CTV Back at CRTC: Is it Begging or Blackmail?

Any cop, lawyer, judge or prosecutor knows that when you give in to blackmail, it’s not the end of the shakedown. Not by any means!

Too bad the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission never learned that lesson.

It’s only a few months ago that the CRTC caved in to the demands of Canada’s private television networks for a part of the revenues from cable television operators: and not just a short term slice of the pie to get over tough economic times, but a permanent piece of the action.

And their campaign supporting their bids looked to me like blackmail: give us some cash or we’ll kill local news, jobs, and even some stations.

The CRTC folded and ordered the cable networks to hand over the cash. Just how much is still being worked out …but you will no doubt one day see it added to your cable bill.

But many thought at the time, at least Canadian television is now safe and secure. At least for more than a relatively few weeks!!


The blackmailers are back … sorry, CTV (CTVglobemedia) is back ….   asking for more .. a LOT more.

In new applications before the CRTC , CTVglobemedia wants now to amend its broadcasting licences:

“The licensee is requesting to be relieved of the 60% yearly Canadian program requirement set out in …regulations,” the private …or should I say soon-to-be-publicly-subsidized broadcaster, begs the commission.

Instead, CTV wants to drop its Canadians content to 55% asap.  That may not sound like a lot … but in terms of annual hours …it’s a lot.  And although CTV denies it, I believe it WILL hurt Canadian production and programming … likely to be replaced by more American crud.

And there’s more.

CTV has also asked the CRTC that, in the case of its “A” Channel stations acquired it 2007, it be allowed to reduce a licensing requirement that requires 75% of its priority programming be produced by independent producers and even “suspend” current requirements that 50% of required video air time be original programming. In other words, run the same stuff over and over.

I suspect it’s the thin edge of the wedge: give in now, and they’ll be back for just “another” 5% reduction next year.

And if they don’t get their way? Will they fold more stations?  What about the millions of extra dollars the corporation will already be getting from cable revenues?  Wasn’t that supposed to stop this kind of begging …or blackmail?  And if they do get the CRTC to play their faithful servants again … does anyone really believe the demands will stop there?

And of course, if CTV gets more … other networks will be before the CRTC with the same requests almost immediately. Maybe that’s why this story isn’t getting a lot … or any attention …in the media!

At some point, the CRTC has to start standing up for Canadian consumers, Canadian content, Canadian producers and Canadian television.

Or the begging and blackmailing will go on and on. 

Harv Oberfeld

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16 Responses to CTV Back at CRTC: Is it Begging or Blackmail?

  1. Lynn says:

    Thanks for the heads up, HO.
    They just don’t get it do they?
    Recording artists, tv and movie producers, the carriers of content. If they stopped producing crap people would start listening to music and watching more programs. What does that equate to? Higher ad revenue!
    Consumers are simply put not receiving good value for what they pay for be it cd’s, movies or tv.
    It has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with quality content. Build it and they will come.
    Providing more yankee made dribble over Canadian dribble is NOT going to increase their bottom line. Get back to basics.
    Produce good news programs, provocative entertainment (this means stop remaking old movies) and great music.
    Canada is NOT a satellite country of the u.s.a. We have our OWN culture.
    I swear to god, I will cancel my cable if I see ONE more cost increase. Why continue to pay a high dollar for crap?

    (Response: I donl’t think most would cancel cable …but I’d bet more will cut back on premium channels etc. when the next increase comes … plus HST. h.o)

  2. I would like to see the CRTC disbanded, and all their sweetheart deals with broadcasters nullified. Let Canadian broadcasters decide what they think they can sell to their diminishing audiences. Give it a couple of years, and there will be fewer broadcasters and fewer stations, which is exactly what the market will support. The only government involvement in the broadcast industry should be Communications Canada regulating the spectrum.

    Once Canadian broadcasters are exposed to competition from the rest of the world, they will smarten up or be out of business.

    I know this is heresy to you Harvey because you care are about the broadcast industry, but most Canadians don’t share your enthusiasm for this media. As an example, I watch perhaps 5-6 hours per month of cable TV programming…the rest of my media comes to be through the Internet, where I get to choose what I watch and when.

    (Response: See my response to Terrence above. With tv you can also “choose what I want to watch” ..but I do agree too many people, including me, also watch an awful lot amount of meaningless pap …I mean, entertainment. h.o)

  3. Terrence says:

    I do not have a TV set, and only watch it when I travel or visit. And, I am unfailingly taken-a-back by how bad so much of it is. The commercials are often the worst; and they are often several decibels louder than the regular program.

    I am sure that the more TV someone watches, the more used to it they get; and the lower their standard goes. Just look at someone on a couch, staring at the tube – their eyes staring blankly, mouth open a bit.

    I think most people should not watch any TV for at least six months. When they go back to, they may be shocked at how bad it is, and what they have spent so much time watching.

