CBC calls for an end to free over the air programming
For the past two weeks cable providers, television distributors and advocacy groups have engaged in a series of discussion, with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), to discuss the future of television in Canada, in the wake of recent consumer demands and increased competition from online providers. On September 12, it was the CBC’s turn to take centre stage in the discussion and share its thoughts on the future of television. But instead of the big picture approach the CRTC was expecting, the CBC laid out a proposal to bring an end to free over the air programming.
According to Hubert Lacroix, CBC president and CEO, the public broadcaster can no longer afford to provide free over the air programming as a result of recent decreases in ad revenue and government cutbacks. In an interview for the Toronto Star, television consultant and former director of research at CBC, Baryy Kiefl, estimates that the CBC is in line to lose $650 million in ad dollars due to the loss of future advertising revenue from NHL hockey. Kiefl also added that the CBC’s primetime viewership share dropped by a record low 40 per cent, during the 2012-2013 television season.
To ensure its survival, the CBC is proposing an end to free over the air television by making local programming solely available through cable, satellite or online subscription. Under the proposal, cable and satellite providers would be required to start paying for CBC signals, equal to one per cent of their gross revenue from broadcasting services, in addition to the five per cent they already contribute to support original Canadian programming. Tom Pentefountas, CRTC vice chair for broadcasting said this would result in a two dollar increase in the average subscription cost and hundreds of million per year in additional costs for providers. The CBC is also calling for Netflix and other online providers to pay into the Canadian Media Fund.
While CRTC data shows that only 1.5 million Canadians rely on free over the air programming due to location or limited income, many more believe that access to free local television is an indispensable service. As a result CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais, predicts that the CBC will have a hard time convincing Canadians to support an end to what they view “as almost a constitutional right.”