Don’t let cable hold us hostage: CTV president

The time might be right to start regulating cable rates again in order to save local television programming, CTVglobemedia president Ivan Fecan said Thursday.

GATINEAU, Que. — The time might be right to start regulating cable rates again in order to save local television programming, CTVglobemedia president Ivan Fecan said Thursday.

“I might ask, why everyone here in Canada is so afraid of cable,” Fecan said at a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hearing.

Fecan and others such as Canwest Global and the CBC want the CRTC to let them charge cable companies for the right to carry their signals, something called fee for carriage. The cable companies say if they have to pay, subscribers will see higher bills.

Fecan wants the regulator to step in on behalf of consumers, pointing out that cable costs have been regulated in the United States.

“If the (cable and satellite companies) insist on holding subscribers hostage, perhaps it’s time to regulate basic cable rates again,” Fecan said

Rogers Communications vice-chairman Phil Lind warned earlier this week that if cable firms are forced to pay fees for conventional TV stations, they should have the choice of whether to carry them at all.

Broadcasters would also like to see regulators take action on the transmission of American signals, which are allowed on the cable dial but compete directly with Canadian stations who pay to broadcast the same shows and are fighting for ad dollars.

Thursday’s appearance was the third time in a week that Fecan has made an impassioned public plea for government and regulatory help. His company is set to close local stations in Brandon, Man. and in Windsor and Wingham, Ont., and Fecan said if the situation is not improved, more stations could end up closing.

“This is not a cash grab or greed from a private broadcaster, this is real. We’re not bluffing.”

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