Speaking today at the Let’s Talk TV public hearings, organized by the CRTC as part of a large-scale consultation on the future of Canada’s television system, Pierre Dion, President and CEO of Quebecor, called on the CRTC to move quickly to lighten the regulatory burden on Canadian broadcasting companies and allow them the greatest possible flexibility.
Mr. Dion began by stressing that these changes are needed to, among other things, meet the mounting pressure from foreign over-the-top (OTT) services on Canada’s traditional players.
While traditional Canadian companies are subject to a long list of regulatory constraints, foreign OTTs are entirely free of all regulation. To be able to compete with foreign OTT services on a level playing field, we need, more than ever, for the Commission to let us operate as flexibly as possible so that we can respond to the demand from our customers and viewers. If the Commission fails to act swiftly after this proceeding, a service such as Netflix will become not only one of the largest distributors of media content in Canada but also one of the country’s largest broadcasters in the near future.
Mr. Dion also addressed issues of choice and programming availability. He argued that Canadian cable companies need flexibility and manoeuvring room:
The Commission should regulate neither the composition of basic service, nor its price, nor package sizes if it really wants cable providers to offer consumers greater flexibility and choice.
On the subject of the “build-your-own-package” model, Mr. Dion recalled that Videotron pioneered the approach, when it introduced the option for its customers without being forced to do so by regulation. Noting the difficulties entailed by any regulation, he stated:
The build-your-own-package model rests on a very fragile balance from a business point of view. To make it profitable for both cable companies and broadcasters, its impact must be shared fairly by the parties. In other words, if customers are allowed to choose and there is less demand for a given channel, it would be illogical and unfair for the loss to be borne by the cable company alone.
To foster diversity in programming and encourage existing Canadian services to innovate and become more competitive,
genre exclusivity and the related practice of mandatory carriage must be eliminated, said Mr. Dion.
Citing the example of two of Videotron's most innovative services, illico on Demand and Club illico, Mr. Dion added:
To maximize and enhance their content offerings, these video on demand services should no longer be prohibited from competing directly with protected genre services such as Super Écran or from carrying exclusive content, regulatory language with which foreign OTT services are wholly unfamiliar.
Pierre Dion concluded his argument in favour of deregulating Canadian broadcasting companies with these words:
We must learn from the example of the music industry and accelerate the deregulation of Canadian broadcasting companies if we do not want our broadcasting system to disappear. Consumers would be the big losers and foreign OTT services would be the winners.