CTV’s Fecan Asks Government For Cable Regulation

Is it time for the Canadian government to step in and regulate cable rates? CTVglobal media Inc.’s chief executive Ivan Fecan thinks so.
Fecan spoke in front of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission seeking a renewal of its TV licence on a one-year basis instead of the typical seven-year term. The request is a result of the financial crisis.

CTVglobal has a three point reform plan that they are presenting to parliment.

1. The immediate implementation of fee for carriage. “Fee-for-carriage
does not need to impact the consumer nor will it invoke undue harm to
the cable and satellite industry,” said Mr. Fecan. “This is an
industry-to-industry matter”.

2. Satellite carriage for local TV stations. “We simply would like the
CRTC to uphold Parliament’s clear statement in the Broadcasting Act
that calls for priority carriage of local television stations.”

3. A hybrid digital transition strategy. “We cannot justify an
investment of several hundred million dollars to reach 9% of the
marketplace, particularly when this investment produces no additional
revenue in a business that is already teetering on the edge.”

The economic crisis is forcing private broadcasters to write down their value of assets by billions. CTVglobalmedia is planning on closing to stations by August in Windsor and Wingham, Ontario. Earlier this year in March it announced that 118 newsroom jobs were being cut and that morning shows at A Channels had been canceled. The company is not seeking licence renewal for a station in Brandon, Manitoba.

Financial Post reports:

“Please understand this is not a cash grab or greed from a private broadcaster. This is real. We are not bluffing,” Mr. Fecan said, adding that unless the CRTC introduces relief CTVglobemedia may be forced to shut down additional stations.

He’s not alone with the concern.

“We have cut every conceivable cost,” said Richard Gray, head of national news at CTVglobemedia’s A Channel chain.

The National Post reports that Fecan criticized the federal regulator.

“What I’m telling you is you are playing chicken with the studios, and the consequence may very well be the end of broadcasting as we know it in Canada,” Mr. Fecan told Mr. von Finckenstein at a special hearing into the state of the industry.

“What are you trying to achieve? I’m at a loss to consider why you, Mr. Chairman, who have no skin in this game, why you would play this kind of risk with our business.”

Fecan’s comments are in contrast to those made last week by Phil Lind, Vice Chairman of Rogers Communications Inc. before Parliament’s Heritage Committee. Lind said that the Canadian television industry is not in a crisis and believes that the call for fee-for-carriage was simply an unneeded tax on consumers.

On Thursday Canwest is expected to speak about their need to apply for a one-year licence.

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