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The Sun News issue, from a sports fan’s perspective: what gives, #CRTC?

You can be forgiven if you’re only now remotely aware there’s a thing called Sun News, nevermind that it has an axe to grind with the CRTC. Its issue, which is a fair one insofar as there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell the playing field will change in the near future, is it’s not on the list of TV stations that are required carried on basic cable. Other all news stations, however, such as CTV News Channel, have been required on basic cable for years. Sun News would like to have that fixed. Level the playing field, they’ll call it. Which is accurate, if in the wrong direction.

To be completely fair, I’ve never watched Sun News. I don’t even know if the service I’ll be getting next month would entitle me to watch Sun News–although, more than likely not. So I wouldn’t know if its content would or wouldn’t be worthy of being required carried on basic cable–whatever that means these days. but I do know we shouldn’t even need to be having this conversation. because there shouldn’t need to *be* required carry channels.

Let’s look at it through this lense. I don’t watch that much TV–even when I do actually pay for the service. My honest to goodness TV watching consists of Hockey Night in Canada (except for this year) on CBC,, flipping to TSN, or Sportsnet. Occasionally, I’ll swing past CTV–if, as is sometimes the case, they’re airing something I haven’t gotten my hands on yet by way of alternate means. But more often than not, if I’m watching TV, I’m not sitting in front of my TV to do it. Political stuff, when I decide to watch a debate or somesuch live, I can usually get online. Movies, TV shows and the like–well, uh, yeah. Got it covered. If you have to guess how, still, you need you some rereading of older posts. It’s just the live sports content that keeps me glooed to cable. for 3–or 4, if you want to push things–channels, Rogers wants to charge me at least $50. And that’s before you add in anything interesting, like the Gameshow Network–which we’ll need to be adding for the other one what lives with me now. And $50 is probably lowballing, only because I don’t have actual exact numbers staring me in the face. Still, $50. For half a dozen channels. Do explain?

The only reason I stick with cable for live sports is really, if we’re being realistic, even at $50 for half a dozen channels it’s still far cheaper, and far less restrictive, than the halfway offerings by the leagues themselves–which, given I follow both baseball and–maybe again in the future–hockey, would work out to costing me nearly twice as much just for those two. And again, because they like to do this to their fans, you run the risk of not being able to actually tune in the *local* broadcast of the games to boot.

In the entry linked above, I called out the leagues-with help from a writer over at Techdirt for what they’re offering–or rather, what they’re not offering. But when I flip through doing the kind of math that leads me to my cable bill for the month, even that starts to look good. When I also factor in that outside of Hockey Night in Canada, there’s not much on some of the channels I’m forced to accept in order to get the 3 or 4 I do, I really can’t help but have the very wee small suspicion that maybe I’m being just a little teeny tiny bit ripped off.

The incredibly sad part about this mess? If the CRTC was interested, they could stick a fork in debates like this with one decision. Eliminate the entire concept of channels required to be carried on basic cable. Eliminate the entire concept of cable packages–basic, or otherwise. If John Q. Busy only ever has time to flip on CTV Toronto for the news while he has himself a supper, then let John Q. Busy pay for CTV Toronto out of pocket. Does he really need TSN, YTV, Fox and the like to go along with it? It’s not like he watches them, after all. On a more personal front, I had a couple TLC channels on a package I used to have, back when I used to watch more TV. But I never watched them. In fact, I forgot I had them until somebody what had working eyes was scrolling through the channel guide one afternoon. If I’d known a friend of mine who does watch them fairly regularly back then, the outcome would have been different. But as it was, when my company left I called up the cable guys, figured out which package threw those channels at me and very nearly tossed it–until I heard it included Sportsnet. Then I asked the poor sap on the other end of the phone who in their right mind puts a Sportsnet in the same package as a TLC in the first damn place. At least make them vaguely related, guys.

Cable and satelite companies have channels you can purchase individually already. NHL Center Ice is one such. The NHL Network, which I’m pretty sure has a couple of channels, is another. Your favourite sports team probably has one. They’re not part of any package. You make a phone call, you say I want $channel, and on your next bill the $2 or $3 it’ll cost you for $channel for that month says hello. They have the technology. So why are we still paying $50 for half a dozen channels? And why is the CRTC so scared to fix that? I’d be interested in the answer to that million dollar question–preferably, without the political talking points. I’d also be interested in a lower cable bill. So, CRTC, what gives?

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