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The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce has written to the Secretary General of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in relation to Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2009-614. 

The letter formally adds the MCC’s weight to the “Local TV Matters” campaign launched by a group of television broadcasters that includes CTV, CBC, Global Television and the A Channel. 

What’s at issue?

Although support from viewers is strong, local television has been struggling financially for more than a decade, and now they have reached a critical point. Advertising revenues for local stations have decreased and the traditional model of free local television is unsustainable. As it currently stands, your cable and satellite provider collects money from you each month for our service, but pays nothing to local television stations for the programming local stations provide. Local television is simply asking for what is fair – that cable and satellite companies pay broadcasters for the service that local stations provide and that the viewers are already charged for.

Local television is asking for a “negotiation for value” (“NFV”), a term used to describe a free market negotiation between cable and satellite companies and local television stations to establish the appropriate compensation to be paid by the cable or satellite company for the distribution of the local television station’s signal.  This is not the same as “fee-for-carriage”, which is a term used to describe a regulated rate to be set by the CRTC for the distribution of local television signals.

The MCC letter included the following:  

We strongly support local television and the introduction of a sustainable broadcasting model in Canada for consumers. We also believe that the current regulatory system for the broadcasting in Canada needs an overhaul.

Local television plays an important and valuable role in our community. We support and encourage the implementation of a system that would allow negotiations for value between local TV stations and cable and satellite companies relating to the distribution of local signals and programming.

Consumers already pay for local TV as part of their basic service. In the process of implementing a negotiation for value regime, TV distributors should not be allowed to double bill consumers for the same service. To protect consumers, regulating the rate for basic service must be considered.

We urge the CRTC to finally fix the broken model underlying the television system in Canada, including implementing a solution that enables a sustainable future for local television, including the right to negotiate.

Bill Hanson, VP and General Manager of CTV Winnipeg, adds this perspective:

We just lost one of our local stations when CKX Brandon shut down on October 2nd after five decades of broadcasting in Western Manitoba.   At the end of August, CKRD in Red Deer, Alberta also closed and many other stations are at immediate risk right across the country.  These are not isolated incidents – it’s a pattern. The way Canadian broadcasting is regulated does not work anymore and the future viability of local stations in Manitoba is in question.     

Local television stations have proposed a reasonable, consumer focused solution to sustain local TV in Canada.  We need the right to negotiate the value of our signal and programming directly with cable and satellite companies.  Let us work it out.  The CRTC is considering a framework to allow this to happen and we need to move forward with implementing this solution.  At the same time, some groups are also calling for the regulation of basic service to protect consumers from further fee hikes and that is one way to protect them.

Check out the Cable Song by Dave Carroll:

 

More information is available at http://www.localtvmatters.ca/ including “Get the Facts” and  Facebook and Twitter updates.