    (Response: I disagree. SOME television is very good. Sure, without a tv you are missing a lot of the schlock…but you’re also missing some of the wonderful footage/programming on channels like Discovery, Natl Geographic, Documentary Channel, PBS specials. The solution, I believe, is “selection” not turning our back outright on a potentially wonderful technology. h.o)

  4. Terrence says:

    Harv, said, “but you’re also the wonderful footage/programming on channels like Discovery, Natl Geographic, Documentary Channel, PBS specials.” Those are the channels I usually watch when I travel and visit. But, even then I am always struck by the number of repetitions. I would need one of those recording devices that let you schedule what to record, so you can watch it on your own schedule.

    But, a lot of good stuff really is available on the internet, often for free. Many of the TED lectures are worth watching; other good stuff too.

  5. D. M. Johnston says:

    I am on the verge of canceling my cable and installing an aerial and also looking seriously at an American satellite dish.

    One tires of being blackmailed by Canadian TV stations that I seldom watch now.

    Knowledge network, PBS, CBC, are all what I watch now. Even Canadian news is pablum.

    Me thinks the greedy corporate types in their Ivory towers have killed the golden goose. This taxpayer is completely fed up.

    A pox on all their houses!

    (Response: I need my tv …but if the bill goes any higher, am already looking at which premium channels I will drop …and may even drop an entire “tier”. h.o)

  6. mariner says:

    Because of my location – living out in the boonies(midway between Quesnel and Prince George) I have opted for satellite TV and Internet. Both services are better than the regular cable (Telus or Shaw) and do not cost much more. I can have the telephone lines down and still recieve service. For me personally, the internet is way more important than the television, but TV has it’s place too.

    (Response: Sounds to me like you are making the best use of technology … selectively choosing your sources and what you watch…. while also enjoying the greatly expanded world of what’s available to you, well away from a major urban area. Definitely the way to go. h.o)

  7. J.S. says:

    57 channels and nothing’s on. Who was it that sang that song?

    We’ve got a million channels and nothing is still on!

    The CRTC, which used to stand up for Canadian content only to see Canadians heading in droves for US TV channels, is between a rock and a hard place, as usual.

    The only true Canadian TV anymore is what’s left of, ahem, “local news.”

    The “biz” wants to make their TV empires “profit centres” as Western Civilization heads into the great beyond, ie: the dust-bin of history.

    The CRTC will cave, of course, and an addled TV viewing public will more and more turn to US TV and blogs like your’s to get the “real” scoop. That’s not so bad, is it?

    Maybe I’ll start a blog of my own! Yikes!

    TV viewing habits are fluxing all over the place.

    But the one thing I’d like to see go is the plastic people, sitting smugly on their sets, bringing you all the US news that’s fit for broadcast THE DAY BEFORE.

    These stuffed shirts, blouses and make-up fit for well-turned-out stiffs, has gone on a little long, now.

    Time for change as Obama once said!

    All that ticks me off, in this discussion, is the cable fee. It’s clearly outrageous. I’m going to read more books! Dammit!

    (Response: I can’t turn off tv …but if the rates go up again ..and they will …I will cut back, as I said, on my premium channels and maybe even lose a tier. It doesn’t have to be this way… quality draws viewers. But what we too often get in the news is the cheapest thing they can produce …in the summer with even fewer staff … and that just makes people click over to something else, usually American entertainment. But I’d watch Canadian if they did more investigative, revealing or just stories challenging authority. h.o)

  8. Lynn says:

    The artist you are wondering about is
    Bruce Springsteen.

    (Response: You can see …readers of this blog are a wealth of information! h.o)

  9. shadow says:

    A year or two ago the CBC cancelled the show “Intelligence” which was well acted, and well produced and well received. This year they cancelled the Border which won international awards. Ctv produces shows like Black Fly and The Guard(which by the way is an insult to the men and women of the canadian Coast Guard). They also produce shows like the new Rookie Blue and another cop show which I can’t remember ,which they are selling to the US market. We should be proud of our product, except black fly and the guard, and we should encourage the networks to produce more top notch shows and sell them world wide which they can do. BUT why does the CBC cancel two of it’s top shows that could have been sold all over the place and helped finace the network instaed of us the taxpayer funding it. All this free money and no desire to compete. Canadian Content rules work sometime but more often than not they create mediocre shows and no body watches but the networks don’t care because they are getting their brownie point from the CRTC.

  10. SC says:

    I’m reminded of the old phrase “Give somebody (CTV) an inch and they’ll take a mile”.

    I’m surprised (although, perhaps I shouldn’t be) that the networks aren’t trying to pump out more Canadian shows. I’m reminded of the late 80’s and early 90’s where the can’t miss shows were Canadian such as: Street Legal, The Kids in the Hall, E.N.G., Night Heat, The Beachcombers to name a few and of course, a serious news show, The Journal.

