TV Wars

TV SetShaw Communications Inc. is running a series of print, tv and online notices bemoaning the fact that Global TV, CTV and CBC are demanding fees to carry their broadcasts and asking for the public’s support. The broadcasters have been turned down twice by the CRTC and are taking another kick at the can in the hopes of extracting an additional 6 bucks per month from cable subscribers for their marginal programming. To be honest, I watch very little local content and am content with the high quality programming on HBO Canada and a few of the specialty channels. Shaw Communications and Rogers Communications evenly divided the cable television pie years ago, one controlling cable in western Canada and the other in eastern Canada (I still can’t believe that was actually legal). Now we’re expected to get behind these multi-billion dollar companies and demand the CRTC support their position? Nope. I support neither the broadcasters nor the cable companies as both offer sub par services for premium fees.

Our Shaw cable bill presently tops $170 per month which includes three cable outlets and our internet access, but their phone support is one of the worst I’ve ever encountered. Trying to get them to fix any issues or reverse fees for poor quality service is a study in perseverance. The Shaw On Demand service is sketchy and can freeze or stop a movie for no apparent reason. Somehow the billing system always works though. Try getting on the phone to complain and I can guarantee at least 45 minutes on hold listening to their annoying sales pitches and self congratulatory drivel.

The local TV stations offer second or third rate programming with most broadcasts inundated with commercials every 6-8 minutes. They even have the audacity to override US hi-def programming, plaster their annoying logos over the original broadcaster’s in the bottom right of the screen (why do we need to be reminded what channel we’re watching anyway?!?) and replace the original commercials with their own. One of the reasons I enjoyed hi-def broadcasts was that I could see shows as they were meant to be viewed not butchered to include as many local used car and lottery commercials as possible, most of which repeat incessantly during a single program.

This latest skirmish comes down to greed and fear. The cable carrier monopolies don’t want to be charged for carrying a signal that’s been provided free for years and the broadcasters are looking for new bailout revenue streams which will undoubtedly be provided by long suffering consumers. Who’s right? Neither in my view. I say provide us with quality programming and service then talk to us about raising the rates. Until then, shut up and stop picking our pockets.

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