The government’s promise to implement a “pick-and-pay” television model that would allow consumers to subscribe to individual channels from cable and satellite providers garnered significant attention this fall. The approach was promoted as a pro-consumer reform that better reflects expectations that the public controls when, where, and on what device they watch broadcast programming.
Consistent with the government’s policy commitment, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will soon report on the regulatory implications of such a reform. Changing cable packages may only be the beginning, however, as CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais has stated that the regulator needs to “develop a regulatory framework that will be flexible enough to be adapted to the new technological reality.”
My weekly technology law column (homepage version, Toronto Star version) notes the unbundling of television packages represents the broadcast distribution side of the changing environment, but the flip side of the coin involves the need for changes to Canadian broadcast policy. If Industry Minister James Moore and the CRTC are prepared to shake up the way Canadians access television, they should also consider changing longstanding and increasingly outdated broadcast rules, starting with the gradual elimination of “simultaneous substitution” policies.