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A CRTC logo is shown in Montreal, Monday, September 10, 2012. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A CRTC logo is shown in Montreal, Monday, September 10, 2012.

(Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

CRTC plans include ‘pick-and-pay’ TV Add to ...

Canada’s broadcast regulator has issued broad new proposals that could, if adopted, dramatically alter how Canadians receive and pay for their television.

The proposals issued Thursday by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) include requiring cable and satellite providers to offer a basic service made up primarily of local Canadian channels – something CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais calls “skinny basic.”

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The CRTC is also proposing a so-called pick-and-pay structure that would allow Canadians to choose individual channels, on top of a basic service.

And it suggests the price of that basic service could be capped at between $20 and $30 per month.

The proposals, which have evolved through consultations with the public and industry over the past year, will likely result in a major departure from the current TV content delivery model, Mr. Blais said Thursday in an interview.

“How Canadians consume television content, what is television content, how technology is influencing that, is so significant that I expect out of this there’ll be considerable change,” he said.

But at least one consumer group says the CRTC hasn’t gone far enough and should allow Canadians a “pure choice.”

“What store do you walk into, or anywhere else, where you’re told you’ve got to buy certain things before you can buy what you want?” said Bruce Cran, president of the Consumers’ Association of Canada.

Consumers should be allowed to buy TV channels one at a time, without having to pay for a basic service, no matter how pared down, he said.

Still, Mr. Cran said he understands the CRTC has a mandate under the Broadcasting Act to ensure a certain amount of Canadian content, and that programming is delivered that reflects “Canadians to Canadians.”

Industry Minister James Moore first indicated in October that he’d like to see more choice for Canadian television consumers.

The government then laid out its plans to overhaul the country’s TV distribution system in its speech from the throne, which included a proposed “pick-and-pay” service structure.

Other proposals unveiled Thursday include requiring service providers to offer build-your-own channel packages or allowing them to continue offering the same packages that are currently on the market.

At the same time, the regulator proposes allowing local TV stations to shut down their transmitters – a move that might not sit well with consumers who prefer to get their TV programming over the air using antennas.

“It’s an idea that we want to explore,” said Mr. Blais, who stressed that the proposal is open for debate.

The regulator says it is giving the public until Sept. 19 to offer comments on the proposals online.

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