Fee for carriage: Cable cos vs. broadcasters

Are Global, CTV and CBC worth an extra $5 to cable subscribers? Some broadcasters think so. Some cable companies don't. Whether the fee goes towards more HDTV content or more Canadian programming, viewers don't seem to like the idea.

Canadian cable company leaders are trying to get the CRTC to back down on the idea of charging fees for TV programming on monthly cable, satellite or telco bills. Fee for carriage has been proposed by broadcasters headed by Global Television. The proposal would have Canadian viewers pay an additional monthly fee on their cable, satellite or telco TV bills for local channels such as Global, CTV and CBC. The CRTC will consider the proposal during its Television Policy Review on Nov. 27 in Hull, Quebec. Meanwhile, Rogers, Bell Canada, TELUS, Sask Tel, MTS Allstream and the Canadian Cable Systems Alliance released a public opinion research report on Canadian attitudes toward the concept.

The survey of 1,000 English-speaking subscribers – conducted by the Strategic Counsel between Nov. 16 and 19 – showed that 81% of Canadian TV subscribers oppose paying a fee of about $5 for television signals currently available free of charge. Faced with the prospect of increased cable and satellite bills, 20% of the survey’s respondents said they would discontinue their service, and 37% said they would downgrade their current service.

Rogers vice chairman Phil Lind says, ‘A tax of the nature proposed by the over-the-air broadcasters would lead Canadians to alter their current viewing habits, likely resulting in decreased viewership for Canadian over-the-air and specialty channels and potentially moving viewers to alternatives outside the broadcasting system.’