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PIAC Wants Canadian Broadcasting to Serve the Consumer Not the Distributors

(OTTAWA Apr. 8/08)—With hearings to consider changes in the way the CRTC regulates cable and satellite television companies or BDUs (Broadcasting Distribution Undertakings) starting today in Gatineau, PIAC called for less attention to the wishes of the industry, and more effort to deliver what the consumer wants.

PIAC is one of more than seventy stakeholders including cable companies, television channels, media professional guilds, scheduled to make oral submissions to the Commission in the upcoming week in the largest regulatory review of Canadian broadcasting since 1997.

“Persistent problems are being experienced by Canadian consumers of cable and satellite BDUs in the areas of: a) price, b) choice and c) level of competition,” said Michael Janigan, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC. “Over the last ten years, Canadians have seen substantial price hikes in their basic package of cable television services as a result of the progressive lifting of basic rates controls.”

Conventional over-the-air television signals are being phased out in Canada after August 2011, when Canadian households will need to subscribe to either cable or satellite to have access not only to television signals but to Canadian television signals.

“Because basic television will only be accessible to Canadians through a cable or satellite providers, there should be basic service provided by BDUs subject to some measure of price control to maintain affordability”, Janigan added. PIAC will also tell the CRTC that the greatest threats to the health of the broadcasting system do not come from regulation, but from a concentration of market players with scant competition and regulatory controls.

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