Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fellow Canadians, it's time to stand up for local television

Do you know our cable and satellite companies pay for the right to broadcast American local television signals but by law have free access to Canadian local television signals; so that CRTC regulations under the authority of the Canadian government are directly depriving our local Canadian television stations of any revenue from Canadian broadcasting cable and satellite companies? Part of the money we pay for our cable and satellite services are in turn paid out to US television companies but not to Canadian television companies. What's wrong with this picture?

You too can get the basic text of this letter and make it your own. Click here.

Secretary General
Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N2

Dear Secretary General:

RE: Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2009-614

Most of the factual information in my letter to you has been prepared by local television broadcasters, but I have informed myself and make my own the general direction of this information and lobbying campaign. In that light, please accept the following comments in response to the above-referenced Notice of Consultation.

Local television is where people in communities across Canada come together to learn about events that touch our everyday lives. Without local television, we would lose part of our voice, and viewers would have fewer choices in quality programming that reflects our unique Canadian identity.

It is not entirely clear to me how it came about in the beginning that laws and rules were put in place to give cable and satellite companies free access to local television broadcasters' signals for distribution through their wired and wireless broadcasting services. Perhaps it made sense to give what were then new broadcasting services an initial advantage to allow them to take off. If that is the case, then one would think it is time to revisit this legal protection. Cable and satellite companies are no longer fledglings, and their preferential treatment is now jeopardizing the local television companies that allowed them to begin operation to begin with.

Local television can no longer share our communities' stories on advertising alone. To compete with the hundreds of channels currently on the dial, our system needs to evolve and allow local TV stations to negotiate with Canada's cable and satellite companies for a fair market price for their signals. As a Canadian citizen I find it an outrage that local TV is obliged to offer their signal free to cable and satellite companies, while these are willing to play the game differently across the border and pay US TV companies fair market value. What's wrong with this picture?

Moreover, I am deeply concerned that my cable company is already charging me for local television service through my basic cable rate, and yet, is threatening to charge me more for local television. I believe it's time for the CRTC to protect consumers like me by regulating basic cable rates. This solution will provide more transparency and prevent cable and satellite companies from increasing my basic cable rate whenever they wish.

I urge the CRTC to do what is right and fix our broken television model by providing local TV stations with the right to negotiate for their signals and to protect consumers with the regulation of basic cable rates.

I authorize you to consider me personally represented by those Canadian citizens who are currently requesting the opportunity to appear before the Commission in person at the December hearings to further elaborate on these issues.

Yours sincerely,

Gilles A. Surprenant, Canadian, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, QC

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