Canadian TV

A scam wrapped in hypocrisy, served on a bed of conglomerates.  


On March 1, 2016, CRTC Chairman Jean Pierre Blais heralded:

“Today marks the beginning of a new era of choice for Canadian television viewers.”

While this type of platitude-speak is not surprising coming from a government agency, the sheer ludicrousness of the statement  is par for the course.

What Mr. Blais should have said is:

“Today, the TV service providers of Canada (read: monopolies) will force you to have an entry level package of channels that you’ll never watch anyway and then you’ll pay more to get the channels you really want to watch.”


Logo indicating no choice

New era? Puh-lease.

This all started back in October 2013, when the CRTC launched “Lets Talk TV: A conversation with Canadians”. The end goal of this multi year initiative was to provide, among other things, Canadian consumers the ability to pick and pay for the cable channels they wanted.

When I first heard about the pick and pay program I was thrilled. Could I finally choose the six or seven channels I really wanted to watch and not pay $75/month for the other one hundred and twenty?

The short answer is no.

Huh?  Why not?


Fewer channels, same money

TV packages are controlled by a handful of vertically integrated companies – Telus, Rogers, Bell, Shaw.  With the revamped regulations, the volume of options offered are more labyrinthine than ever and there are no bargains.

The Canadian TV companies offer low monthly introductory rates for their services (primarily as an inducement to switch from other providers..another scam, for another time) but I’ve based my findings on what actual prices are beyond any introductory period.

I won’t state which provider I’m using, but my current cable package costs roughly $75/month. This is bundled together with internet, both of which total $163.00/month.

If I opt for the ‘new era’ basic TV package, and choose from “bundles” or “packs” of other channels I’m interested in, my monthly costs will be approximately $70, an almost identical figure to what I pay now…with fewer channels!

Shouldn’t I be paying less for less? In theory, but these companies know there are certain premium channels consumers watch and have handily created packs that don’t offer the ability to customize your choices. This forces the purchase of more than one pack and, handily, increases your bill.

What these companies really want is for you to be beholden to them for bundled services.  It’s a way to keep competitors at bay, but it’s tied selling masquerading as a ‘deal’.

Smells like a scam.

Woman holding her nose

Am I missing something?

It’s been well documented that Canadians pay the highest rates for wireless service than any other country in the G7 and Australia (service that, surprise, is controlled by the same industry giants). We’re paying more for Internet and TV as well.  The media companies defend their high prices stating Canada is a costly country to service because of its size and thin population, yet Australia, more vast and thinly populated, still offers lower rates.


What it really boils down to  is money.

As consumers have more choice where to get content from, the industry giants are suffering. Broadcast revenues from advertising are declining, and with dwindling consumers, the difference has to be made up elsewhere. But just like the music industry had to change and adapt to streaming, broadcast companies have to figure out a new model, not just put a clean t-shirt on a dirty pig and say ‘voila.’

Netflix and other streaming services offer ultimate choice (what pick and pay was supposed to be all about) and knowing consumers gravitate towards customization, why not offer that?  Instead, in typical bureaucratic jockeying, a parliamentary committee called Canadian Heritage, recently pushed again for a “Netflix Tax”: a 5% fee applied to high speed internet services that allows for streaming of musics, movies and TV Shows.  (The tax was shot down in June 2017 by Prime Minister Trudeau, citing his goal of reducing taxes, not increasing them.)

It is all levels of irony that this 5% fee would increase the coffers of the Canadian Media Fund, which subsidizes Canadian content made by…who else? The Canadian media giants. And guess what? Services like Netflix would not have been able to draw on the same fund for its own programming.

Smells like hypocrisy.

Two hands in hand cuffs

Next steps?

After three years of politicking and tax payer funded deliberation, the big news from “Let’s Talk TV” is Canadians still have to buy a mandatory package of channels before we can get the channels we really want. And the cost of additional bundles net out to practically the same monthly fee, depending on what you want.  What is the solution?  It’s tough to say. Canadian broadcast and telecom is firmly rooted in media conglomerates and trying to force their fair hand proved, as the CRTC and consumers found out, more complicated than ever.

Unfortunately, I don’t see a change anytime soon. The publically traded media giants are forced to show increasing shareholder value, quarter after quarter. They will not risk precipitous revenue drops for the lowly trade off of – gasp – consumer choice.

So I repeat: a new era?


Time to cut the cable cord.