Hey CRTC, Let’s Talk TV Documentaries

How would “pick-and-pay” impact the production of Canadian documentaries?

Let’s Talk TV


This is the final week of CRTC-hosted hearings in Ottawa called “Let’s Talk TV” – intended to consider a variety of viewpoints from the broadcast media industry and concerned Canadians. The CRTC is collecting feedback on new proposals that could change how people watch and what people watch on television. It’s the right time to think about how Canadian-made documentaries and factual entertainment could be affected.

Such proposals like “pick-and-pay” or “skinny basic” cable packages might seem to favour the consumer, however, if enforced these new options may not necessarily reduce the cost of cable subscriptions or service delivery.

What the adoption of pick-and-pay will likely deliver is less choice. Channels without mass-viewership, like the Documentary channel, will not be able to compete. Adopting pick-and-pay would accentuate what programming gets seen and what doesn’t. Sure the popular shows and the large broadcasters will thrive in this system, but what happens to the small audience channels? These are the broadcasters taking risks on diverse Canadian programming and thoughtful factual entertainment who rely on subscriptions, not advertising.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, doesn’t seem too worried about consequences. He is backing pick-and-pay saying his government supports “letting Canadians choose to pay for the TV channels they actually want.”

The Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) has a mandate to protect the interests of Canadian documentary makers, and this Friday they will do just that. DOC Executive Director Lisa Fitzgibbons will be presenting on September 19, the last day of the hearings. While we don’t know all her talking points, we are confident she will say that there continues to be a need for improved regulation to ensure that Canadians have the choice to watch Canadian documentaries on TV, on the web or on mobile devices.

We join DOC and other concerned individuals and groups in encouraging the CRTC to regulate in ways that protect documentary producers and broadcasters in Canada.