service providers)?
  • Will the CRTC monitor the rates subscribers pay for the “small, reasonably priced packages” to determine whether 2015-96 reduces, maintains or increases the cost of services that subscribers now receive?

Still to come for the CRTC’s TV framework – “Consumer information and recourse” (see the CRTC’s ‘working document for discussion‘, from the Let’s Talk TV Proceeding, which proposed [items 23-24] a new BDU [broadcasting distribution undertaking, or cable/satellite provider] code and ombudsoffice)

* The four other parts of the CRTC’s new television framework are:

  1. the ‘content creation’ policy (2015-86, 12 March 2015)
  2. the over-the-air local TV programming and transmission policy (2015-24, 29 January 2015)
  3.  the simultaneous substitution policy for the Super Bowl and major events (2015-25, 29 January 2015), and
  4. the 30-day cable/satellite cancellation policy (2014-576, 6 November 2014).

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