Providing Choice for Optik TV Subscribers with respect to News Services

TELUS has always sought to maximize consumer choice in providing TV services.  Choice has been a hallmark of success of TELUS’ Optik TV service but it hasn’t come without significant challenges as I have discussed in an earlier blog.

We have long sought to offer the Sun News Network service to our subscribers in such a way that would enable our subscribers to choose to receive this news service, or not.  Sun News however has long lobbied the federal broadcast regulator (the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission or CRTC) for mandated distribution which would effectively force all TV subscribers to receive and pay for the Sun News service.  We strenuously argued against such an incursion on consumer choice and Sun News was denied its most recent request for mandatory distribution in a CRTC decision released last August.

However, in denying Sun News’ request, the CRTC launched a separate proceeding to look at the distribution of all Canadian National News Services.  In December 2013, the CRTC issued a revised regulatory policy for the distribution of news services.  We applaud the new rules which will ensure that even greater choice is provided to consumers.  Now all Canadian national news services must be offered on an à la carte basis (also referred to as distribution on a pick and pay basis), as well being offered as part of a package.  But most importantly, in its revised policy framework, the CRTC was clear that no TV distributor is required to offer any of these news services as part of the basic package (which is required to be purchased by all subscribers before subscribers can purchase any other broadcasting service and therefore the effect of being included in the basic package is that all subscribers are required to pay for the service unless the service is offered free to consumers as is the case for Russia Today which is included in Optik TV’s basic package).  Accordingly, by clarifying the point that Canadian news services are “discretionary”, not “mandatory” in the basic package, the CRTC has resolved an important sticking point which has thus far prevented the Sun News service from being offered to Optik TV subscribers.

We will be launching Sun News on an à la carte basis as soon as possible (any delays at this point are resultant of the fact that Sun News is experiencing some issues in providing a good quality signal to TELUS Optik TV).  The CRTC has set a deadline of March 19 for carriage by all TV distributors of all Canadian national news services.  We fully intend to meet that deadline and will also be making changes to the Optik TV theme pack(s) in the coming months in order to accommodate the inclusion of Sun News in the most appropriate package for this service.

What does this all mean for TELUS Optik TV subscribers?  Well, first and foremost, Sun News will be coming to Optik TV very soon.  It will be offered on an à la carte basis initially and then included in a package as soon as negotiations for the distribution of the service are concluded.  As per the deadline set in the CRTC’s revised framework for news services, by May 20th, Optik TV subscribers will be able to receive all Canadian national news services either individually or as part of a relevant package of programming services.

We look forward to bringing Sun News to Optik TV’s lineup in a way that maximizes choice and value for our subscribers.