Canadian Cablers Cry Foul Over Ed Channel Fees

Cable operators in Saskatchewan are taking the provincial government to court over a mandatory monthly subscribers’ fee that will help finance an educational tv network in the province.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunication Commission last week approved the launch of the Saskatchewan Communications Network. Under an act passed by the Saskatchewan government, SCN can charge each Saskatchewan subscriber $1.25 per month. Fee is expected to generate $2.7 million, or 25% of SCN’s total budget.

Colleen Bailey, president of Saskable Services, says while it supports the establishment of an educational service, it is opposed to the method of financing. The Canadian Cable Television Assn. says the financing scheme will have a significant effect on the CRTC’s ability to regulate cable rates. And Bailey says cable operators in smaller communities, where there are a higher number of pensioners, will be hardest hit.

According to an Angus Reid poll conducted in November, 17% of subscribers in smaller communities said they would deactivate their service if the tax were imposed. Even if small operators can’t afford the equipment to get the service on the air, their subscribers will have to pay the additional $1.25 per month, Bailey says.

Five Saskatchewan cable companies are taking the province to court over the legality of imposing a tax in an area that falls under federal legislation. The commission says it accepts the power of the Saskatchewan government to levy the tax, unless there is a court decision to the contrary.

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