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The Way Forward Unclear to Online Video Consumers

PIAC concerned that CRTC “Talk TV” decision on Canadian content permits Internet-delivered services to require subscription to expensive TV offerings

OTTAWA, March 12, 2015 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today expressed concern that Canadians wishing to access new online video services such as CraveTV and shomi will continue to be shut out from such services unless they subscribe to affiliated subscription TV services.

“Bell’s CraveTV and Rogers and Shaw’s shomi services, despite the CRTC’s decision today, are able to continue to make you sign up for an expensive subscription cable or IPTV package if you want access to the “over-the-top” products, said John Lawford, Executive Director and Counsel to PIAC.

The latest “Talk TV” decision released today by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), creates a new category of “exempt hybrid video on demand” services under which licensees must offer their Internet-delivered service to all Canadians, regardless of whether they have a TV service subscription. However, the CRTC has allowed a loophole to persist where services like CraveTV and shomi can avoid that requirement.

PIAC and the Consumers’ Association of Canada (CAC) had filed two applications with the CRTC asking that that loophole be closed. Today, the CRTC closed the PIAC-CAC applications, referencing instead the new hybrid video on demand (HVOD) exemption while at the same time essentially preserving the status quo.

“The CRTC today has avoided the issue of tying subscription TV services to Netflix-fighting OTT services,” said Geoff White, Counsel to PIAC on the PIAC-CAC application. “We are skeptical that any competitors to these services will choose the new HVOD exemption model that CRTC created today and it will remain very hard for any competitors to catch up to the head start Bell, Rogers, Shaw and their partners have thanks to the loophole the CRTC has left in place.”

Attached is a statement to the public from PIAC calling upon them to comment on the CRTC’s decision on OTT services. PIAC will consider re-applying for consideration of its application, in part with any public input.

PIAC also participated in Let’s Talk TV in a coalition with other organizations named the Groups for the Public Interest. The Groups also included the:

  • Canadian Ethnocultural Council;
  • Consumers’ Association of Canada;
  • Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia;
  • National Pensioners Federation; and
  • Option consommateurs.

The CRTC also introduced regulatory changes today for Canadian television content, emphasizing promotion, quality over quantity of Canadian programming, and reliance on market forces. PIAC generally supports the new changes in particular those – including the elimination of genre protection – directed towards maximizing consumer choice and flexibility.

At the same time, broadcasters will continue to have obligations to support Canadian programming. A 2014 poll commissioned by PIAC and filed during the Let’s Talk TV proceeding showed that 83% of Canadians agreed broadcasters should be required to help promote and market Canadian programs, and that 79% agreed broadcasters should be required to redirect a percentage of their revenues to funding Canadian production. However, 80% of Canadians also agreed that broadcasters should have to air a certain number of original Canadian programs and, in particular, programs from various regions across Canada. Therefore, PIAC will continue to monitor and advocate for policies which ensure that television programming will continue to serve Canadians, in particular minority groups such as ethnocultural communities, Aboriginal groups, Canadians with disabilities, and official language minority communities.

For more information please contact:

John Lawford

Executive Director & General Counsel

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
(613) 562-4002 ×25
Mobile (613) 447-8125
lawford@piac.ca
www.piac.ca

 

Geoff White

Counsel to PIAC-CAC

(613) 562-4002 ×24

gwhite@piac.ca

 

Alysia Lau

Legal Counsel

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)

(613) 562-4002 ×38
alau@piac.ca
www.piac.ca

 

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