Canadian regulators to rule on broadcast TV fees

The U.S. isn't the only place where broadcasters see cable as a way to shore up sagging revenues. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is expected to rule as early as today on whether broadcasters should get more from cable operators for their programming.

Because of a 2008 CRTC decision, some consumers already pay a local programming fee, but the CRTC has also rejected a broadcaster fee-for-carriage scheme twice. The latest dispute comes during a recession that hit Canadian broadcasters particularly hard, causing several Canwest Global Communications and CTVglobemedia small market stations to shut down.

If the ruling goes through, consumers can expect the cable operators to pass along the rate increases as part of their cable bills, and this would be "a tax on everybody," said Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers Association of Canada, which naturally opposes the fees.

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