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Bell supports pick-and-pay, calls for changes to local TV business model

Jun 27, 2014

Source: CityTV

Bell says it supports the so-called pick-and-pay model for cable television, but believes changes need to be made to local TV.

In a statement Friday, Bell said Canadians “shouldn’t have to pay for channels they don’t want just to get the channels they do.”

But the company, which is owned by telecommunications giant BCE Inc. also proposed to reclassify local TV stations as “local specialty services.”

It said local TV would still meet programing requirements, but would also be able to charge broadcast distributors such as cable companies and satellite TV firms wholesale rates, subject to existing must-carry rules.

Bell said the combination of advertising revenue and fees collected from the new model would support local television.

In addition to Bell, BCE owns 30 local television stations including the CTV network as well as 35 speciality channels. The company also provides TV service by satellite and with its Fibe TV offering.

The CRTC is wrapping up a formal interventions process on Friday, part of its public consultations where it has collected comments from Canadians and the industry on the evolution of the broadcasting system, including the proposed pick-and-pay model.

The deadline for submissions is 8 p.m. ET on Friday.

The public voiced their opinions in submissions on the CRTC’s website, highlighting concerns with various issues that could shape how Canadians watch television, including the pick-and-pay model.

“For some this may be a significant savings, for others perhaps not, but any action that allows households choice will get my support,” Jane Harrison of Picton, Ont., said in a comment posted on the CRTC site.

Brian Tychie, an Ottawa resident, posted he pays for hundreds of TV channels yet he can never find anything worth watching.

“I think that if a specialty channel cannot attract enough viewers to financially survive, then they should fail,” he wrote.

Other issues that could shape the future of Canadian television were highlighted in the comments, including the presence of the CBC.

“Please see the value in keeping the CBC as it is. It is my tax dollars well spent,” Bernetta Starkey of Elmvale, Ont., said.

“To hear what the Albertans are thinking about the fisheries and Quebecers about the gas line is important to maintaining a sense of nation.”

Some comments emphasized support for U.S. public broadcasters remaining outside of the pick-and-pay model.

“As a contributor to these stations … I feel they provide a much needed well balanced alternative,” said Frances Thompson.

© CityTV