Consumers wary of TV deregulation

As the battle of broadcasters versus cable and satellite providers got underway at CRTC hearings yesterday, a new poll reveals sharp concern among TV watchers about the outcome.

As cable and satellite providers battle broadcasters for supremacy before the CRTC, poll results released Monday indicate most Canadians believe the BDUs’ call for deregulation will harm the way TV is programmed and packaged in this country.

Citing a Pollara survey of 1,200 Canadians, a consortium representing domestic TV viewers, unions and guilds and indie specialty channels said 67% of respondents trusted the CRTC and the federal government to protect Canadian culture and identity on domestic TV screens. The poll results were unveiled by actor RH Thomson at a press conference at Toronto Film Studios.

Only 8% of those polled placed their trust in cablecasters. ‘[Canadians] support Canadian programming in all its genres, including dramas and comedy, and believe the system as it’s presently structured is not broken,’ says ACTRA’s national XD, Stephen Waddell.

Meant to give ordinary Canadians a voice as little-publicized CRTC hearings on BDUs got underway yesterday, the poll uncovered widespread fears that domestic cable and satellite companies will bump domestic TV services off the dial in favor of more lucrative US channels.

‘Consumers are paying cable companies billions of dollars. It is not unreasonable to expect a basic commitment to Canadian programming along with their monthly bills,’ argues Peter Murdoch of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.

The poll also found that 55% of Canadians believe the domestic TV production sector will not survive in an unregulated cable and satellite TV environment. A clear majority (87%) agreed that cable or satellite TV providers will favour channels they own over independent specialty channels.

‘The CRTC could make or break the sector, depending on their decision,’ warns Martha Fusca, president and CEO of Stornoway Communications, an independent specialty television channel operator.

Three weeks of CRTC hearings into the future of arrangements between BDUs, domestic specialty channels and the major US TV services are now underway.

From Playback Daily