I’ve been so inundated by ads telling me that Local TV Matters, or to Stop The TV Tax, that I finally hit my limit and had to say something.
Canadian networks, like CTV and Global, aren’t making as much money as they used to because – surprise! – their business model is collapsing. In their own words:
Although support from our viewers is strong, local television has been struggling financially for more than a decade, and now we have reached a critical point. Advertising revenues for local stations have decreased and the traditional model of free local television is unsustainable.
Their answer? Somebody else has to give them money. But they are very clear that this isn’t a bailout. They just want someone else to provide them a new revenue stream that they can’t generate themselves. Hmmm, that sure sounds like a bailout.They want cable subscribers to pay them for a product that would be free over the air, just because their model is now broken.
Actually, it sounds a lot like a tax. Cable companies should be forced to pay a portion of all of that money that they make to support local TV. Because local TV matters. Actually in their Facts section they never do get around to explaining why local TV matters. If they think that it is because I might want to watch shows like Flashpoint, Being Erica, Hockey Night in Canada, Entertainment Tonight Canada, Project Runway Canada, Dumont 360 and The Gemini Awards, then they are sorely mistaken.
They like to play a little fast and loose with the truth too:
As it now stands, local television stations give their product to cable and satellite companies for free (we are not allowed to charge them). They, in turn, charge their customers for our service, but pass on nothing to the local broadcasters. This despite the fact that the vast majority of our competitors do get paid by cable and satellite companies for their signal (called ’subscriber fees’).
Yes indeed, specialty channels that were created with subscriber fee models do indeed get subscriber fees.Broadcast television on the other hand was created with an advertising-paid model, thus the 7 minutes of commercial time per half hour show. Cable companies bill to cover two things: the cost of the wired network that delivers the programming to your home, and the subscriber fees for channels that use that model. They don’t charge me for local television service; they charge me to deliver bundles of channels in different tiers.
As a kid I lived a few miles from Buffalo, NY, and got all of my TV over the air.I’ve been a cable customer for over 30 years, primarily because where I’ve lived you simply couldn’t get that many channels over the air. I get the local channels, but the only reason I watch them is because they show American television shows like Big Bang Theory or Grey’s Anatomy. And that is only because when an American show is simulcast on a Canadian network, the cable company switches to the Canadian network, often screwing up a few minutes of the show, and forcing me to watch the Canadian commercials.
Imagine years of being forced to watch the Super Bowl with recycled Canadian commercials rather than the incredible American ones. Happily when we lived in the US we got to watch the real thing.
I may not have always been a happy cable subscriber. The prices have increased substantially, but they do provide a pretty decent selection of programming. But as far as I the viewer am concerned, the local TV networks have been getting a free ride on the cable system. I the customer am forced, without recourse, to watch the Canadian version of any show and the attendant commercials. Those networks get a captive audience, and therefore more ad revenue as a result of more Canadian eyeballs watching a particular TV show. And they sure aren’t watching Being Erica.
If Canadian networks want to force me to pay a TV tax for their programs – and make no mistake, that’s exactly what it is – then I demand the right to eliminate those channels from my cable lineup. I also demand that where a program is simulcast, I am allowed to watch it on the channel I choose.
Here’s my solution: For $10 per month, cable companies can provide a Local TV channel package option for subscribers. Subscribers can then either accept or drop that package option. After all, we are the ones that pay the bill in the end.
If Canadian networks really believe that people think that local TV matters, then they should be happy to allow customers to vote with their wallets.
For some reason though, I really don’t think that they’re interested in giving you and me that kind of choice.