CRTC unveils new proposal to make TV service contracts easier to understand

OTTAWA — Canada’s broadcast regulator issued its final thrust Thursday in a series of moves aimed at positioning consumers “in the driver’s seat,” ahead of the country’s broadcasters, offering up a draft code that would require cable and satellite companies to make customer contracts easier to understand.Broadcast service providers would also have to more clearly spell out fees and policies surrounding early contract cancellations and adding or removing individual channels under the code.In issuing the proposed code, the CRTC also said it expects closed captioning services for Canadians with disabilities, already available through regular television programming, to be included free of charge when those programs are broadcast online and on mobile devices.And it said described video — a talk-over service for visually impaired viewers — must be expanded, with a requirement that all programs aired between 7 and 11 p.m. include the service by September 2019.“Canadians will have access to compelling television content, the freedom to choose the content that meets their needs and tools to navigate a dynamic marketplace,” Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said.“They are now in the driver’s seat.”The CRTC received more than 13,000 submissions from individuals, interest groups and industry players since it launched a wide-ranging consultation process called Let’s Talk TV in 2013.From the get-go, the commission made clear its decisions would move regulation in a more consumer-friendly direction, away from favouring the commercial marketplace.It should come as no surprise, said John Lawson of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, given statements made by Blais when he was named by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to head up the regulatory body in June 2012.Terence Corcoran: CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais’ off-key, misguided ‘statement’CRTC chairman says report Bell manipulated news coverage ‘disturbing’CRTC’s mandatory pick-and-pay TV aims to give Canadians more choice, but is it too little too late?“When he was first appointed, he did a number of interviews and quite clearly said ’I’m here to do consumer stuff’,” said Lawson.It’s a welcome change for consumer advocacy groups like OpenMedia, which have been encouraging a change in direction since the days when former CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein declared in a public hearing that “citizen comments and concerns are out of scope” with the regulator’s mandate.“There’s definitely been a cultural change,” said OpenMedia campaign coordinator Josh Tabish.“That being said, they still have a long way to go to improve things.”Still, the decisions have sparked disappointment and even outrage on the part of some broadcasters.But they are not intended to invoke a negative reaction from industry, said Scott Hutton, the CRTC’s executive director, broadcasting.“It’s not putting down companies,” said Hutton.“It’s essentially looking at the Broadcasting Act and ensuring that everyone who is in the industry and everyone who should benefit from those objectives . . . get something out of it.”The TV code proposal follows on other recent CRTC directives that prohibited 30-day cancellation policies and required cable and satellite services to offer individual channel selection on top of a trimmed-down, lower-cost basic TV service.The regulator also announced a dramatic overhaul of what some critics had complained were protectionist rules governing the amount of Canadian television programming.The CRTC said last month it was eliminating the 55% daytime quota for Canadian programs that local TV stations must broadcast, but maintaining rules requiring that broadcasters spend to produce Canadian content.Thursday’s proposed code also comes on the heels of a dispute that went public this week between the president of Bell Media and Blais over the regulator’s so-called “pick-and-pay” system.The spat erupted after Blais announced the so-called “pick-and-pay” model for TV service.The Globe and Mail reported that, shortly after Blais released the decision last week, the president of Bell Media intervened to exclude the regulator from news coverage on CTV, the country’s largest private broadcaster which is owned by Bell Media parent BCE Inc.It was just the latest in a series of bitter disputes between Bell companies and the CRTC.Industry watchers say Bell, unlike most other telecom companies in Canada, is worried that the CRTC’s consumer-friendly approach is hurting its bottom line. And for good reason, say consumer advocates.“Bell has more to get mad about,” said Lawson.“They’re behemoth-sized,” he said, pointing out that Bell has moved over the years from being a telephone company to what is now one of the largest vertically-integrated firms in the country with business holdings in TV networks, satellite distribution, newspapers, cellular services as well as traditional landline phones.The regulator is accepting public comments on the draft TV service code until May 25.It wants to know what information consumers are looking for from cable and satellite providers when they sign up for service.It’s also asking how much notice cable and satellite companies should give customers before hiking prices and what constitutes a “reasonable time frame” for service calls. read more

Theresa May is preparing to abandon plans for a British Bill of

first_imgTheresa May is preparing to abandon plans for a British Bill of Rights after Britain leaves the European Union, Government sources have suggested.Ministers have confirmed that the Government’s plans to scrap the Human Rights Act have been shelved until after Brexit.However sources told The Daily Telegraph that the plans may now be abandoned entirely because Brexit will significantly strengthen the sovereignty of British courts.They also highlighted the Brexit judgement by the Supreme Court earlier this week which made clear that Britain will no longer be subject to European Court of Justice rulings after Brexit. He said: “If they dropped the whole thing it would be deeply disappointing because the problem is there and it would not go away.”The European Court of Human Rights is not an EU institution and we will still be subject to its jurisdiction after we leave the EU. We can get Brexit out of the way then come back to think about it again.”Mrs May, who served as Home Secretary from 2010 to 2016, spoke in the past of her desire to quit the ECHR, which frustrated her plans to extradite the hate preacher Abu Qatada.In April, Mrs May said: “The ECHR can bind the hands of Parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals, and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights.”However during her leadership campaign Mrs May said pulling out of the ECHR was not something she could pursue in this Parliament because of the Conservative’s slim majority.The details of the Bill of Rights plans were drawn up by Michael Gove, the former justice secretary, who was sacked as part of Mrs May’s summer reshuffle. “But does my Right Honourable and Learned Friend agree that leaving the European Union and freeing the United Kingdom from the bonds of the charter of fundamental rights must be their top priority?”Sir Oliver replied: “I do agree with that. I think it important for us to sort out the EU side of matters, and the exit from the EU, before we return to that subject.”His comments suggest that a decision on whether to introduce a British Bill of Rights will not be made until after the General Election in 2020.However government sources said it is now unlikely to happen at all amid concerns that Mrs May could face a rebellion by Conservative MPs over the issue.Martin Howe QC, who has advised the Conservatives on plans to scrap the human rights act, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the suggestion that they could be dropped. Mrs May has also already pledged to end legal witch hunts against British soldiers by using existing exemptions to suspend human rights laws on the battlefield.David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, had vowed to scrap the human rights act and replace it with a British bill of rights to stop it being exploited by foreign criminals, terrorists and others.However Sir Oliver Heald, a justice minister, disclosed earlier this week that plans to scrap the human rights act – which were part of the Conservative manifesto – will be delayed until after Brexit.David Nuttall, a Conservative MP, asked Sir Oliver in the Commons: “It is of course right that our manifesto commitment to replace the Human Rights Act remains on the Government’s agenda. I think it important for us to sort out the EU side of matters, and the exit from the EU, before we return to that subjectSir Oliver Heald, a justice ministercenter_img David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, had vowed to scrap the human rights act and replace it with a British bill of rights to stop it being exploited by foreign criminals, terrorists and othersCredit:REUTERS/UK Parliament  David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, had vowed to scrap the human rights act and replace it with a British bill of rights to stop it being exploited by foreign criminals, terrorists and others Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more