Rogers blames conventional networks’ woes on US programming, fragmentation

After CTVgm president and CEO Ivan Fecan threatened to block programming across the board at the CRTC hearing on fee-for-carriage yesterday, Rogers Communications argued against US-style signal compensation.

CTVglobemedia threatened to pull its over-the-air signals, block programming it holds the rights to, and shutter stations if it doesn’t receive compensation from Canadian distributors on Monday, at the opening of the CRTC’s hearings into fee-for-carriage.

‘We need to collect what is ours or we need to walk away in whole or in part,’ said CTVgm president and CEO Ivan Fecan, flanked by executives including regulatory SVP David Goldstein and EVP of corporate affairs Paul Sparkes.

He added that broadcasters have invested in distributors by allowing them to carry for free TV signals to which broadcasters own exclusive rights, saying ‘cable companies have had a free ride for a long time.’

Sparkes told the CRTC that Canada’s largest private broadcaster is looking to adopt a US-type model.

‘From a comparative perspective, you do not see a debate in the US about station closures or stations that were unwilling and unable to make the digital transition,’ he noted.

Sparkes said the fee for each signal would be limited to stations that offered tangible amounts of local programming. As well, it would be decided every three years whether these stations wanted guaranteed priority carriage or the right to negotiate terms on which they are distributed. If terms are not reached, then the broadcaster could withhold its TV signal or the distributor could opt not to carry it. Under this scenario, the distributor would also have to delete any programming to which a broadcaster owns rights on any other station.

The CRTC’s job would not be to set rates, but to help ensure ‘good faith’ bargaining.

CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein noted that broadcasters like CTV have lived with the existing, free distribution deal for some time. ‘It has been in place for many years,’ he said. ‘Why isn’t this deal sufficient anymore? Are you not running an efficient business operation?’

‘We’ve lived with a lot of things,’ responded Fecan.

Rogers Communications, next up at the hearing, argued against US-style signal compensation, and vice-chair Phil Lind reiterated that the country’s conventional TV sector is not in a state of crisis.

He blamed the conventional TV stations’ problems on overspending on US programming, fragmentation of audiences and a lack of carriage of local stations on satellite.

Von Finckenstein several times expressed frustration at the acrimonious way in which the broadcasters and distributors have been approaching the issue. The two sides have been involved in a drawn-out public relations battle over fee for carriage and gone at each other during federal government committee hearings and past regulatory hearings.

‘At the end of the day you need each other,’ he told CTV executives.

The CRTC chair also asked Rogers why the two sides weren’t working together.

‘Because we don’t have our hands out; they do,’ responded a Rogers executive.

From Playback Daily