‘Let’s Talk TV’ hearings end poorly amidst hope for change
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ended talks with Netflix and Google last week by striking their discussions from the record. Amongst other disagreements, Netflix and Google refused to reveal consumer information to the CRTC.
This year has seen the CRTC attempt to drastically change television across Canada by introducing and inviting new ideas. A tw0-week-long “Let’s Talk TV” event was held throughout September, where numerous organizations and companies including Bell, Rogers, and, again, Google and Netflix were invited by the CRTC to offer ideas as to how Canadian television services should develop.
One potential idea was a “pick-and-pay” model in which consumers would be allowed to pay for the channels they want to watch, as opposed to investing in bundles or packages. This model has received a mixed response, with many appreciating the option of choice, but others concerned over how the model would affect costs and the lifespans of certain channels. Canadian television in particular has a long history of struggles, with CBC revealing during the hearings that its support via advertisements could no longer sustain the company.
The Globe and Mail reports that during the hearing, former CBC executive producer Christopher Waddell stated, “It’s a nice concept to say, ‘yes, it should be free, and yes, stuff was free for a long time, too,’ but I think we’re in a different world [today].”
In addition to the pick-and-pay model, a heavier focus on digital viewing was one of the CRTC’s focusses for the conference—which is where Netflix and Google came into the picture.
The CRTC initially invited the two American companies to propose possible options for Canadian television, as well as to provide data regarding Canadian usage of the two Internet-supported services. According to associated press, neither company felt that its information, if provided to the CRTC, would be kept confidential, but assured the CRTC that Canadian programming was thriving online through their services.
With no data-supported evidence provided at the hearings, secretary general for the CRTC John Traversy responded in a letter to Netflix global public policy director Corie Wright, “The Commission views such actions as a direct attempt to undermine its ability to serve Canadians, as well as impair the procedural fairness owed to all participants.”
As for Google, CBC reports that the company felt it represented itself and its points fairly at the hearings. One Google spokesperson stated, “We stand by the submissions we made in this process and believe we made a positive contribution to the discussion.”
The CRTC has stood by its decision, and will continue examining other routes regarding the near future of Canadian television.