The battle over television fees shifted to a new front yesterday, with Can­ada’s largest cable company telling federal broadcast regulators it is “overpaying” broadcasters for “time shifting,” or the ability to carry channels from other time zones.
The practice, which allows view­ers to catch up on missed shows by watch­ing them on stations from across the country, is the latest flashpoint between cable companies and broadcasters over higher fees.
Rogers Communications, which is also fighting on the thorny “fee-for-carriage” issue, said at hearings hosted by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that time-shifting charges unfairly penalize the cable industry.
Cable companies currently pay broadcasters 50 cents per subscriber to carry those distant domestic signals and list them higher up on the dial. Satellite companies, however, can carry those signals free. “The distant-signal problem is largely caused by satellite,” said Ken Engelhart, Rogers’ senior vice-president of regulatory affairs. “If you work out the math, we should be paying less.”
Broadcasters argue that time shifting “severely undermines” the revenue potential of local television stations, and argue that current fees are simply “inadequate.”