Canadians to be allowed to 'pick and pay' TV channels

Thu Mar 19, 2015 5:24pm EDT
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By Leah Schnurr

GATINEAU, Quebec (Reuters) - Canadian television viewers will no longer be forced to pay for vast numbers of channels they do not watch, the country's broadcast regulator said in a sweeping ruling on Thursday.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said cable and satellite providers had to offer viewers an affordable basic package and allow them to choose additional channels.

Most distributors currently package groups of channels into thematic bundles, which they say means more choice is available at a lower per-channel cost. Consumer advocates complain that viewers are forced to pay for channels they never watch.

The CRTC said cable and satellite companies will have until March 2016 to provide an entry-level television service that includes local channels capped at C$25 ($19.70) a month.

Subscribers will be then be able to add individual channels - known as "pick-and-pay" - or small packages. Companies will have to offer either the pick-and-pay or small bundle option by March 2016, and offer both by December 2016.

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said the commission was not making decisions for viewers.

"It is about setting out a roadmap to give all Canadians the freedom to choose the television content that meets their unique needs, budgets and realities," he told reporters.

The move will be closely watched south of the border, where U.S. media companies have resisted flexible programming, arguing that costs for individual channels will rise sharply.   Continued...