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CRTC Launches Lopsided Talk TV Consult: Raises Prospect of Net Regulation & Net Neutrality Violation

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Wednesday February 19, 2014
The CRTC launched the second phase of its Talk TV consultation with a series of questions that place the big regulatory issues squarely on the table. After asking some basic data questions, the consultation addresses a series of issues with scenarios that are framed in a lopsided manner. The consultation addresses hot button issues such as online video, pick-and-pay channels, and simultaneous substitution, but the options presented to respondents are limited and skewed toward Internet regulation for online video or supporting the status quo for conventional broadcast. For example, access to more U.S. programming is presented as a choice between increased fees, lost Canadian jobs, or larger television packages with Canadian channels. The online video discussion is premised on new CRTC regulations that with a series of increased fee options presented.

If this consultation is a signal of where the CRTC is headed, not only is the notion of true pick-and-pay channels dead and simultaneous substitution alive, but the Commission may be willing to toss out net neutrality in a race to regulate online video services. The issues raised in the consultation:

  • Basic service: There are four scenarios presented, three of which support the ongoing need for mandatory basic services and one that envisions a very basic service. None of the scenarios raise the possibility of eliminating basic service altogether in favour of a full pick-and-pay model. Respondents are asked whether they support a broader basic service or one that is more limited. 
  • Local news: Two people in one scenario enjoy local news and a single person relies on Internet services. Respondents are asked which they think local news requirements should remain in place.
  • Pick-and-Pay: There are three scenarios: one pick-and-pay and the other two maintaining packages (one the current system and the other involving choice on packages). Respondents are asked which they prefer.
  • Sports: This is the first issue that is presented with two people in two scenarios - important sports programming for free to all or some on fee-based networks. Respondents are asked which they prefer.
  • U.S. and international programming: Three scenarios on access to U.S. and international programming with two suggesting that Canadians get a good deal right now.  Respondents are asked if they want direct access to U.S. and international channels if that means paying more, results in lost Canadian jobs, or comes packaged with Canadian channels.
  • Signal Substitution: There are no scenarios in this section. Instead, after providing some historical context, respondents are provided with three choices: maintaining signal substitutions, blackouts, or paying extra fees to compensate for lost revenue.  No other choices are offered.
  • Online Programming: This section features two yes or no questions: (1) should online services be required to pay to create Canadian programming and (2) should they provide closed-captioning and adhere to programming standards. Remarkably, the follow-up questions all involve further payments with respondents asked if they would pay an extra 50 cents per month for Canadian-made programming, a few cents for closed captioning, and $5 per month for increased usage costs of regulated services.

While virtually the entire questionnaire is lopsided (the framing of U.S. programming as resulting in lost Canadian jobs, the pick-and-pay discussion, and the limited choice for signal substitution is striking), the online programming discussion is particularly problematic since it raises the prospect of regulating online video services, increasing the cost of the services through contributions programs, and institutionalizing net neutrality violations by permitting regulated services that do not count against a user's data cap. The inclusion of the net neutrality violation is shocking since a variation on that scenario is currently the subject of a complaint before the Commission that is unresolved. The consultation is open until March 14, 2014. Concerned Canadians should take 15 minutes to complete the survey and tell the CRTC what they think.
Comments (21)add comment

pat donovan said:

answers, pls
have you stopped beating your wife?

do you know who ELSE avoided answering questions?

how many fingers do you have?
thumbs?
and on your other hand?

please push here to support the agencey. Do not push this and your name goes on the enemies list.

sew on and so on and sow on.

pat
February 19, 2014

Terry said:

biased survey
I don't think I've seen a more biased survey since University, and I hated stats courses back then.

Still, I filled it in with my own views as best I could.
February 19, 2014

Lisa said:

...
I let them have it in every single comment box. My most often repeated comment was that their choices were completely lopsided and lacked nuance - and a basic understanding of what was going on south of the border with television. The CRTC needs to get its head out of its ***. I used to think the US entertainment industry was out of touch, but the Canadian government beats it hollow. (this is my research area and this survey had my fuming...)
February 19, 2014

Jean-François Mezei said:

Trouble maker
I picked the less objectionable option and put "NONE OF THE ABOVE" in the comments and explained.
February 19, 2014

Cal said:

...
It seems like they "consulted" with the industry first before "consulting" with consumers (many of them sit on the boards of cable-telcos or get jobs there later). Besides, more regulation means bigger CRTC to do the "monitoring". The outcome is already pre-determined.
February 19, 2014

end user said:

...
Well being a TV provider and a network provider doesn't seem like conflict of interest or nothing when all of a sudden people have new choices and are free to not use your tv services anymore.

We should lobby so that network providers can't be content providers and vice versa.
February 19, 2014

end user said:

...
Oh oh and as for "Canadian" content I don't give a flying fuck if I watch/consume it. If it can't compete on its down it means its not good enough for the market and its not our duty to have to compensate for their shitty product and failed business model.
February 19, 2014

schultzter said:

I answered their questions and finished with
The old model is dead! Let the new model, an internet based model, where the consumer is in-charge of what they watch, when, and where thrive! Tell the old broadcasters that their days are numbered. Progress is knocking at the door, but pretty soon it's just going to kick the door down and march into the living room whether you like it or not.
February 19, 2014

Jason K said:

Data Caps
So essentially if this is approved and Canadians see exemption of data caps for regulated online content, I guess the rest of us gamers are screwed. Likely to see an end to unlimited packages, further reduced data caps, further reduced access to the digital economy. Where the heck is government on this issue, and our digital economic strategy. Wasn't data caps a huge impediment to economic growth. I somehow remember Tony Clement commenting on that.

