Reprice the channels, says Peladeau

A more moderate plan would see specialty cash redirected to conventional, argues Quebecor president. Our US partners won't like that, retorts Asper.

Sounding a more moderate tone than those heard earlier in the week, Quebecor Media president and CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau on Wednesday called for a re-balancing of the TV system that would see some subscriber fees now earmarked for specialty channels diverted to conventional TV.

This, said the head of the media conglomerate that owns both TVA and Quebec’s largest cableco, Videotron, would save consumers from rate increases that other distributors insist will follow if fee-for-carriage is introduced.

‘All players in the television broadcasting industry should have access to the same sources of financing,’ said Peladeau, referring to ad revenues and subscriber fees.

Peladeau called on the regulator to review specialty wholesale rates over three years, dropping or lowering some based on Canadian content and audience share. The money saved from these lower rates would go to over-the-air television.

Quebecor does not own many specialty TV channels – at least not near as many as Canwest which, not surprisingly, opposed the plan when its turn came at the ongoing CRTC hearings.

Instead, Canwest president and CEO Leonard Asper pushed for compensation for over-the-air signals from distributors – and soon.

‘There are partners in our specialty channels that will not stand for one part of our business subsidizing the other,’ said Asper, referring to US entities such as Scripps Networks, with which it shares HGTV, Food Network and other brands.

Asper said the commission should invoke the Broadcasting Act ‘to mandate negotiation with a deadline and safeguards to prevent retaliation.’ If negotiations failed, Canwest wants binding arbitration.

In return, the troubled broadcaster said it would accept the re-introduction of Canadian content spending requirements on conventional TV.

But, warned Asper, time is of the essence. ‘We want to negotiate but we’re running out of time.’ He also told the CRTC that ‘we need your help to get things moving.’

From Playback Daily