Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Canadian Regulator Leaves Out Pubcaster in Cable-B'caster Spat
As well, in what might considered a typical Canadian compromise, the CRTC said they would check in with the courts first to see if its decision was "ultra vires" or went beyond their jurisdiction. So what might prove to be a potentially major decision is now further delayed while all of this winds its way through the courts.
The cable companies (who make millions) are predictably outraged and promised to take this all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The broadcasters (who are losing millions) say they are vindicated and now promise to use the money they will eventually receive to put back into local programming and information. No doubt they will also use this windfall to purchase more American shows of which the Canadian viewing public can't seem to get enough.
Deliberately left out of the decision is the public broadcaster - the CBC. In an angry press release, the CBC denounced the decision saying that the denial of access to commercial revenues will have a serious impact on the ability of the CBC to produce shows. According to CBC president Hubert Lacroix, this will mean program reductions and job losses.
But the public broadcaster already gets more than $1 billion in revenues from a combination of parliamentary appropriations plus advertising. What the CBC doesn't understand is that they aren't playing on a level field - they are trying to be simultaneously a commercial broadcaster and a public broadcaster; both come with different obligations and expectations. What the CRTC has said is they have to choose, something the CBC board has tried to avoid doing for the past twenty years.
Readers of this blog will know that I have believed that the CBC is hastening its own demise by refusing to make that choice. If it is a publicly funded commercial broadcaster (as its spokesman Jeff Keay admitted more than a year ago), then it needs to drop the veil of public service. It needs to properly fund a radio and television news service which should be run as a separate entity from the CBC. The CBC could then devote itself to sports and entertainment programs and play in the marketplace with its competitors without a federal subsidy.
I've wondered what it would take to force the CBC to make these undoubtedly hard choices. The CRTC decision may have finally helped.