The cable and satellite TV providers have been running a PR campaign for a while now to garner opposition to the new bill that would require them to charge a monthly fee to be paid to local broadcasters for carrying their content.
It all makes perfect sense, and people are right to oppose the bill. Right now, they're carrying signals on their services that are free over the air as a convenience to their customers.
The broadcasters want to be paid for this, which up until now they haven't been.
Basically, they want to be paid for something they are already providing for free over the air, and you'd think that the increased audience that the cable and satellite providers are giving them would be payment enough. I suppose you can make an argument either way, but the fact is that for all these years this has been standard practice and to suddenly hit us up with a fee for it would basically amount to robbery.
Now the reason for this post is that I've just seen the rebuttle ad by the broadcasters, trying to curry favour for the bill. They made me laugh.
The format is essentially the same. They're "interviewing" some people on the street to make it look like it's only common sense that we should all start paying $10 a month into their coffers. They make note that the providers are paying huge amounts of money to US broadcasters to carry their channels, and implies that it's a travesty that they're not paying the same to our poor, abused, local broadcasters.
The problem here is that if I unplug my cable and use a set of bunny ears on my TV, I won't have access to any of those channels that the cable companies are paying to carry. By doing so, they're providing me with a service that I otherwise wouldn't have.
This isn't the case with the local broadcasters. If I switch to the antenna, I can get those for free, and probably with a better signal (uncompressed) than I'm getting over the cable. The whole business model for local broadcasting has to do with people watching them. If nobody watches, they don't make money, so having providers carry their signals is a benefit.
Now, if they think people will pay for their content, why aren't they selling their service to providers in the US, or in markets across Canada where they're not broadcasting? Will nobody pay them for it? They should ask themselves why!
I can only hope that if this stupid bill gets passed, the cable companies will start carrying all the local broadcasters as a specialty package that I can opt out of if I want. I'm sure that will impress their advertisers to know that they've thrown out a huge portion of their audience.
Sure, I'll still be able to pick them up over the antenna… but let's be honest. For the most part, I probably just won't bother.