Weather alerts may get a lot more expensive
The federal broadcast regulator, the CRTC, is considering the packaging rules for cable and satellite distributors to take effect in the near future. The CRTC has ruled that when 85 per cent of a cable system’s customers have at least one TV set served by a digital cable box, then cable companies can remove services like The Weather Network and MétéoMédia from basic cable service and make them available only to TV sets that have a digital box.
It is proposed that cable systems be permitted to do this without permission of The Weather Network and MétéoMédia or that of the customer. If that happens, The Weather Network and MétéoMédia would no longer be accessible on every TV set, but only those with an extra digital box.
And the proposed rules go one step further: the cable company would be allowed to remove The Weather Network and MétéoMédia from basic service completely and require customers to take an extra “package” at an additional cost in order to continue receiving The Weather Network and MétéoMédia.
Pelmorex Communications Inc., the parent company of The Weather Network and MétéoMédia has applied to the CRTC to be exempt from these new rules and to require cable and satellite distributors to continue to distribute The Weather Network and/or MétéoMédia as part of the basic service package that is available to all subscribers. In that way Canadians anywhere in Canada can get weather and public safety information in the official language of their choice.
To accomplish this, Pelmorex Communications is asking the CRTC to issue an order to this effect under section 9(1) (h) of the Broadcasting Act. Additional information and complete details about the application are available at www.support.theweathernetwork.com
The company is asking for public support in this endeavor. The aim is to allow The Weather Network and MétéoMédia to continue to be a part of the basic service of cable and satellite distributors that consumers receive today. The public is urged to send a letter to the CRTC supporting this application to the CRTC by the March 8th deadline, because they will seriously consider public input before making a decision.
Four reasons to keep The Weather Network on basic cable television service
• The Weather Network is key to public safety, serving an unparalleled public safety role through its distribution of Environment Canada warnings and advisories.
• In addition to local weather warnings, this public safety service includes provincial road reports, air quality warnings and advisories, pollen reports, etc. and most recently provincial emergency warnings for New Brunswick, Québec and Ontario, with other provinces to be added soon.
Service to Canadians
• Individual local forecasts are provided to more 1,000 communities across Canada by satellite and cable. This service is essential to helping Canadians plan their day and their work, whether they live in major centers or remote areas. More than 10 million Canadians watch The Weather Network and/or MétéoMédia every week.
• In many communities, The Weather Network and/or MétéoMédia are the only broadcast source of local forecasts, alerts and road information, becoming their local broadcaster!
• Since its launch in 1989, the monthly fee for The Weather Network has dropped from 25 cents to 23 cents. The company has committed to the CRTC to further lower its rate to 20 cents a month if this application is approved. This is achievable only if the company can continue to spread our costs over a broad, stable subscriber base as part of the basic cable or satellite service.
• If this application to the CRTC is not successful, cable and satellite companies will be permitted to remove The Weather Network from the basic service package, bundle it with other services, and charge you more. That means you may have to pay several dollars extra just to continue receiving The Weather Network.
• CRTC regulation helps provide the same low “blended” rate to all cable and satellite distributors, small and large alike all across Canada. Repackaging by larger cable or satellite companies may end that. The loss of basic carriage in large markets such as Vancouver or Toronto would likely lead to higher rates in smaller markets like Cut Knife, Saskatchewan and Abitibi, QC to the benefit of no one.
Top Quality, Reliable Information
• Year after year, independent surveys show that The Weather Network ranks in the top five of all 100 plus Canadian specialty television services for consumer appreciation. And the company is committed to keep improving its forecasts and the quality and breadth of its weather and environmental data every year. But if the proposed rules lead to less subscribers – and revenue – cost cutting will affect planned improvements. (Unlike other channels, The Weather Network cannot just insert repeats of programs to lower costs!)
The deadline to write to the CRTC is March 8th, 2007.
For information on how to write a letter in support of keeping The Weather Network and MétéoMédia as part of basic cable television service, visit www.support.theweathernetwork.com.