Canada's Quebecor seeks easier rules, citing Netflix threat

Tue Sep 9, 2014 3:42pm EDT
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Canada's telecommunications regulator should ease restrictions on domestic television providers because of the competitive threat they face from online services like Netflix Inc, Quebecor Inc Chief Executive Pierre Dion told a hearing on Tuesday

Left unregulated, he said Netflix will become the largest distributor of video content in Canada, leaving domestic broadcasters struggling to compete.

Pleas by Canadian cable and satellite television providers like Quebecor for greater flexibility are likely to be a recurring theme in an inquiry by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) into the state of television in Canada.

As in the United States, online television distributors have shaken up the Canadian industry by meeting viewers' demand for greater freedom than traditional subscription TV services can offer.

"The commission should regulate neither the composition of basic service, nor its price, nor package sizes if it really wants cable providers to offer consumers greater flexibility and choice," Dion told a CRTC hearing in Gatineau, Quebec.

Dion called the rules that govern domestic players a "regulatory straitjacket" that online-only services can ignore.

The CRTC inquiry aims to update existing rules that enforce a minimum level of financial support and air time for Canadian programs on traditional TV while ignoring online services such as Netflix and Google's YouTube.

The regulator has already said that whatever replaces them - conclusions will not be made until well into 2015 - should not protect specific channels or business models to the detriment of consumer choice.   Continued...