    More recently, the better, long running Canadian shows were Da Vinci’s Inquest and Corner Gas. I say, regardless of which country makes it, if it’s good, and if it has enough of a promo push, people will likely watch it.

    However, I’ve encountered people who almost sneer when I mention a good show that’s Canadian, not American, which is potentially another hurdle to get through but should be no excuse for Canadian broadcasters. They should actually be trying!

    To correct Shadow, it’s Global NOT CTV that produced and aired both Blackfly and The Guard. Global also produces and airs Rookie Blue which also airs on ABC. Furthermore, the cop shows you may be thinking of are Flashpoint and The Guard (CTV/CBS partnership). Also, CBC just announced that the CW network has bought their show “18 to Life”.

    Also, great blog Harv. Long time reader, first time commenter.

    (Response: Thanks. Interesting information! The reason Canadian networks don;t like to pump out a lot of drama (except on their own when crying the blues 🙂 is that drama is very expensive to produce, despite all the grants, tax incentives. In the US they have huge viewer numbers and advertising revenues to amortize the costs, but the Canadian market is much smaller. So its cheaper to just buy foreign programs. Of course, when the CRTC had backbone, it realized the $$$ the Canadian nets were taking in hand over fist by running foreign programs, so it required them to “give back” by also producing original Canadian programming. Now the CRTC members, in my view, have turned their backs on Canadian viewers and consumers and are allowing Cdn networks to rake in extra cash by the hundreds of millions without REQUIRING they pump any of the extra loot into local news, or production shows. It’s a disgrace….and I weonder where the Opposition parties are on all this! h.o)

  11. Henri Paul says:

    Harv said,It’s a disgrace….and I wonder where the Opposition parties are on all this!
    Harv you nailed it, a brand new fresh Canadian TV series titled the Opposition.

  12. SC says:

    Henri Paul said: “Harv you nailed it, a brand new fresh Canadian TV series titled the Opposition.”

    Yes! It could be a Canadian comedy. After all, the Opposition benches are filled just a bunch of jokes anyways!

    (Response: Sounds more like a tragedy to me. h.o)

  13. Vic in Victoria says:

    I got rid of cable years ago and have no regrets, my daughter was watching to much junk and I was strung out on news shows. Since I pulled cable our spontaneous buying has all but disappeared and a lot more quality time is spent doing things as a family instead of sitting on the couch watching some goofy show so it has been a very good experience for us.

  14. Henri Paul says:

    Today I unsubscribe two of my TV channels from my satellite subscription, a saving of $ 3.35 per month with HST.
    This will more than offset their added fees from a couple of months ago.
    Should these characters ( CTV) or others have their way with added fees,I will cut back accordingly.
    My neighbour had enough last year and shut down his system entirely.

  15. Lynn says:

    Hey Harv,
    Where you at?
    Did the by-law cops arrest you for smoking your pipe at Jerico?

    (Response: I’m safe… bylaw cops can’t fffind mer..but have come down with bad case hives so taking blog break for a bit. Thanks for inquiring. h.o)

  16. Bob T says:

    The CRTC is totally useless and inept at protecting Canadian culture on the box. Maybe these idiots should look to te UK where superb TV shows can be seen – usually been rebroadcast on PBS, Knowledge and various other speciality channels like Vision TV! UK television has no problem at all in producing and broadcasting such shows as Prime Suspect, Inspector Morse etc taking up as much as 80% of prime time every night!

    As others have stated, we can produce great shows such as Da Vinci. Cold Squad, Beachcombers, The Border, Guard, Street Legal and Traders. Corner Gas however was a total dud – being a worthless US sitcom spinoff!
    If viewers want to watch REAL good sitcom, then the UK has the US beat on all fronts! US sitcoms are CRAP!

    The CRTC has to call CTVs bluff and suspend that broadcasters licence (ie shut down all stations) until such time that CTV agrees to fully comply with its broadcast obligations and that the CRTC needs to increase the Canadian content (specifically excluding sports and news) to at least 80% in prime time, as it is in the UK!

    Canadian TV has to be given a REAL chance -to provide quality entertainment! The CRTC is legally obligated under the Broadcasting Act and Broadcast Standards to provide that chance even if it means the loss of a major national tv network in the process!

    (Response: I get the impression CTV deals with the CRTC on difficult issues like a hostage-taker! It seems ot hold a gun to the head of its own stations/programming … threatening to blow them away unless they get $$$ or regulatory concessions. Of course, we all know…if you give in to blackmailers ..it only encourages them. The CRTC should make it very clear… the smaller stations and news may cost $$$ ..but they are a package deal that go along with their big market money makers …and can’t be singled out and threatened every couple of years.. h.o.)

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