‘Pick and Pay’ Cable TV: Much less than meets the eye

Will long suffering consumers of cable TV in Canada at last be getting some price relief?

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the federal regulatory body, ordered cable and satellite television providers to offer cheaper starter packages and introduce a pick-and-pay channel selection system by next year.
The giant telecoms, Rogers, Bell Media, Cogeco, Shaw, and Videotron, are crying that the CRTC’s call for a basic package capped at $25 per month will hurt their bottom line. What big crocodile tears they are shedding.

In the first place, the CRTC compensated the telecoms in advance by relaxing Canadian content rules. That move will hurt domestic artists and producers in the face of the corporate media behemoth south of the border.

More importantly, the big broadcasting companies will be able to charge unlimited fees for every single channel outside the basic package that a consumer may want.

As one angry Bell subscriber told a CRTC public hearing in Ottawa, “If I’m (currently) paying $80 (a month) for 257 channels, I should be able to not spend over $80 to get 30 channels.”

Unfortunately, that will likely not be the case. The telecoms will force many consumers to stay with their over-priced TV packages by charging astronomical rates for individual popular channels under the ‘pick and pay’ system.

Clearly, the corporate criminals are still running the show – which demonstrates the futility of the latest cable TV ‘reform’ plan. In fact, the changes underway are largely a response, not just to consumer complaints over price-gouging, but to the loss of cable subscribers who’ve shifted to Netflix and the internet generally for entertainment and news.

Is there a solution that would address the concerns of the 13,000 people who complained to the CRTC last year, mostly over the “big, unwieldy and expensive” bundles which have driven the cost of TV well above the inflation rate?

Yes. Nationalize the telecoms – Rogers, Bell, Shaw and all the media giants – under democratic workers’ and community control. Support artists and back cultural production that speaks to the experiences and needs of the vast majority, the working class and small producers. Devote the media to human cultural enrichment and personal enjoyment, not to the pursuit of private profit.

– Barry Weisleder