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Free TV looks for payday in Canada

B'casters want carriage fees

TORONTO — Should Canucks pay to see the TV they presently get for free?

That was the question dominating the opening days of the review into terrestrial TV held at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission base in Gatineau, Quebec, last week.

Commercial broadcasting heavy hitters Global Television, CTV (owned by Bell Globemedia) and French-language broadcaster TQS want carriage fees, saying the revenue from advertising is no longer enough.

Even pubcaster the CBC, which gets C$1.2 billion ($1.05 billion) from the government plus advertising revenue, is backing fees charged to the satellite or cable channels that carry its feeds.

Cablers and satellite platforms oppose the charge as “nothing for something,” which will outrage subscribers and damage their businesses.

Cabler Shaw Communications argues that terrestrial broadcasters are part of larger, well-integrated media companies that are in robust economic health and don’t need the extra coin. And in case viewers weren’t getting the message, it took out a large ad in a major Canadian newspaper headlined, “How would you like to pay for something you can get for free?”

John Cassaday, CEO of specialty broadcaster Corus Entertainment, part owned by Shaw, said consumers won’t understand why they should pay to watch David Letterman on a major Canadian network, while not paying to watch it on the CBS feed from the U.S.

Commercial webs have also suggested the CRTC loosen restrictions on the amount of advertising they air per hour.

The hearings ended Dec. 6, and the CRTC will rule next year what conditions channels must meet to get their licenses renewed. It will hold a similar review of the pay and specialty TV regime as well as license renewal hearings for pubcaster CBC.