Archive for CRTC

Bell Exec Apologizes For Meddling In The Affairs Of CTV News

Posted in Commentary with tags , on March 25, 2015 by itnerd

Bell is a massive telco. They also own a lot of TV stations, some radio stations, and a newspaper. So, you can imagine that when the Globe And Mail which is a paper that Bell owns came out and accused Kevin Crull who is the president of Bell media and is effectively their boss of trying to influence the network’s news coverage of the CRTC decision to cap the price of basic cable as well as make cable companies offer “pick and pay” options for consumers, that got a lot of attention. The accusation is that he called up the head of CTV news and asked her not to run quotes of CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais. The CRTC issued a very terse statement. Here’s the key parts of it:

That a regulated company does not like one of the CRTC’s rulings is one thing. The allegation, however, that the largest communication company in Canada is manipulating news coverage is disturbing. Holding a radio or television licence is a privilege that comes with important obligations that are in the public interest, especially in regards to high-quality news coverage and reporting.

And:

We expect Canada’s broadcasters to live up to their responsibilities and adhere to a high standard in their news and information programs.

I do not recall the CRTC ever making a statement like this. I guess that this was enough blowback to make Crull apologize. Here’s part of what he said via the National Post:

“It was wrong of me to be anything but absolutely clear that editorial control always rests with the news team,” Crull said in a statement. “I have apologized to the team directly for this mistake.”

While I am not shocked that this sort of thing has happened, because in this day and age you have to question how independent journalism is, this is a pretty shocking case. I’d love to see the CRTC slap Bell silly over this. But it won’t happen. Instead, Kevin Crull will have to deal with the embarrassment of being caught doing something very wrong by a paper that Bell owns .

Oh, a tip for the reporters who broke this story. You might want to start mass e-mailing your resumes around. Call it a hunch.

CRTC Makes Cable Companies Adopt “Pick & Pay” Option And Caps Basic Cable

Posted in Commentary with tags , on March 19, 2015 by itnerd

The CRTC today did something groundbreaking today. Actually they did three things that are groundbreaking. They made the cable companies and anyone else who delivers TV in Canada do the following things:

  1. They made cable companies adopt a “pick and pay” option which means that you can pick only the channels that you want and pay for them. So you don’t have to pick a bundle full of channels you don’t want anymore.
  2. They made cable companies offer a “basic” cable option that can be no more than $25 a month and will consist of local stations and mandatory channels, such as APTN, TVO, CPAC, educational channels and accessibility channels, with the option to include up to four American “affiliate” channels (NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox), plus PBS.
  3. Consumers no longer have to give 30 days notice to dump their current cable company.

That’s all groundbreaking. I have to admit that. But I question if consumers will actually save money. I say that because bundles allow specialty channels to exist because of the fact that they’re force fed to you. Thus because a lot of people get them, you pay less for each channel which means that economy of scale kicks in and it allows them to stay afloat. Take that option away and you may end up paying the real cost what these channels cost. So you may only get the channels you want, but you may pay more. Or the channels that don’t do as well will disappear. Having said that, cable TV costs are insanely expensive in Canada. So you have to try something to see if it will lower costs for consumers. Seeing that cable companies will have until March 2016 to offer the $25 basic package, and December 2016 to offer up “pick and pay”, we’re a long way from getting an answer to that.

File this under “to be continued.”

 

Shomi & CraveTV Could Be Made Available To Any And All Who Want It: CRTC

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on March 16, 2015 by itnerd

I somehow missed this on Friday, but the if you recall, Shomi which is the streaming service run by Rogers and Shaw, and CraveTV which is run by Bell, are only available to those customers. Thus if you’re a Bell customer, you can’t get Shomi for example and Rogers/Shaw customers can’t get CraveTV. This is a strategy that is clearly designed to stop cord cutting or the discontinuation of cable TV service which is a thing these days. Well, the CRTC has popped up and said, that Shomi and CraveTV must be made available to all:

Finally, the CRTC is allowing video-on-demand services to offer exclusive content to cable and satellite subscribers, as long as they are available to all Canadians over the Internet without a television subscription. This will enable Canadian services to compete on a more equal footing with online video services.

So, one could read that and come to the conclusion that it means that Shomi and CraveTV could be forced to be made available to any and all who want it. If you’re Bell, Rogers, and Shaw, that’s got to be downright frightening. You can bet that those three are looking at how they can fight this if and when the CRTC brings down the hammer. Thus I would stay tuned to this story as things are about to get very interesting.

Rogers GameCenter Live Does Not Break The Rules: CRTC

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on March 16, 2015 by itnerd

You might recall that Bell and Telus filed complaints with the CRTC to make the argument that Rogers GameCenter Live app should be made available to any and all who want it and not just to Rogers subscribers. The CRTC came out with a decision on that front which will stir some debate:

The CRTC considers that the programming available on GamePlus is essentially produced for distribution on digital media. As such, it can be offered exclusively and does not constitute an undue preference in favour of Rogers subscribers. In the CRTC’s view, Rogers is in compliance with the established rules.

GameCentre Live is a service operated by Rogers to which all Canadians can subscribe to in order to access National Hockey League games online. GamePlus is a complementary service to GameCentre Live, available online only, and offered exclusively to Rogers subscribers. GamePlus provides access to bonus content, such as replays not available on the traditional television broadcast, exclusive analysis and interviews, and different camera angles.

