The CRTC did what many expected today--threw the fee-for-carriage hand grenade back into the network/cable bunkers and challenged them to play nice and work things out.
Under the heading "Value of Local programming" the new ruling sets out to find "a market-based solution to allow private local television stations to negotiate with cable and satellite companies" for the much sought after fee, or other kind of compensation, for carriage.
The CRTC also handed the Canadian broadcasters the hammer they'll need to pound out their deals with the cable/satellite crowd--they get to blackout U.S. programming from any shows they own the right to if their station is dropped. So if you want to keep watching American Idol or House, better keep CTV and Global, because the nearest Fox U.S. border affiliate will be blacked out.
The big winner: the CBC. The CRTC say it will deal with CBC separately later, as well as French language broadcasting. What a break to be arms length from this schmozolla! Today's orders apply only to CTVGlobemedia, Canwest and Creditors, Inc. and Rogers Communications.
Still waiting for all the "We Won" releases from all interested parties but the way I read it, Toronto CTV station CFTO, for example, could opt to negotiate a fee for carriage with, say, Rogers. (Or not, but once they decide to go for the money, apparently there's no turning back.) It will now be between CFTO and Rogers to determine a fair value for the local TV programming. "Each television station," reads today's release, "would have the option of entering into negotiations to establish a fair value for the distribution of their programs."
Not clear if, as in some U.S. markets where networks and cable have locked horns, this also allows the carrier to say to its customers--hey, if you don't want to pay for CFTO, just opt out.
Apparently, too, once the cable company hands the station a cheque, they can bounce said channel way the hell up the dial. Good thing there's no animosity between those two businesses!
If you ignore the nightmare can't-find-the-channel-anymore scenario, Monday's ruling seems to give the private networks what they wanted--access to fee for carriage loot, although the CRTC has placed an asterisk on all of this. They've asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether they even have the authority to pull this little scam.
The CRTC has also given in on the other network demand--relax the Canadian content quotas under the current Broadcast Act. First, they've set the CanCon obligation to 30% gross revenues--basically where it has slid to during the last two horrible years--and then they've carved out the big flappy loop hole that this requirement now only has to be met across all the media giant's group-based stations.
So if Canwest owned Dusk (formerly Scream, formerly something something) goes with Hilarious House of Frightenstein reruns 24/7, well, look for more House marathons on Showcase.
The CRTC seems to think that this new framework "will give English-language private television broadcasters greater flexibility to offer high-quality programs that are of interest to Canadians."
The Act also calls for 50% CanCon in what it calls prime time--6 p.m. to midnight. So on the old broadcast channels, that means more news, followed by red carpet crapolla, followed by import, import, import.
CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein challenged the networks and the carriers to "put their differences aside and work together to ensure the continuation of conventional television, which Canadians clearly value.” We'll find out any minute which way the wind in blowing on that one when Rogers, Bell, Shaw, etc issue releases in response to today's decision.
As for consumers, look to TVFMF in the coming months for instructions on how to set up a TV antenna and to find TV shows on the Internet.
The CRTC also told everybody they have a year and a half to get their act together on digital. The deadline is Aug. 31, 2011. License renewals are also up for discussion then too.
They also snuck a nastly little ruling into today's missive allowing more ads on on-demand pay-per-view screenings. Ka-ching.