By Badri Murali
Two Ryerson faculty members testified earlier this week at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Let’s Talk TV Hearing on certain proposals for a new national framework on the way Canadians access television.
Gregory Taylor, the principal investigator at the Canadian Spectrum Policy Research (a research project based out of Ryerson University), and Irene Berkowitz, an instructor at Ted Rogers School of Management, both testified at the hearings on different topics. The hearings were held in Gatineau, Quebec from Sept. 5 to Sept. 19.
One of the most hotly debated proposals was that of “pick and pay.”
Pick and pay would allow Canadians to only choose and pay for the channels that they want, instead of subscribing to a package offered by cable and satellite providers.
Taylor spoke on Sept. 16. He said that while it sounds like pick and pay is a better option for consumers, it is important to understand the far-reaching consequences of such a system.
“If we were to go to that system, a lot of those channels that people don’t order would have to close and be shut down … if they’re not a part of a package with a big player [like CNN or TSN], some of those smaller stations would have to close,” said Taylor.
Taylor said that Ryerson students particularly should be concerned because content production is a part of certain program’s curriculum. The Radio and Television Arts School of Media, Creative Industries and Journalism are just a few programs in the Faculty of Communication and Design that have courses which teach students how to produce content.
“Whether you’re a writer, an actor, or whether you want to direct or produce … this will affect how many opportunities you have to get your work out there,” said Taylor.
The CRTC is also looking to shut down over-the-air television signals, which Taylor spoke out against.
“What many people don’t realize is that television is still available across many Canadian cities using just an antenna attached to your TV. What some broadcasters, including the CBC, are saying is that they want to shut down over the air entirely,” said Taylor.
Berkowitz also spoke against pick and pay on Sept. 9. She said that the current system allows for smaller channels with more Canadian content to get some exposure.
She also said that it is important for Canadian producers to start focusing on making hit shows that cater to the demands of audiences, instead of solely creating content.
“Let’s pivot our goal from domestic supply to global demand. Content is not king, hit content is king … popularity is its sole business model,” said Berkowitz at the hearing.
Any changes to television accessibility are expected to be announced sometime in 2015, after processing all public output.