By March 2016 Canadians will be able to subscribe to entry-level television service for $25 per month

ue40b7000BY March 2016, Canadians will be able to subscribe to an entry-level television service that costs no more than $25 per month, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced on Thursday.

This service will prioritize local and regional news and information programs given that many Canadians spoke of their importance during Let’s Talk TV. News and information programs enable Canadian citizens to better participate in Canada’s democratic, economic, cultural and social life. Canadian consumers also expressed frustration that the basic packages offered by cable and satellite companies had become too large and costly. Canadians will now have alternatives.

Canadians, who choose to do so, will be able to supplement the entry-level television service by buying individual channels that will be available either on a pick-and-pay basis or through small, reasonably priced packages. If they so choose, they will have the option of selecting theme-based packages—such as sports, lifestyle or comedy—offered by their service providers.

By December 2016, Canadians will be able to subscribe to channels on a pick-and-pay basis, as well as in small packages. In addition, Canadians will have the choice of keeping their current television services without making any changes, if these continue to meet their needs and budgets.

These changes build on ideas that the CRTC originally proposed in a working document published in August 2014 to maximize choice and affordability in the television services market.

During the Let’s Talk TV conversation, Canadians were clear that they wanted choice in the marketplace. This decision gives them the ultimate choice. It supports those who want to subscribe to fewer channels, more channels, or who like the bundles of channels they already have. When coupled with other changes introduced by the CRTC, such as 30-day cancellation policies, it further empowers consumers to shop around and negotiate the deals that are best for them.

A dynamic marketplace creates incentives for cable and satellite companies to offer reasonably priced television services that meet the diverse needs and interests of Canadians, and for broadcasters to produce high-quality, original content that is compelling and attractive to audiences.

This decision serves Canada’s diverse communities. It allows consumers to buy the ethnic and third-language television channels they want on either a pick-and-pay basis or in small bundles of channels. It also ensures that cable and satellite companies offer one Canadian third-language or ethnic channel for every non-Canadian third-language or ethnic channel they offer.

Members of Canada’s multicultural communities will have the freedom to choose the television services they want and will have greater and more affordable access to Canadian ethnic and third-language programming, as well as to non-Canadian programming.

To support these changes—and to ensure that viewers continue to discover, and enjoy access to, a diversity of programming—the CRTC introduced a code of conduct for broadcasters and television service providers. The code clarifies the terms and conditions under which wholesale agreements between the two are struck. For example, it ensures that cable and satellite companies offer independently-owned channels in at least one pre-assembled package and that channels cannot be unduly withdrawn from subscribers as a result of a commercial dispute at the wholesale level.

The content of the code will be finalized by September 2015 following an expedited public process.