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A not-so-Super CRTC ruling

If I were in charge of the Canadian TV industry … well, I’d likely run it into the ground, but it would be well-meaning. No matter what suggestion for improvement – or defense of the status quo — there’s a chorus to say why it can’t be done, shouldn’t be attempted, is a terrible idea.

It’s not all naysaying. Our homegrown industry often seems like it’s held together with frayed string and a prayer, and one nudge would have it collapsing in a pile at Jean-Pierre Blais’ feet.

The CRTC chairman recently ruled that after 2016, simultaneous substitution — the practice of airing Canadian commercials over the US feed — is banned during the Super Bowl.

Our inability to see American Super Bowl ads is the number one complaint made to the CRTC each year. Seriously? The ruling is several years too late, given the complaints could be addressed with: “Learn how to use your internet browser, people.” The ads are online.

As Kate Taylor of the Globe and Mail pointed out, the commission has not made policy here, it’s made an exception. Ban simsub or don’t ban simsub, but it makes no sense to ban one instance of simsub.

Bell Media tells Cartt.ca that it will lose $20 million for each Super Bowl, and they apparently have the rights through 2019. Some say the money would have gone into Canadian programming — I’m not entirely sure networks ever spend more than they’re legally required to on that, so I’m skeptical, but that data isn’t freely available. In any case, it’s a big hit for a broadcaster to take, particularly when they would have calculated their bid for the game rights with the expectation of that simsub revenue.

I don’t care about football. I’d like to see simsub eliminated entirely (though that declaration will start the chorus of naysayers, who will have legitimate points).

There needs to be a business imperative for a Canadian broadcaster to invest in Canadian programming. No external carrot or stick, but a raison d’etre. The central question I come back to is: why would I care if I have Global or CTV if they air shows I can get on US networks? There are answers, of course. Local news, for one — which I haven’t watched on TV in about 20 years. Not everyone has cable or lives close enough to the border for an over the air antenna to pick up US channels, so for some people, CTV is the only way they can watch the Super Bowl.

But wouldn’t a better answer be because Global and CTV’s business model depends on making content, not rebroadcasting it? I’d like our television regulations to make that model the path of least resistance.

Yet the CRTC’s decision on Super Bowl ads moves us no further to a redefined broadcast system, as they promised to examine. It is as arbitrary as it is punitive. It’s only pro-consumer in the most superficial way, with potentially more cons than pros in the long term. Bell may decide to put the game on TSN, and Canadian broadcasters would be loath to buy the rights after Bell’s contract expires,  leaving those without cable Super Bowl-less … never mind whatever that disproportionate financial hit will do to the one broadcaster the decision affects.

If I were in charge of the Canadian TV industry I might accidentally run it into the ground, but I’d like to think I’d  do it with a logical consistently. With this decision, the CRTC appears to be trying to do it capriciously.

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Diane Wild

Diane is the founder of TV, eh? She loves books, movies, TV, science, space, traveling, theatre, art, cats, and drinking multiple beverages at the same time.
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8 thoughts on “A not-so-Super CRTC ruling”

  1. When I switched to OTA in 2011, I was no longer affected by simsubbing. When I hear Bell.CTV complain how this affects Cdn broadcasters, I have to chuckle. Checking the other day, I counted 14 hrs of US programming on CTV Mon-Fri between 8-11. That’s not including the US latenight shows or Big Bang repeats at 7:30. 14 hrs out of 15 available.

    I watch local news. Mercer. 22 Minutes. Doc Zone. Apart from that, my antenna’s tuned to the US nets as sadly, the Cdn networks aren’t defenders of the Canadian identity, but just resellers of the American one.

  2. Simulcasting should be banned entirely. I’m tired of hearing these coporations moaning about every little thing. I’m looking at you ‘always asleep at the switche when it come to simulcasting” Rogers. These corpoartions continue to take all the handout they can get, but don’t deliver anything back. If they can’t compete in the marketplace withou simulcasting then they shouldn’t exist. Sorry but local news should count against canadian programming percentage especially since it never airs in Primetime.

  3. I don’t care what channels (be they American or Canadian) my shows are on. I don’t watch commercials , except for during sports. Most of the shows I record on my DVR happen to be off of Canadian nets due to timeshifting. I only get the Seattle affiliates of FOX, NBC, ABC and CBS and east and west coast affiliates of the CW, but I get affiliates of the Canadian nets in Atlantic, Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific timezones so when I’m coordinating my DVR schedule (I only have a single tuner DVR), I use the Canadian time zones of the various affiliates to my advantage. I think the Superbowl simsub ruling is a bit unfair for Bell because they have the rights till 2019 which means they already paid for something that won’t pay off after 2016 but I am also curious what tv in 2017 will look like. How fast will the landscape change?

  4. I agree with this decision. Yes they are just making an exception for getting rid of the biggest complaint they get every year and yes it will impact CTV, but not really…

    First the Superbowl IS an exception.

    Canadian networks can only substitute their signal during commercials and it must not altered in any way the program itself. People watching Grey’s Anatomy for example will need to see the show in it’s entirety simultaneously as the US network shows it or they cannot take over the commercials. That is the basic of the rule. But since the commercials during the Superbowl as as much the show as the game itself for a lot of people they are not following that rule of not showing the unaltered.

    That is how I see it anyway. Nobody watches any other shows for the commercials, not even the Oscars, the 2nd biggest show of the year. Nobody anticipates and talks about the commercials coming during any other television program but for the big game. So by removing that portion, the commercials, they are changing the shows.

    Who cares if we cannot buy whatever product advertised, nobody cares about that. That is exactly why this isn’t really about making an exception but quite the opposite, it is actually applying the core ruling of the law, which is to not change the show people are watching.

    This is as simple as that, taking over the commercial during the Superbowl IS changing the show people are watching, and that is why I agree.

    I don’t care that CTV will not get 20 millions in revenue. In their contract with the NFL it surely says they will have the rights to broadcast the Superbowl and sell their own commercials, so obviously that won’t be possible anymore so that portion of the contract is now invalid as they won’t be able to and that will simply make them renegotiate at lower cost or whatever. Let’s not cry over poor CTV (or Bell) that makes billions of $ over nothing.

  5. Do you get that your ‘reasoning’ has zero facts attached to it, and amounts to “I want what I want and I want it so I should be able to get it.”

    Which, you know, is fine and all. But then can I come into your house and make a sandwich? I know when you bought your house you had the expectation of sanctity of property and everything, but c’mon, it’s one sandwich. If you have a full fridge I don’t feel sorry for you.

    Also, people who don’t get their kids vaccinated don’t want to do that, and there’s no consequences to that, right?

    And I don’t have any kids; why the Eff am I paying taxes to schools? I don’t want to do do that.

    Let’s not cry over people with their kids, if you don’t want to pay for schools don’t have kids hey?

    Why can’t you see my very simple argument?

    This is part of what I want, and I want it, so I should be able to get it because that’s literally how nothing else in society works, so…

    …you know…

    Gimme.

    Now leave that door open and make sure there’s good coldcuts in there when I come and make my sammitch.

    1. Canadian networks have this idea why spend the money picking up new shows while we can just show reruns for most of our schedule take Ctv/Ctv2 25 hours of repeats per week City 26 hours of repeats a week.

      1. That’s because of various syndication deals which make it possible for many shows to be made. Without syndication possibilities, most shows wouldn’t get made.

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