August 24 2009 by Ellen Roseman
TV stations should pay for local programming, since they have the advertising revenue to support it. But they’re crying poor and saying that costs should be subsidized by cable TV and satellite TV operators.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission agreed and told the cable and satellite companies to set up a local programming improvement fund (LPIF). But it didn’t tell them they had to absorb the cost.
Result: Consumers pay the bill. The carriers just downloaded it onto us.
Many customers of Rogers Cable wrote to me after receiving letters about the new charge. But Bell is also asking customers to pay without even advance notice by mail. Instead, it has a notice at its website.
You have to wonder about a government agency that imposes a sizeable charge — and increases it at the last minute before it takes effect on Sept. 1 — and acts surprised when it’s passed along to customers. The outcome was predictable. So why not do something to head it off?
If you write to the CRTC, this is a typical answer you receive:
The CRTC established a Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF) to conserve and improve local television programming. In establishing the appropriate level of contributions to be paid by cable/satellite companies to broadcast local programming, the CRTC considered a number of factors including the ability by cable/satellite companies to contribute to the Canadian broadcasting system.
Given their reported profits, the CRTC is of the view that there is no justification to pass the cost on to consumers. If your cable/satellite company has decided to increase the fees for your service, it is a business decision that is not regulated or mandated by the CRTC.
Let’s not get carried away by our distaste for Rogers and Bell. Let’s also lay the blame where it belongs on the CRTC, which didn’t do its regulatory duty.
And let’s not forget CTV, which overpaid for broadcast rights to the Vancouver Olympics. With its ad revenues shrinking, it then had to orchestrate a campaign to transfer local programming costs to Canada’s cable and satellite companies.