Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Is the CRTC getting ready to roll over for Canwest, CTV and TVA?

There’s something very disturbing about this notice, issued by the CRTC on a wintry Friday. The CRTC is reviewing the “scope” of the upcoming licence renewal hearings for the big private broadcast groups “in light of the concerns raised by conventional broadcasters about the challenges of the broadcasting environment, as well as the current economic climate.”

As you may know, in early January the private networks submitted their renewal applications for their local TV licences. As reported in the Globe and Mail on January 22 (not available online), Canwest and CTV then speculated that they might have to drop their second-tier networks (E! and A, respectively) claiming a soft market for local TV and bemoaning the costs of local programming. It was suggested that this was a bargaining chip.

We warned back in November that the big networks would try to use the economic crisis to get out of their programming obligations. The CRTC notice, the likes of which one industry watcher told us he had never seen before, does not bode well for local programming, or perhaps Canadian programming in general.

Licence renewals are the one occasion, generally every seven years, for the public to weigh in on how our airwaves are being used. This round, which was already delayed for two years, is supposed to deal with the usual programming and spending obligations, as well as with the broadcasters’ plans for the transition to digital TV. On that score, they already told the CRTC in 2006 that they are not interested in replacing all of their analogue transmitters with digital ones. That would leave Canadians in smaller cities and rural areas with no alternative to paying for cable, satellite or IPTV. Will we be denied the opportunity to weigh in on those plans, then?


  1. No surprise afters years of printing money the private networks are looking for help. Global and CTV have snapped up other networks and specialty channels with the only goal to repeat the programming they already own. No thoughts of original programming or employing more Canadians. As for them not wanting to build HD transmitters I'll let them have a pass on that one as most Canadians have their HD programming delivered to them via satellite or cable. Look at TFO in Ontario not one transmitter and they still have must carry requirements for cable or satellite. TV delivered over the air is a dying technology that is no longer required. Perhaps where the privates do not provide an off air signal they could contribute to the monthly costs of television service where people have no choice to subscribe. And yes the CRTC will roll over and let the private broadcaster do what they want.

  2. Can't say I agree with this. Loosing the over the air transmission will force everyone to move to Cable. How is this a good thing. Forcing everyone to pay a carrier (Cable or Satellite) for something which should be free. Soon Canwest and CTV will force the CRTC to make the Cable companies pay for the local stations, which will be passed on to the user, another charge, for something that a 10 dollar antenna can pick up.


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