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Shaw to CRTC: Say no to blanket ban on exclusive deals on content

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 8:05am
The Canadian Press

GATINEAU, Que. – Federal regulators should not impose a blanket ban on exclusive deals for content on new platforms like smartphones and tablets, Shaw Communications told CRTC hearings Wednesday.

Though Shaw prefers non-exclusive deals, the company told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that current rules are enough to prevent anti-competitive activity.

"We strongly recommend the adoption of a regulator framework that is consistent with the principles of customer choice, flexibility and symmetry," Shaw CEO Brad Shaw told the commission in his opening remarks.

Shaw, already Western Canada's biggest cable provider, bought 11 former CanWest TV stations and some specialty channels last year for $2 billion. The company is also planning to launch a wireless service.

The CRTC has already heard from BCE, Telus, Rogers and Quebecor at the hearings into the ownership of television channels by the big cable and satellite companies.

Both BCE and Quebecor have called for fewer rules and for the regulator to allow exclusive deals for content on new devices like smartphones and tablets.

They say that exclusive deals help drive innovation in the industry.

However, Rogers and Telus have lined up on the opposite side and called for the regulator to block exclusive deals for content on the new platforms.

In its presentation on Tuesday, Telus argued that competition, not exclusivity, is what drives innovation.

In recent years, much of Canada's private broadcasting sector has been swallowed up by a handful of big cable and satellite companies, which also own the major wireless networks in the country.

And as Canadians turn to online sources and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to watch television, what is available is becoming an issue, as consumers want to see it using whatever they have, whenever they want, no matter who holds the rights.

CRTC Chairman Konrad von Finckenstein has said independent distribution and programming services have raised concerns that rules are needed to prevent anti-competitive behavior.

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