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Government to Mandate "Pick-and-Pay" Pricing Option for Television Services

The government's Speech from the Throne is set for this Wednesday with a "consumer first" agenda reportedly a focal point of the upcoming legislative agenda. Industry Minister James Moore discussed the speech over the weekend, pointing to a range of targets including wireless competition, wireless roaming fees, and the bundling of television channels that forces millions of consumers to purchase channels they do not want. Moore says that the government will require cable and satellite providers to offer a pick-and-pay option to consumers, though it is not clear which legislative tool they will use to do so. I wrote about the forthcoming throne speech last month, pointing to pick-and-pay services as a potential policy reform.

I also wrote about the benefits of a pick-and-pay system last year, arguing that the "broadcast community has long resisted a market-oriented approach that would allow consumers to exercise real choice in their cable and satellite packages, instead demanding a corporate welfare regulatory framework that guarantees big profits and mediocre programming." This is particularly true of Bell Media, Canada's largest media company that has been among the most vocal in opposing consumer choice. In a hearing before the CRTC that focused on consumer choice, Bell said that "we are dreadfully fearful of a penetration decline that would wipe out revenues that are necessary to support the obligations of these services." It reiterated its opposition when asked directly, claiming "there will be a potentially dramatic penetration drop, and hence volume drop and hence revenue drop, as repackaging moves along the continuum to, you know, set packaging all the way to standalone."


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