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CRTC details pick-and-pay television plan

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has released details regarding its plan to allow consumers to subscribe to television channels individually. The commission announced this plan last August, saying Canadian consumers are frustrated that the basic packages offered by cable and satellite television providers have become too large and expensive.

According to the CRTC, by March 2016 viewers will be able to subscribe to an entry-level television service focusing on local and regional news channels for no more than $25 per month. By December 2016, they will be able to supplement this package with additional channels, chosen either individually or in small, "reasonably priced" bundles. They will have the option of choosing bundled based on a programming theme, such as sports, lifestyle or comedy. Consumers will also be able to keep their existing television service unchanged, if they desire. The commission claims this will maximize choice and affordability for consumers.

To support this plan, the CRTC has introduced a code of conduct for broadcasters and television service providers to clarify the terms and conditions of wholesale agreements. The code will be finalized by September.

"Today's decision is not about making choices for Canadians," said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC. "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. Each household will be able to find the right value proposition. These changes are being introduced in a responsible and measured way to mitigate the impact on the Canadian economy and jobs in the television industry. We recognize that broadcasters need time to adapt their business and programming strategies, while cable and satellite companies need to update their informatics systems. There is nothing, however, that would prevent them from offering Canadians greater choices ahead of the schedule outlined by the commission."

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