Yesterday I attended the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage hearing into the television industry in Canada and its impact on local communities. The hearing featured MPs from all parties taking CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein to task for not doing enough to save local television broadcasting. Von Finckenstein rightly noted that there is no obvious or easy solution, but that wasn't good enough for many MPs, who (given the usual demands that the CRTC stop regulating) oddly demanded that the CRTC engage in more regulation.
Even stranger were the positions on fee for carriage. Six months ago, the notion of a monthly television tax on cable and satellite subscribers would have been rejected out of hand by most MPs. Indeed, the CRTC itself has twice rejected broadcaster requests for it. No longer. In the current environment, the CRTC hinted it was possible and it was the Conservative MPs who were the most vocal in support of imposing a new television tax. While one MP tried to characterize it as a business-to-business solution, the reality is that the television tax would add roughly $75 per year to the cable and satellite bills of millions of Canadians as the industry hopes to raise $300 million from the new fee. This sounds like the sort of thing that Conservatives would strongly oppose, yet with many MPs hailing from ridings where local broadcasters are shutting down, they kept asking why the CRTC had not acquiesced to the broadcaster demands.