Canadians want more from TV services, CRTC report finds

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The first phase of the Let’s Talk TV report from the CRTC has found that many Canadians want the country’s television service providers to offer more choice to consumers, and more flexibility.

In October 2013, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais launched Let’s Talk: A Conversation with Canadians. The goal of the program is to collect data related to three key themes: programming, technology and the “viewer toolkit,” which looks at the information available to consumers to make informed choices.

The first phase of the study, released Wednesday, compiled findings from the 1,320 comments the regulator received on the topic of television programming in Canada. In addition to a general sentiment that the Canadian broadcasting system should offer more individual choice, some respondents called for greater access to niche and specialty programming.

In terms of advertising, the vast majority of comments the CRTC received were complaints about the amount of ads on TV and the number of times ads are repeated.

Other complaints were regarding the fact that people have to pay subscription fees for channels with ads, leaving them with the feeling they are being charged twice for the same programming.

Complaints about simultaneous substitution, where US ads are replaced with Canadian ones, were raised, especially during the Super Bowl. Some suggested this should be restricted or banned outright. The loudness of commercials was also brought up, with participants stating that despite CRTC regulations, there are many commercials that seem to be louder than the programs being broadcast.

The study also found that Canadians have mixed feelings on regulations which mandate the financial support and screening of Canadian content. While some believe Canadian content should fail or succeed on its own without help from the government, others believe funding for such projects ensures jobs in the creative industry are protected.

When it comes to how Canadians watch television, many respondents said they continue to watch programming on traditional television sets. Still, some express frustration with the costs associated with buying equipment needed to watch traditional TV, such as set-top boxes, and cite that as one reason to move to newer platforms.

Many respondents also indicated that broadcast packages put an unwarranted financial burden on consumers, and would like to see channels available on a pick-and-pay basis. In the current structure, some respondents said they were frustrated with changes in price and channel offerings from the television provider, which they believe happen without notice.

Looking to the future of television in Canada, many respondents want and expect to see more personalized and on-demand television. Participants pointed to Netflix as an example of an on-demand model that is both affordable and commercial-free.

In the next phase of the project, the CRTC will use the comments gathered in phase one to create an interactive questionnaire. The regulator plans to use the information gathered during the first two phases to propose a new framework for the Canadian television broadcasting system this spring. The proposed framework will then be discussed at a public hearing in September.

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