It's Friday–so kick back and watch the CRTC

March 20: The regulator unveils new restrictions on charges for bundled TV packages, plus, gender equality on Canadian boards is still coming up very short

MORNING-PLAYBOOK-STORYWhat do you really want to watch on TV?

That’s the question the Canadian broadcast regulator has been mulling this week, as it moves to restrict “bundles” of TV packages for subscribers as part of a broader overhaul of Canadian TV. The move is great for consumer choice (sick of paying for channels you never watch?) but could result in higher Internet prices or cutbacks for broadcasters.

This morning, the impact of oil on Albertans continues, as high consumer debts threaten to catch up with a province that has high wages, but is now bearing the brunt of the oil rout. Household debt in the province is almost $50,000 higher than the country-wide average, according to BMO. This morning, oil is around $43.44, after a sharp drop yesterday due to news of ever-increasing oil reserves weighed out a boost from the Fed’s interest-rate statement.

The Fed’s dropping the word “patient”—but little else—earlier this week continues to reverberate, producing a good-news-is-bad-news dynamic, as markets struggle to decide what is better: a strengthening of the American economy or a hiking of interest rates. After a quick drop, the greenback was already strengthening yesterday, with the Loonie losing almost a cent, and the TSX losing almost 90 points.

On today’s calendar, we have inflation numbers for Canada for February, as well as retail sales for January. Otherwise, the calendar is quiet, which leaves lots of time to watch the haggling in Brussels over Greece’s next step, and to contemplate the stockpiling of Russian toilets in central Asia (more on that below).

Canadian TV gets a shake-up. As part of a broader review of the picture for Canadian TV, including Canadian content rules, the CRTC ruled that consumers must have access to basic “pick-and-pay” TV packages. Currently, packages come with channels you want, and some, inevitably, that you do not. Basic packages will be set at $25, with add-on options on top of that. How much this will affect telecommunications companies, including Telus, Rogers and Shaw, will depend on how much of their business comes from content production, and how much from distribution, said one analyst to the Globe, with the larger companies likely hiking the rates of other services—say, Internet—in order to make up costs. Broadcasters, on the other hand, could feel the pinch more quickly. The announcement is just the latest by the CRTC on how Canadian TV will change, including allowing American commercials during the Super Bowl and throwing away Canadian content requirements for daytime TV (but keeping the 50 per cent requirement for prime-time viewing). Why the sudden overhaul? As viewing habits have changed—Netflix, anyone?—the CRTC is trying to prod the industry toward the new viewing habits and digital options for younger viewers. (As an example, I haven’t owned or regularly watched a physical TV since 2007.)

There are more women in top spots—but it’s still less than 10 per cent. A new study by a search firm has examined the number of women in top roles in Canada’s top 100 listed companies, and the number has come out . . . low. The firm says 8.5 per cent of the highest-paid jobs in these companies are held by women; that equals 45 women, eight of them CEOs. There’s been progress, as that number has near doubled from nine years ago, but it’s hard to say it’s significant.

In a study by the Ontario Securities Commission last year, which has tried to push a “comply and explain” approach to getting more gender equality on boards, instead of quotas, the disparity remained stark. Of all the TSX listed companies, only three companies’ boards were half and half. In fact, of all these companies, 28 per cent had just one woman on their boards, while 57 per cent of those companies had no female directors. On the S&P 500 (not typically a harbinger of gender equality), 95 per cent had at least one woman on their board. (Bloomberg has a good take on the stats.) This, despite mounting evidence that gender equality—in fact, diversity in general, of race, background, and class—is not tokenism, but, in fact, good business sense, as these companies tend to perform better over the long term. If those numbers still aren’t sinking in, here’s a fun fact we talked about a few weeks ago: When it comes to the S&P’s CEOs, there are more men named John running companies than there are women (of any name.) Think this difference has to do with a shortage of good female candidates? Interesting idea. But while there is a gender gap at Canadian business schools, it’s simply not that extreme, with the typical numbers at 30 to 40 per cent women in the incoming class. What we do see is a gap that starts very early: A study from last year found that female Canadian MBA graduates make an average of $8,000 less than their male colleagues at their first job.

Greece is trying to reassure Brussels it has the money to pay its debts. You can feel the tension bristling, when it comes to the Greek question, as the country’s creditors urge the government to open its books (no one is quite sure how bad Greece’s situation really is), and Greece tells its creditors to back off. That would be awkward under normal circumstances, but Greece has a lineup of looming debt payments, and the crucial funds appear to be tied up in the ECB loans dependent on economic reforms. Last night and today, Alexis Tsipras has been reassuring a frustrated Germany that they both have the funds, and will present the plans to enact those reforms, but reform proposals in the recent rounds have come up short by eurozone standards.

Stock up here for Russian toilets. While the ruble has suffered a precipitous fall due to sanctions over Ukraine and tumbling oil prices, dropping almost 40 per cent during December’s volatility, the benefits haven’t just gone to Finnish petrol tourists. Central Asian importers and shoppers, particularly in Kazakhstan, went on a car and smartphone shopping spree, and stocked up on goods including tiles and, yes, toilets. Kazakhs and Belarusians bought a major chunk of all the cars bought in the last two months of the year in Russia. But despite demand for products in central Asia, it likely won’t be enough to prop up the country’s exports, nor prevent the country’s recession from rippling out to neighbouring countries.

Need to know: 
TSX: 14,873.93 (+88.31), Thursday
Loonie: 78.58 (-0.97), Thursday
Oil (WTI): $43.44, Friday morning