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Canadians split on pick-and-pay cable: poll by Ashley Csanady

Sep 5, 2014

The CRTC begins hearings Monday into sweeping changes for cable packages and television programming. An exclusive poll shows Canadians are skeptical.

Source: Calgary Herald

Canadians are split in their support of sweeping changes to cable and television the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is mulling, a Nanos Research poll exclusively provided to Canada.com reveals.

Forty-three per cent of Canadians support the CRTC proposals, while 41 per cent do not — a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error. The CRTC begins Monday public hearings on the long list of proposals.

Pick-and-pay cable is foremost among those changes, but the proposed reforms would vastly alter the television landscape in Canada. And, if adopted in full, Canadian content advocates warn channels and some local news stations could be cut.

“Despite the fact that people understand that they might save money if the changes occurred… 41 per cent were willing to continue to pay more money if it meant that local stations were not going to close,” said Ian Morrison, spokesperson for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, which commissioned the NANOS in conjunction with performers’ union ACTRA and Unifor, which represents many journalists and broadcasters.

The strong support Canadians hold for local news could also create political shockwaves if all the changes are adopted, Morrison warned. He said MPs will feel the effects if some of the smaller local channels — ones in markets like Thunder Bay or Kitimat not Toronto or Vancouver — lose revenue and shutter because of the CRTC proposals.

Local news is also growing its support: 84 per cent of Canadians said local news was “important” compared to 76 per cent during a similar poll in 2008.

“If you get enough Canadians upset, it’s going to become a political problem,” Morrison said.

The CRTC proposals include a change to simultaneous substitution, the rule that allows Canadian providers to sub local ads into big American broadcasts like the Oscars or the Superbowl. It’s a crucial revenue stream that independent stations and big cable companies can’t afford to lose when they’re already bleeding money and viewers to the internet.

The Conservative government pledged last fall in its Throne Speech to pursue pick-and-pay cable as part of a consumerist pitch to save Canadians money. But cable providers have cautioned that an à la carte cable menu won’t necessarily result in cheaper bills.

A majority of Canadians — 62 per cent — believe the cable companies over the government. The poll found just 24 per cent believe the Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s pledge. Fourteen per cent were unsure.

Thirty-five per cent said it is “unlikely” the bills will drop; 19 per cent said it’s “somewhat unlikely;” 23 per cent said it’s “somewhat likely” and only 18 per cent said it’s “likely” they’ll see their monthly cable costs go down.

That’s especially interesting given the same poll shows that most Canadians have “high trust and confidence” in the Canadian government (43 per cent) more than their cable provider (29 per cent) — and that they trust the CBC (72 per cent) and the CRTC (62 per cent) even more than the other institutions.

Minister of Canadian Heritage Shelly Glover said in a statement that the government remains committed to unbundling Canadians’ cable and satellite packages.

“We don’t believe Canadians should be forced to pay for channels they don’t wish to watch. By moving to a pick-and-pay system, we will be leaving the choice of exactly which channels consumers wish to watch, and how much they wish to pay, in their hands where it belongs,” Glover said.

One thousand Canadians were surveyed between August 16 and 25. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 per cent 19 times out of twenty.

© Calgary Herald

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Sep 5, 2014 — News Release: Nanos survey finds Canadians skeptical about CRTC TV proposals
On the eve of a CRTC hearing that could result in the gutting of Canada’s TV rules, a new Nanos survey finds the sweeping changes up for consideration are on shaky ground with Canadians.