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CRTC to consider fees for local TV 
Politics Watch News Services
November 5, 2007, updated 3:30 p.m.

Getting a pair of rabbit ears for your TV could one day be the only way to get local television for free. 

OTTAWA  (PoliticsWatch.com) — The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said Monday it will examine the introduction of a controversial proposal that would see cable and satellite television bills increase.     

The CRTC will examine the so-called fee-for-carriage issue next year, something private broadcasters have been advocating.

Fee-for-carriage would require cable and satellite companies to charge a subscription fee to customers who receive local over-the-air  television stations as part of their packages.

Currently, Canadians do not pay for local television stations, whether it be by antenna or on their local cable package. 
CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein made the announcement during a speech to a Canadian Association of Broadcasters conference in Ottawa.  

"One of the things we've noted is a repeated call for the introduction of a subscriber fee for the carriage of local conventional TV stations," he said. 

"The (over-the-air) sector has been a mainstay of the Canadian broadcasting system, but there is no mistaking the fact that it now faces significant challenges." 

Private broadcasters and the CBC are all in favour of charging the cable companies subscription fees to carry their local affiliates. 

The cable and satellite companies are opposed to such a measure, including cable mogul Ted Rogers, who called the idea "trash" at a recent CRTC hearing. 

A recent submission to the CRTC by CanWest suggested a 50 cent monthly  fee for each cable or satellite subscriber for every over-the-air station. 

CanWest has estimated the average monthly bill would rise $1.89 a month, but Rogers Communications estimates it could be as much as $7 a month more.

The CRTC will hold public hearings on the issue in April. 

Von Finckenstein also updated the status of the CRTC's "New Media Initiative," which is examining the regulatory issues surrounding content and access raised by the arrival of new technologies, such as the Internet. 

The initial research phase, involving consumer analysis and consultations with academic experts and industry stakeholders, is completed and the CRTC is now in the "validation phase" and will hold public hearings. 

The CRTC first looked at the new media in 1999 and determined that it offered little competition to traditional broadcasters. However, with more and more advertising dollars moving to the new media that determination has changed, he said. 

Von Finckenstein also tried to clear up what he called a "misunderstanding" about the study and whether it could lead to regulating the Internet.

"I'm not talking about the Internet. I'm not interested in the Internet," he said. 

"What I'm talking about is broadcasting . . . We are interested in broadcasting and what is the impact of new media on broadcasting."

The CRTC plans to issue a report on the new media in March of 2008. 

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