Hasty pick and pay a threat to homegrown content

TORONTO, March 19, 2015 /CNW/ - Today's approach to pick and pay cable by the CRTC will be needlessly disruptive to Canada's broadcast and entertainment industries, putting at risk this country's ability to tell its own stories, Canada's largest media union says.

"If the CRTC is determined to go down this road, it should do so only on a gradual, experimental and trial basis," Unifor Media Director Howard Law said.

"Too many jobs are at stake – the jobs of people who make their livings telling Canadian stories to Canadians. Our talented actors and content creators will be forced to move to the U.S. to find work."

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced this afternoon that consumers will soon be able to pick which cable TV channels they want, rather than the current bundling system, along with skinny basic cable packages of local stations and provincial education channels.

The announcement follows a pledge by the Harper government in the Prime Minister's 2013 Speech from the Throne that no jobs would be lost from any such move. Despite the fact that the Commission, itself, is on record stating there is a strong likelihood some channels will not survive under pick and pay.

It is particularly disappointing that U.S. channels will be given privileged access to skinny cable, while Canadian channels will be forced to fight over pick and pay scraps. The CRTC specifically rejected any requirement that Canadians select a proportion of their cable channels from a list of Canadian options. 

"If anyone should be left fully exposed to pick and pay, it should be the U.S. stations," Law said.

In its submissions to the CRTC, Unifor made it clear that a hasty approach to pick and pay and skinny basic would inevitably cost jobs (more than 16,000 by 2020), and that some channels and content providers would not survive the change. This would not only mean fewer Canadians telling our stories, but also less choice and diversity of television offerings for consumers.

Bringing in new rules on an experimental and trial basis, however, would allow time to determine exactly what the impact will be on cable subscriber retention and revenue loss, allowing for a smoother transition for this vital industry.

"This is a disappointing decision and it is now up to the Harper government to say how it will live up to the promises in its Throne Speech," Unifor Media Council Chair Randy Kitt said.

"The broadcast industry is no doubt in a period of transition, but we risk too much by gambling on going too far, too fast."

It is much better, he said, to mitigate the disruption with appropriately designed and paced regulatory measures.

To see Unifor's submission to the CRTC, go to unifor.org.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers, including 13,000 in the media sector. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.


For further information: please contact Unifor Communications National Representative Stuart Laidlaw at Stuart.Laidlaw@Unifor.org or (cell) 647-385-4054.

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