February 19, 2014

CitizensConcern said:

Clement
To the previous poster:

Agreed - data caps are the dream of the current telcos...
But don't count on clement's support. I'm sure the current regime doesn't want to piss off the media; an election is just around the corner!
February 19, 2014

Skeptic said:

Reality of the situation
In the end the people with power who have money to hire lobbyists and sway influence with members of the CRTC will either get their way entirely or come to some sort of `compromise` that benefits them more than the average Canadian who wants consumer choice. These people who own or have high ranking positions with Canadian media companies will do anything to protect their own interests. The reality is that there is probably little the average Canadian can do about it. This is a fact of life, people with money and power have the ability to influence decision making by CRTC officials. They have direct access to prominent members of the CRTC through lobbyists or personal `friendships`. They can give their input directly to the people who are making the decisions on Canada`s future. All that the average Canadian gets is to give their input to the CRTC through a biased survey.
February 19, 2014

Jason K said:

Open Letter to CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais
I've written an open letter to Blais regarding the data caps. Anyone interested in reading it's here:

http://jkoblovsky.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/open-letter-to-crtc-chair-jean-pierre-blais/

February 19, 2014

MillionGamer said:

Is this about the internet
Or the future of the tv programming?
February 19, 2014

end user said:

...
MillionGamer said: Is this about the internet Or the future of the tv programming?

Internet access = freedom to choose what, where and why you want to watch something. Pay TV = you pay us 5000% the value of what what the 2 good channels are worth in a package of 50.
February 19, 2014

Jason K said:

@MillionGamer
It's actually about the future of both. There's a very big potential here that if this data cap exemption goes through, that other non TV content and essentially communications via net could be hugely impacted by this. My worry is that if this situation around data caps is approved, we will see either a decrease of Canadian data caps (which are already pathetically low), or an huge jump in pricing of current packages, as Bell and Rogers push their services on consumers, and tries to restrict access to competitors service.

As a Gamer, this will hugely impact how much you play online, what gaming services are available to Canadians. The new Playstation Now Service is up in the air in Canada right now due to Canadian data caps by all providers. Digital distribution of games becomes inhibited. New games that would be available online could run upwards of 32 gigs.

Essentially what this does is prioritize internet communications with prejudice. It runs counter to net neutrality. Allows Bell, Rogers and Telus to decide who gets access to what, rather than letting the consumer decide. I must say I'm extremely suprized to see this coming from the CRTC, but very representative of the American content lobby in Canada.

This could end in so many different ways, but the end result will be the same with this data exemption. Less choice and higher prices for Canadian consumers, not just for content they purchase online, but also for the privilege of communicating online as well.

It's an attempt by the media industries to consolidate the media market, and try to push forward the old way of broadcasting to online which has become irreverent. Rather than innovate, they are going for control.
February 19, 2014

Randy said:

Fill in the comments
I'm probably not adding much new here, but I filled in every comment box, because I was unhappy with the options offered (very much like television itself).

I didn't use any four-letter words, and I made no accusations, but I did not hold back on what I wanted.
February 19, 2014

MillionGamer said:

Thank you
So what can we do for stopping that?
February 19, 2014

Jason K said:

@MillionGamer
"So what can we do for stopping that?"

Avoid signing digital petitions. That's party why we are in this current situation with data caps to begin with. I would write or call your MP, and the Minister of Industry, express your concerns in a personal letter. Take 10 mins out of your day to do that.

Also take 15 minutes, fill out the CRTC consultation survey on this, don't select any options, but in the space provided for comments, keep filling it up with any expressed concerns you may have. In total 25 minutes of your time is needed.
February 19, 2014

Ole Juul said:

Incompetent Government IT
I tried to fill in the form, but the choices don't work and I would have to lie in order to complete the consultation. I won't do that. I believe this is typical of Canadian Government IT. Never mind TV.
February 20, 2014

Chris C. said:

...
Thank you for bringing this survey to my attention. I clearly let my opinion known. Like most of us have pointed out here, this survey was incredibly biased but more importantly shows how disconnected from reality our officials are. BUT - and its a big BUT - it had a comment box option and that must be acknowledged: there was an effort to listen to actual opinions. That gives it my two thumbs up. And you can be sure I filled every one of them :)

Let's just hope they actually read the comments and take what we actually said more into account than the dumb check box options that only tell what the surveyor's mind was set to prove.

As was pointed out before and it corresponds to my own experience as well, is that surveys and statistics can be used to say whatever the surveyor wants it to, so I sincerely hope our comments will be actually read and taken into account.
February 20, 2014

bunny ears said:

...
Filled it out, survey is biased yes, but they did have comment sections.
Gave'em an earful.

As long as the ISPs and Broadcasters are they same company(ies), there will be a conflict of interest.

The question about paying $5/mo to not have say, Netflix count against your data cap just PROVED that caps are not about traffic management, but about protecting their broadcast bottom line. heh. oopsie! on their part.

Simsub isn't about Canadian jobs, but their profit. As I put in the survey, where did Bell outsource their support centres to? T'ain't Canada.
February 21, 2014

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