WonkReport

TalkTV – Have Your Say, Again

You may have heard about the CRTC’s Talk TV consultation.  It’s been a multi-part consultation that first started with an online discussion forum where the public was asked for their thoughts on issues related to Canadian television.  The public and industry groups were also encouraged to conduct Flash! conferences to talk about Canadian television and send in reports to the CRTC.

The CRTC took all of that information and floated a few proposals to the public and asked them to answer a survey.  Finally (we thought), they announced a public hearing and solicited submissions on 80 specific questions to be followed by an oral public hearing starting September 8, 2014.  [If you’re interested, summaries of the other phases of consultations and the public notices can all be found on the CRTC TalkTV microsite.]

Today the CRTC added in another public consultation and provided more proposals for the public and stakeholders to consider and respond to.  They re-opened the online discussion forum and they would like you, yes you, to read the working document and share your thoughts.  The discussion forum will stay open from today until the last day of the hearing and close on September 19, 2014.  This will allow you to respond to things said during the hearing as well as to the working document.  That is a very interesting option, particularly for those who don’t live tweet hearings (I tend to have very immediate tweet responses to things said during hearings).

I believe that the Commission’s attempt to look at the entire television landscape is laudable but too much for one hearing.  Having received all of the submissions it looks like they might have come to the same conclusion.  While maintaining that anyone presenting at the hearing can bring up any topic they wish (though hopefully a relevant one – please no Value For Signal), they are trying to focus the discussion under the headings of pick and pay, the relationship between cable and satellite companies and broadcasters, Canadian programming and specifically local programming.  They would also like comments on the specific proposals including implementation schedule and how proposed regulation can be adaptable to future change.

Some of the proposals are wonky but several would have a direct impact on audiences and creators.  Your input is important regardless of which side of the screen you sit on.  And which screen.  This CRTC has been known to read into the record written submissions from the public.  So please share your thoughts.

A few of the issues:

Pick and pay:  In addition to the proposal contained in the public notice (a small all-Canadian basic), the CRTC is floating another option.  Under that scenario, cable and satellite companies would be able to add in any other services that they wish as long as the small basic has the price of $20 per month, $25 per month or $30 per month.  The benefit of this is that the cable and satellite companies can add in ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and PBS if they want but still need to keep the basic package small.

After the small basic, consumers will be able to either pay for only the specialties they want, put together their own packages or buy prebuilt packages.

Simultaneous substitution:  There are two options, either no more simsub or remove simsub from live events such as the Superbowl or Oscars.  It’s interesting that these are even proposed when so many stakeholders pointed out to the Commission the importance of simsub revenue to broadcasters and therefore the amount they have to spend on Canadian programming.

Preponderance:  Two options again – either Canadians receive a preponderance of Canadian services or they are offered a preponderance of Canadian services (and could pick only the US ones after small basic if they wanted).

Redefining Broadcasting Revenues:  Currently there are expenditure obligations that are calculated as a percentage of a broadcaster’s revenues from broadcast (CPE or Canadian Programming Expenditure).  The proposal is to include revenue from programs offered online in the base for calculation.  Broadcasters would then also be able to count expenditures from programming created for online platforms as part of their CPE.  The CRTC sees this as a way to encourage made for digital content but it is also a huge potential first step towards looking at the broadcasting system as a whole and not its regulated and unregulated parts.

Programs of National Interest:  This expenditure requirement, which obligates broadcasters to spend money on drama, docs and Canadian award shows, will be maintained and children’s programming will be included.  There has been a decline in commissioning original children’s programming and this is the CRTC’s response.  Expect to see discussion about whether this proposal will be effective or whether there also needs to be CPE sub-quotas for children’s programming (as well as feature films and long form documentaries).

Programming requirements:  An interesting proposal is to eliminate exhibition requirements during the day but maintain them for prime time.  This will mean no incentive for Canadian daytime talk shows, particularly on conventional stations that can also simulcast US daytime talk shows or soaps.  Do people care?

Genre protection:  The proposal is to eliminate genre protection (which says that there can only be one service per genre, so only one science fiction channel, history channel etc) and nature of service definitions.  If this goes through then the Commission will overturn its recent decision on OLN and you’ll get your Whisker Wars back because services will be able to morph into anything that they want, whenever they want.  Good thing?

There are a number of other issues on local programming, community programming, Official Language Minorities, accessibility, set top boxes, vertical integration rules and a few other issues probably of less interest to TV, eh? readers.  The big topic missing from the proposals is any attempt to include OTT (foreign or domestic) within regulation.  I doubt that will stop it from being a topic of discussion.  The proposed implementation schedule is to have it all in place by December 15, 2015.

I encourage you to go online and have your say.  If you do not like any of the proposals share your thoughts.  If you think any of them are good ideas, let the CRTC know.

And stay tuned – this is going to be an interesting hearing.

I will leave the CRTC with the last word:

Screenshot 2014-08-21 17.23.01

 

 

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Kelly Lynne Ashton

Kelly Lynne has over twenty years of experience on the business side of Canadian film, television and digital media as an entertainment lawyer.She took a slight departure to produce children’s digital media. When it was time for something new, moved back to business affairs but now in film, television and digital media. More recently she discovered that all along her true calling was as a Canadian media policy wonk. Now she assists clients with research projects, policy and strategy development, government and government agency submissions and social media consulting.
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