CRTC Finally Takes Serious Steps Toward Unbundling Canadian Television Channels

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is working toward a bundle-free future for Canadian television watchers.

With so-called “cord-cutting” Canadians ditching cable at alarming rates, the CRTC’s latest move looks to reverse this trend by “unbundling” TV channels.

However, cable companies probably won’t be estatic about these new rules, which will be phased in gradually, but the CRTC’s decision reflects a growing change in how Canadians watch TV and what they expect from their providers.

“Today’s decision is not about making choices for Canadians,” CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement. “Rather, it is about setting out a roadmap to give all Canadians the freedom to choose the television content that meets their unique needs, budgets and realities – which can even include free, over-the-air television stations.”

By March 2016, all TV providers must offer smaller, basic packages that cost no more than $25 per month. These packages must include all local and regional stations, public interest channels, education and community channels, and provincial legislature networks. Distributors can, of course, add more content, but they cannot raise the price.

By December 2016, all channels outside of the aforementioned basic package must be available individually or in small, themed packages.

The CRTC also implemented a code of conduct. This code will govern the relationship between distributors and broadcasters.

“These new rules are a big step in the right direction, although it’s a pity the CRTC is still giving preferential access to the telecom giants,” said OpenMedia campaign manager Josh Tabish in response to the news. “Nobody should be forced to subsidize outdated Big Telecom TV services in order to access publicly-funded media.”