CRTC tries to get TV providers to play nice over 'skinny TV' packages

T.V. providers seem to have gone out of their way to make their packages unattractive to consumers. (Photo: REUTERS/Chris Wattie)
T.V. providers seem to have gone out of their way to make their packages unattractive to consumers. (Photo: REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission opened hearings yesterday n the continuing saga of the so-called “skinny TV” package. The regulator has mandated that all television providers must offer an affordable package that, as you’ve probably guessed, includes a bare minimum of channels.

Television providers, on the other hand, seem to have gone out of their way to make these packages unattractive to consumers by allotting a relatively poor selection of channels at comparably expensive prices. According to the CRTC, only 1.57 per cent of TV subscribers have signed up with one of these packages, well below the 5-per-cent threshold the commission had hoped for.

"Some Canadians have told us clearly that they are not satisfied with the way the new choices have been implemented," CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said at the start of the hearings Wednesday morning.

Talking to the CBC about the hearings, Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers' Association of Canada, said, "I'm not confident it will bring any changes.”

The CRTC has suggested that television providers could have trouble renewing their broadcast licences if their skinny TV plans fail to meet the commission’s expectations.

Unfortunately, the repercussions could be nothing more than a slap on the wrist as the CRTC claims it wants a “frank discussion” with the providers over heavy-handed tactics. Looking at many of the packages, it might just be that the commission should be going after the providers with more than just discussion(s).

Considering that some of the packages contain no U.S. channels, while others offer the same network from different cities (in the same time zone), appearing to bulk up the package, consumers are absolutely the losers when it comes to the outrageous prices we pay for access to television.

There is a relatively simpler solution for those who can get access: Canadian and U.S. channels are required to broadcast over the air, so a simple indoor antenna could provide you with access to many of the channels you would otherwise pay for, skinny TV package or otherwise.

If you want to follow along with the proceedings, the CRTC’s Facebook page has the information you need.
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