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September 16, 2014

Rose Simpson: Pay TV, Canadian style



Rose Simpson's column appears Tuesday mornings on the OttawaStart Blog. She also blogs at Rose's Cantina. You can read her previous columns here.

Did you hear the head honchos from CBC at the CRTC?
Usually, the CRTC hearings are dry affairs, so you can be excused for not paying attention, but these hearings are both entertaining and important because they will determine how much you will pay for cable service and whether or not you get to "pick and pay" for the services and channels you actually want.
Like the executives at all the other for-profit television networks, the CBC brass are saying that they believe Canadians will pay to subscribe to the nation's broadcaster. The CBC is different, of course, because it is, for the most part, funded by you and me....

Wait, wait.
So the CBC is saying we will be happy to pay to subscribe to the CBC and yet we are already paying for the CBC.
Huh.
That's stupid, isn't it.?
Public television in the United States is, indeed, paid for by subscribers and also appears as part of a cable package. I watch PBS to see who will die on Downton Abbey as determined by the players who didn't want to renew their contracts. I also watch Mr. Selfridge because I like Jeremy Piven.
But I don't succumb to the siren call of the nerds sitting on card chairs asking me to donate to public television. Lots of people -- rich people, mostly -- do contribute to public television, and I thank them for their contribution.
The CBC could try the same tactic, 24-hour fundraising, but you know it won't do that when it can get the money from the taxpayer. Hell, the CBC even balks at the mere thought of advertising.
Now, I like the CBC and I'm friends with it, not in a formal sense like some like-minded people do who want to associate with it. But I like it.
I like Peter Mansbridge and I watch his show every night he's on, though I turn the news off when I see Wendy Mesley. And Evan Solomon. I also like Rick Mercer, no, that's not true. I don't like the current Rick Mercer who has become little more than a pitchman for Tourism Canada.
I like the old Rick Mercer and the old This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
So I don't watch either.
Reruns of Just for Laughs, again paid for by the taxpayer and all her credits, are also pretty good.
But I can also watch them on the Comedy Network.
So it's the National, I watch. That's it.
Now Peter is looking like he's getting ready to get out the old fishing rod, and volunteer as a stagehand at the Stratford Festival, supporting his wife Cynthia Dale's dubious career, so I'm trying not to be too attached to him.
Which leaves me, as a television viewer, in this spot.
If all I'm watching of the CBC is the National and Peter retires, will I be happy to pay a subscriber fee to get the CBC?
No.
Besides, it's kind of a weird question because I'm already paying for cable and I'm paying through both my nostrils. The whole point of pick and pay is to reduce my cable bill and these yahoos are saying I should be paying more for it.
Here's what Canadians want, I believe.
We want to stop paying ridiculous cable bills that are almost as much as our mortgage payment.
We don't really give a rat's ass about Canadian culture, anymore.
We want to pay just for what we watch, and let's face it, a lot of Canadians -- fair minded, intelligent, ethical people -- are not even prepared to pay for that.
Most people I know steal their television by downloading it.
I don't agree with that just as I don't agree with stealing music or anything else that somebody took the trouble to make.
I'm happy to pay for the basic channels ($40), and a handful of others, like the Food Network, HBO, A&E, Bravo and TSN for the tennis. That's pretty much it.
I never want to see another French channel, twelve more sports channels, and all those lifestyle channels that feature gardening and saying "yes" to the dress, and Duck Dynasty.
As far as subscriptions are concerned, I feel I'm covered just by paying my damned cable bill.
Now I'd like to address the concerns of all the television producers who are squawking that if we get rid of the specialty channels, it will be the end of television production in Canada as we know it. I could see that argument if we were funding fine productions like Downtown Abbey. But we're not.
We're funding reality shows about moving houses, repairing leaky basements and where to plant the best azaleas. Oh yes, we're also funding a shitload of Lifetime movies destined for the U.S. and cop shows that the American networks use as fillers during the summer.
Like Rookie Blue on CBS? You'd better; you paid for it.
I don't know about you, but I am not prepared to subsidize this drivel. Television producers who make this drivel on our dime should be stopped. I don't think I'm alone in saying this.
And I dream of a day I don't have to spend half my night scrawling up and down the dial, zooming past 57 channels with nothing on.
I will be happy to pay for the CBC as part of a basic package on my cable bill ($40).
But I won't pay more for it.
I need that money to pay for Super Channel for six months so I can watch Homeland.

-- Rose Simpson
See also: Ottawa Television Guide
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