CRTC to require cable, satellite companies to offer basic package, with $25 cap - InfoNews

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CRTC to require cable, satellite companies to offer basic package, with $25 cap

Canadian consumers could be given more control over how they pay for the TV they watch in a decision being released today by the country's broadcast regulator. Douny Letourneux, front, Sebastien Cloutier, centre, and Jeremy Gosselin back, are shown carrying two television sets during Boxing Day shopping in Quebec City on Friday, December 26, 2014.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
March 19, 2015 - 4:28 PM

GATINEAU, Que. - Cable and satellite service providers will soon have to offer consumers an "entry-level" television service, at a cost of no more than $25 a month.

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission released the new requirements on Thursday, following its lengthy Let's Talk TV hearings last fall.

The new, trimmed-down basic packages must include local channels in each service area, as well as channels currently on the CRTC's mandatory distribution list such as public interest, educational and legislature channels where they're available.

U.S.-based channels that are currently free over the air in most major Canadian markets near the border — so-called 4-plus-1 channels — will also be included.

It's the first time television service pricing has been regulated in Canada since 1999 and makes it the only jurisdiction in the industrialized world to require that TV distribution companies offer a basic selection of channels.

The national broadcast regulator says the requirement to offer a trimmed-down basic package will take effect by March 2016.

The CRTC says TV viewers will then be able to supplement the so-called "skinny basic" package with either individual channels available through a pick-and-pay model, or what it calls small, "reasonably-priced" bundled channel packages.

But service providers will have until the end of next year to offer both a la carte channels and theme packages.

Customers who are happy with their current TV offerings won't have to switch.

"Canadians will have the choice of keeping their current television services without making any changes, if these continue to meet their needs and budgets," the CRTC said in a statement.

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said technology has changed Canada's TV industry to the point that viewers are taking it upon themselves to choose what they want to watch, when they want to watch it.

"Viewers are in control," Blais said.

"Today's decision is not about making choices for Canadians," he said.

"Rather, it's about setting out a road map to give all Canadians the freedom to choose the television content that meets their unique needs, budgets and realities."

Under the new system, service providers will not have to offer free audio services, such as local radio stations, although they can include them if they want.

The $25-a-month price won't include the cost of renting or buying a cable or satellite set-top box. Nor will it include taxes. But service providers could offer an even lower price.

Rogers flirted with entry-level pricing when it test-marketed a digital basic package in the London, Ont., area from Nov. 2011 until Feb. 2012, at a cost of $19.99 a month.

To make sure the big networks don't shut out independent broadcasters from basic services, the CRTC also introduced a code of conduct for the industry Thursday.



GATINEAU, Que. - Cable and satellite service providers will soon have to offer consumers an "entry-level" television service, at a cost of no more than $25 a month.

Here are five things you need to know about the CRTC's decision Thursday to require service providers to offer so-called "skinny basic" TV packages:

— The basic service, coming into effect a year from now, must include local channels in each market, education and legislature channels and at least four U.S.-based network channels. Consumers will then be able to supplement this with either individual channels through a pick-and-pay model, or small, "reasonably-priced," bundled channel packages

— The trimmed-down service will cost a maximum of $25 a month, but could be reduced further by service providers. That doesn't include taxes or the cost of a set-top box needed to receive the TV signals.

— The cost of basic TV used to be regulated, with prices averaging between $18 and $19 a month, until prices were fully deregulated in 1999.

— It's not known how much consumers will save. Some critics warn that TV services could actually cost more, on average, if consumers have to pay higher prices for individual channels. Service providers also won't have to offer a choice of either a la carte channels or bundles until Dec. 2016.

— CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais acknowledges that many people will likely lose their jobs as a result of the changes as TV channels that are currently struggling to stay afloat go off the air.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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