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CTV Back at CRTC: Is it Begging or Blackmail?

Any cop, lawyer, judge or prosecutor knows that when you give in to blackmail, it’s not the end of the shakedown. Not by any means! Too bad the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission never learned that lesson.

It’s only a few months ago that the CRTC caved in to the demands of Canada’s private television networks for a part of the revenues from cable television operators: and not just a short term slice of the pie to get over tough economic times, but a permanent piece of the action.

And their campaign supporting their bids looked to me like blackmail: give us some cash or we’ll kill local news, jobs, and even some stations.

The CRTC folded and ordered the cable networks to hand over the cash. Just how much is still being worked out …but you will no doubt one day see it added to your cable bill.

But many thought at the time, at least Canadian television is now safe and secure. At least for more than a relatively few weeks.

NOT!

The blackmailers are back; sorry, CTV (CTVglobemedia) is back, asking for more--a LOT more.

In new applications before the CRTC, CTVglobemedia wants now to amend its broadcasting licences:

“The licensee is requesting to be relieved of the 60% yearly Canadian program requirement set out in …regulations,” the private …or should I say soon-to-be-publicly-subsidized broadcaster, begs the commission.

Instead, CTV wants to drop its Canadians content to 55% as soon as possible.  That may not sound like a lot, but in terms of annual hours it’s a lot.  And although CTV denies it, I believe it WILL hurt Canadian production and programming--likely to be replaced by more American crud.

And there’s more.

CTV has also asked the CRTC that, in the case of its “A” Channel stations acquired it 2007, it be allowed to reduce a licensing requirement that requires 75% of its priority programming be produced by independent producers and even “suspend” current requirements that 50% of required video air time be original programming. In other words, run the same stuff over and over.

I suspect it’s the thin edge of the wedge: give in now, and they’ll be back for just “another” 5% reduction next year.

And if they don’t get their way? Will they fold more stations?  What about the millions of extra dollars the corporation will already be getting from cable revenues?  Wasn’t that supposed to stop this kind of begging--or blackmail?  And if they do get the CRTC to play their faithful servants again, does anyone really believe the demands will stop there?

And of course, if CTV gets more other networks will be before the CRTC with the same requests almost immediately. Maybe that’s why this story isn’t getting a lot--or any attention--in the media!

At some point, the CRTC has to start standing up for Canadian consumers, Canadian content, Canadian producers and Canadian television.

Or the begging and blackmailing will go on and on. 

Reprinted by permission of Harv Oberfeld. This article first appeared on Mr. Oberfeld's blog,  Keeping it Real