Bell Media President Says CRTC Should Kick US Broadcasters off Canada’s Airwaves

by Istvan Fekete on March 12, 2015

In a speech before a TV industry audience, Bell Media president Kevin Crull said that Canada’s broadcast regulator should kick networks such as CBS, NBC, and FOX off the country’s airwaves.

Crull argued that the CRTC’s business model for traditional broadcasters is fundamentally broken and unsustainable, and took aim at the number of policies created by the regulator, including the two recent ones that Bell is challenging in court.

According to Bell’s official position (as expressed by Crull), the program rights bought by Canadian broadcasters aren’t protected well enough, and that hurts the ecosystem that produces local content.

“If we believe the Canadian broadcasting industry is important, and if we want private investment, we must have a supportive regulatory and public policy framework – enabling rather than undermining content creators,” Mr. Crull said in a strongly-worded speech that highlighted Bell’s strained relationship with the CRTC. “Unfortunately, I don’t believe we have that right now.”

The root problem behind the rising cost of content and Bell’s loss of subscribers is the decades-old practice of allowing American over-the-air networks such as ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and PBS to be broadcast in Canada for free.

What previously benefitted Canada’s broadcasters in building the country’s cable TV system has now become a problem: Canada is the only country in the world that allows American networks to be retransmitted without any restrictions, despite domestic broadcasters holding valid and exclusive copyrights.

The CRTC tried to compensate for this unique phenomenon with simultaneous substitution (or simsubs), allowing Canadian broadcasters to swap in their own signals and advertising on American channels airing the same show at the same time.

According to Crull, this isn’t the solution, since Canadian networks won’t deny popular content to their subscribers. This raises two questions: Do Canadians need (the American over-the-air) networks? Are these signals necessary for Canadian viewers? The answer is no, at least from Bell. Do you need it?

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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