Regulator says the change will allow it to monitor how companies implement the new choices available
Michael Lewis Star Touch
Canada’s broadcast regulator is cutting license renewal periods for most TV service providers to one year so it can keep a watchful eye over the implementation of mandated new viewing options, including the full a la carte channel selection to be rolled out by Dec 1.
“The service providers’ actions . . . will be closely monitored in the year to come” to ensure they conform to “best practices,” the Gatineau-based Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced Monday.
Providers will be expected to “keep their offers simple and transparent; offer deals and discounts regardless of the entry-level package selected; provide online tools allowing subscribers to easily add or remove channels; and offer different options to obtain a set-top box.”
The CRTC also said it is renewing licenses for most providers for the single year, rather than the typical seven-year term. “This will enable the CRTC to closely monitor the TV providers’ practices as they implement the new TV choices,” the regulator said.
The announcement follows a CRTC public hearing in September over the launch of basic cable packages mandated by the regulator as part of an update of its rules governing the broadcasting sector unveiled in March 2015.
The CRTC has jurisdiction over which channels broadcast distributors must offer and is licensing agent for the service providers.
Consumer groups at the hearing said some providers were reluctant to promote the low cost basic package and criticized Bell in particular for demanding that its fibre optic TV customers in Ontario and Quebec also sign up for its Internet service, a requirement Bell has dropped.
The CRTC said consumers are encouraged to shop around if their service provider’s offers don’t meet the needs or the budget of their household. It also notes online tools on the CRTC’s website to help consumers find the best services and negotiate with their provider.
Under the CRTC’s changes, as of March 1 all licensed television service providers were compelled to offer a basic package priced at no more than $25 a month, not including equipment.
As of that date, TV service providers have also been required to offer channels either individually or in packages of up to 10. Starting next month, providers will have to offer both pick-and-pay and small packages.
“Canadians will have greater flexibility in choosing how they subscribe to TV services,” CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement.