Regulator wants viewers to talk about the future of Canadian television

OTTAWA – The country’s broadcast regulator wants Canadians to help it predict the future of the ever-evolving television industry.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has opened what it hopes will be a month-long dialogue among Canadians about how they watch TV.

In particular, the regulator urges participants to imagine how they’d like to watch television in the future.

CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais says he understands that viewing habits have already been dramatically altered through the distribution of programming online and on wireless devices.

But what about the future?

“Many still enjoy network-scheduled programming on their TV sets, but the viewing habits of many others are changing,” Blais said in a statement.

“Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians, is an opportunity for all Canadians to tell us what they think of their television system and how they would like to see it changed.”

The “Let’s Talk TV” campaign will certainly also focus on the Harper government’s proposal to introduce so-called pick-and-pay cable and satellite television services, aimed at allowing subscribers to select and pay for individual channels.

Last week’s speech from the throne outlined how the government wants Canadians to be able to choose the channels they want to watch, without having to pay for the ones they don’t.

The CRTC expects it’ll get an earful on the issue, said Blais.

“We’ve been hearing some frustration from Canadians for some time about the costs of cable and satellite,” he said.

“So I wouldn’t be surprised if Canadians came to our conversation and raised issues related to that as well.”

The regulator wants to hear by Nov. 22 what people think about what’s on TV, how they receive programming and whether they have enough information to make good viewing choices.

And it’s hoping participants will bring their friends into the conversation by hosting volunteer events known as “Flash” conferences. The CRTC even provides a “kit” on its website to help people arrange for such gatherings. (

The regulator will then conduct a formal review of the television system by next spring and hold public hearings in September 2014.

To promote its most recent public dialogue, the CRTC is urging TV stations to air public service announcements about it.

It’s also pushing the discussion online, with a video flagged on social media websites describing the current state of play in the television industry.

The video points to how one third of Canadians already watch TV over the Internet — and about one in 20 view programs on a mobile device.

The CRTC says that’s on top of the 28 hours every week, on average, that each Canadian spends watching conventional television.

Blais said he hopes people “think outside the box” when it comes to the future of television, to help the CRTC come up with regulations that can be valid a decade from now, or even longer.

“It’ll be an evolution over time and that’s why we want to get ahead of the curve and think about what will happen over the next 10 years,” he said.

“(We want to) make sure that we have a framework that’s adaptive and evolutionary, that follows the pace of change.”

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