CRTC’s TV survey is presumptious and alarming

21 Feb

University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist had a post the other day on the CRTC’s new Talk TV consultation, a process designed to solicit Canadians’ opinions on how television services are delivered and sold. Geist calls the associated survey “lopsided,” where “the options presented to respondents are limited and skewed toward internet regulation for online video or supporting the status quo for conventional broadcast.”

I decided to take the survey myself to see what he’s talking about and, yup, “lopsided” may be putting it mildly.

The following question is a good example. It asks respondents if they want access to more American and international channels – and who doesn’t, really? The follow-up, however, asks if they’d want that if it meant paying more or if it meant that some Canadian-made shows – and therefore jobs – would be lost in the process:


That’s not just lopsided, that’s a downright leading question. Neither of those options are foregone conclusions, but they certainly are industry talking points in the war to slow down Netflix, YouTube and the rest with regulations.

There’s also a question about substitution rights, which are basically the culprits for Canadian broadcasters not airing American commercials during the Super Bowl. The CRTC suggests only three solutions to this thorny issue – the status quo, black-outs or consumers paying extra so that they can get those commercials:


Of course, there’s no mention of a fourth solution, which is none of the above. How about regulators and broadcasters figure out a way to do this without costing consumers more before some form of piracy comes along and eats everyone’s lunch?

The most worrying question is one that could hint at a torpedo-ing of net neutrality rules and a validation of the sort of anti-competitive services that some wireless providers are currently pushing. The CRTC is asking respondents whether they’d be willing to pay $5 per month to cover increased internet usage costs for a particular online service if it didn’t count against their data cap, which looks like a direct reference to a net neutrality complaint currently in front of the commission:


Of all the “lopsided” questions in the survey, this one is easily the most egregious because it completely ignores certain realities, such as the fact that Canada remains one of the only countries in the world where capped home internet plans are the norm (the others being islands: Australia, New Zealand and Iceland). The rest of the world seems to be taking in its Netflix and YouTube consumption just fine, with no talk of extra fees or regulation. And it’s not even an international thing – big internet providers in Eastern Canada are somehow managing to give their customers unlimited usage.

The one question the CRTC isn’t asking, and that everyone would like to answer, is: “Would you be in favour of regulations requiring internet providers to increase their usage caps or eliminate them altogether?”

The fact that regulators don’t appear to be entertaining this line of thinking – and the skewed nature of the status-quo-preserving questions themselves – suggests that maybe things haven’t changed all that much at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. For all the recent talk about how it has become more consumer-friendly, it certainly seems like the industry is firmly in the driver’s seat on this particular consultation.


Posted by on February 21, 2014 in crtc, television


4 responses to “CRTC’s TV survey is presumptious and alarming

  1. Jean-François Mezei

    February 21, 2014 at 4:19 am

    When asked during the Twitter chats, Mr Blais said the questions were meant to be provocative. My guess is perhaps they want to gauge which are the hot button issues that cause the most controversy.

    The trick now is to run with this and show the CRTC those options are not acceptable.

    • Peter Nowak

      February 21, 2014 at 11:14 am

      So the CRTC is now trolling Canadians?

  2. cko

    February 24, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    I tried to be polite, I really did, but I pretty much lost it on them at the end. I sure don’t envy the intern that has to read that one.

    But I guess we shouldn’t be surprised though, should we? How can we really expect a government agency to have any vision for the future when these are the same people that allow our tv networks to spend vast sums on licensing US programming and then turn around and say they have no money to invest in Canadian content?

    This is the country of the ‘bare minimum’. I had a ten year gap between my last two trips driving across this massive country. A decade later and there are still large holes in cell phone service along stretches of our ONE transnational roadway. Why? Because nobody lives along those stretches and the telecoms are only mandated to provide service to x% of the population. So, who gives a shit if theres a 200km stretch of road in northern Ontario not serviced by Rogers or Telus? No one lives there so how are they going to make any money on subscribers?

    A sad state of affairs, but as I told the CRTC, their decisions will have zero affect on my viewing habits or content consumption moving forward. They don’t seem to have heard of this little thing called the internet.

  3. russellmcormond

    February 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I didn’t bother trying to fill in their survey. They didn’t seem interested in getting ideas from the public, but trying to misinform the public. The direction of the “information” was backwards.

    I heard part of an interview on TV where Mr Blais kept talking about a “made in Canada” Netflix, completely missing the point that many of us want to unbundle content from distribution. I’m tired of the nonsense of being told I have to pay for a specific distribution mechanism and specific brands of devices to get specific content. This is the type of unbundling I want: I am long past caring about what BDUs do as I have no interest in being their customer. Even if they manage to offer something I want in the future, there are just too many decades of bad-blood.

    I subscribe to Netflix and buy DVD’s. And of course the first thing I do with DVD’s is unencrypt them so I can play on all devices I own rather than only legacy DVD players.

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