Accusations fly amid fee fracas

A war of words between networks heats up ahead of CRTC hearings.


Network execs accused cable and satellite companies of misinforming the public about fee for carriage on Thursday – and before the day was done had the exact same charge thrown back at them by the opposing camp.

Executives from CTV, Global, CBC and the A channels painted a gloomy picture at a joint press conference yesterday, suggesting that 30 small- and medium-sized TV stations could go the way of Brandon, Manitoba’s CKX-TV without a financial boost from distributors.

‘Local TV can no longer afford to subsidize cable and satellite companies. For years they’ve been allowed to take our valuable signals and programming for free, and charge consumers for that,’ CTV’s EVP of corporate affairs Paul Sparkes told reporters. He was joined by Global’s Charlotte Bell, CBC’s Bill Chambers and A station manager Peggy Hebden.

The networks’ ‘Local TV Matters’ campaign began airing new spots on Thursday – in response to the ‘Stop the TV Tax’ ads from Bell TV, Cogeco, Rogers and Telus.

Global’s Bell took issue with the ‘tax’ part. ‘A tax goes into government coffers…none of this has to do with a tax,’ she said, adding that distributors are ‘refusing to give us any portion of what they’re making on [our] product.’

Sparkes added that, thanks in part to its cash-rich cable division, the broadcasting side of Rogers is now able to outbid the country’s larger networks for US programming.

Within hours, Rogers and Bell had fired back, arguing that the networks are misleading the public. ‘[Broadcasters] are accusing us of stealing signals we by law are required to carry,’ says Rogers spokesperson Jan Innes. ‘Frankly, we look at it thinking they should maybe be giving us some remuneration because we’re distributing their signal all over the place in a superior fashion,’ she adds.

The CRTC is to hold public hearings in December, looking to broker an agreement on carriage fees and settle the lengthy argument.

From Playback Daily