Recently the CRTC renewed the several licences owned by Rogers. I won’t get into all the wonky details here but one aspect of the decision impacts on Canadian programming. And it’s entertaining.
OLN is a specialty service that was licensed to provide exclusively “programs that deal with outdoor recreation, conservation, wilderness and adventure”. On two previous occasions Rogers has tried to amend its conditions of licence so that it could broadcast more Canadian drama, more U.S. drama, cartoons and to remove the word ‘exclusively’. Rogers had limited success (they got cartoons) because the Commission felt that their requests would undermine the nature of service for which they were licensed. “Lost” reruns do not qualify as outdoor adventure.
Instead of US reruns (they have FX Canada now) Rogers started broadcasting the kind of reality shows that you see on Discovery and increasingly on History – “Baggage Battles”, “Storage Wars”, “Ghost Hunters”, “Operation Repo” and my personal favourite “Whisker Wars” (competitive facial hair – seriously). Rogers put most of the benefits money that they are required to spend for the acquisition of the CITY stations and OLN into “The Liquidator”, a series about Jeff Schwarz, a guy in Vancouver who buys and sells unwanted merchandise.
You might be a fan of “Whisker Wars” and “The Liquidator” but you would also have to agree that they aren’t outdoor adventure shows. The CRTC felt the same way and gave Rogers until January 31, 2015 to clean up their schedule and report on how OLN is now broadcasting shows consistent with their nature of service.
If we end up in some variation of a pick and pay universe, it will be increasingly important for consumers to know what a service is before they buy it. Enforced nature of service means that a broadcaster can’t entice a subscriber with one concept and then change it because they think that audiences have shifted or another form of programming is cheaper. For creators it is important to know what a broadcaster stands for now and for years to come when they are pitching proposals.
For everyone enforced natures of service work towards ensuring that there is real choice of programming in the broadcast system and broadcasters aren’t all chasing the same audience.