I have to admit that I did not see this decision coming out the way that it has. I’m guessing that lawyers for Bell and Telus are looking at this to see if they can do anything about this as I am sure that they will find that this decision is unfair.

Bell Goes To Court Over CRTC Ruling

Posted in Commentary with tags , , on February 23, 2015 by itnerd

You might remember that I applauded the CRTC for actually doing something right for a change when they slapped Bell and Videotron for exempting their own apps, specifically mobile TV apps from data charges. Well, Bell is going to Federal Court to do something about that. Here’s what The Globe And Mail is reporting:

On Friday BCE-owned Bell Mobility Inc. filed an application with the Federal Court of Appeal seeking leave to appeal a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s decision on Bell’s app, which lets customers stream live and on-demand TV programming on their mobile devices. (BCE owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.)

And:

Bell said its mobile TV app – which attracted more than 1.5 million subscribers – is actually a broadcasting service and is therefore exempt from the provisions of the Telecom Act.

It said that when Bell Mobility provides its customers with access to other Internet-based video services it is simply acting as an Internet service provider and in that respect is governed by the Telecom Act.

In contrast, when it is operating Mobile TV, it said it is a broadcasting undertaking, noting, “Bell Mobility itself acquires, aggregates, packages and markets Bell Mobile TV content before retransmitting it to subscribers.”

The company also argued the CRTC had no evidence that the app caused harm to customers and unfairly placed the burden on Bell to prove the pricing model had no adverse impact on competitive services.

Interesting argument. But even though I am not a lawyer, I’m dubious that this will fly in court because of the fact that the CRTC specifically mentions that the TV app uses bandwidth that they are not charging for which gives their TV app an unfair advantage. They’re also going to court over this:

The company has also filed a request for the CRTC to dismiss a challenge launched by PIAC over its CraveTV video streaming service.

That relates to this story on CraveTV and Shomi potentially violating CRTC rules. Clearly Bell is feeling the heat on all sides.

CraveTV and Shomi Violate CRTC Rules Say Advocacy Group

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on February 9, 2015 by itnerd

I’ve been watching the progress of CraveTV (which is Bell Canada’s streaming service) and Shomi (which is a joint venture of Rogers and Shaw) and one of the things that jumped out at me from the start is that unlike a streaming service like Netflix which is wide open to anyone, you have to have one of Bell’s services in the case of Crave TV, or Rogers or Shaw’s services in the case of Shomi to access these streaming services. That I always considered to be a #fail, but an advocacy group also says it might be against CRTC rules:

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Consumers’ Association of Canada say three of the country’s biggest telecommunications companies are operating online video services which “unduly prefer” their own customers.

The document, filed to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Friday, says both services require subscribers to purchase TV or Internet services from the telecom providers on top of the streaming video platform.

They argue that runs against rules put in place by the CRTC to promote competition and consumer choice.

There’s a simple reason why Shomi and CraveTV are set up this way. These restrictions are designed to stop you from cutting the cord as opposed to letting you stream content using any ISP. After all, Rogers, Bell and Shaw have very lucrative cable TV operations that they don’t want affected in any way by streaming services. Even the ones that they own. But it’s clearly left them wide open to something like this complaint. I’m guessing that there’s some discussion going on right now inside the executive offices of Rogers, Shaw and Bell about whether to fight this, or just avoid the issue altogether by opening up their services to any and all who want to use them and pray it does not affect their cable TV revenue too much.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall during those discussions.

CRTC Actually Does Something Right By Slapping Bell & Videotron Over Their “Unlawful” Practices

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on January 29, 2015 by itnerd

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I an no fan of the CRTC. But today, I will actually say that they’ve done something right. In the last couple of hours, they’ve come out with a ruling that Bell and Videotron cannot exempt their own apps from data charges:

The Commission finds that Bell Mobility Inc. (Bell Mobility) and Quebecor Media Inc., Videotron Ltd. and Videotron G.P. (collectively, Videotron), violated subsection 27(2) of the Telecommunications Act by exempting their mobile TV services Bell Mobile TV and illico.tv from data charges. Subsection 27(2) prohibits Canadian carriers from conferring an undue disadvantage to others, or an undue preference to itself or others. Bell Mobility and Videotron have given an undue preference in favour of subscribers of their respective mobile TV services, as well as in favour of their own services, and have subjected consumers of other audiovisual content services, and other services, to a corresponding undue disadvantage.

In light of the above, the Commission directs Bell Mobility to eliminate its unlawful practice with respect to data charges for its mobile TV service by no later than 29 April 2015.

Further, the Commission directs Videotron to confirm by 31 March 2015 that it completed its planned withdrawal of its illico.tv app for Blackberry- and Android-based phones by 31 December 2014, thereby removing any undue preference for its mobile TV service, and ensure that any new mobile TV service complies with the determinations set out in this decision.

This decision will favour an open and non-discriminatory marketplace for mobile TV services, enabling innovation and choice for Canadians. The Commission is very supportive of the development of new means by which Canadians can access both Canadian-made and foreign audiovisual content. However, mobile service providers cannot do so in a manner contrary to the Telecommunications Act.

Wow. The CRTC stands up for net neutrality. Imagine that. I’m pretty sure that this decision is going to get a lot of attention from advocates of net neutrality as well as other teclos who might have been thinking about doing the same thing, or are doing the same thing. I’ll be interested in seeing if the CRTC will do the same thing to others who engage in similar behaviors. If they do, I’ll may even start to say I like the CRTC.

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