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Companies warned about not promoting skinny cable packages

Last Updated Feb 18, 2016 at 8:13 am PDT

(iStock Photo)

The head of the CRTC calls it a "shot across the bow" as he warns companies to start being a little more transparent

March 1st the deadline for companies to provide a $25 basic cable bundle

TORONTO, ON . (NEWS 1130) – The head of Canada’s broadcast regulator has fired what he calls a “shot across the bow” for cable and satellite TV companies.

CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais is concerned that service providers haven’t exactly been promoting the fact they’re being forced to offer a cheap, basic channel package by next month.

March 1st is the deadline for companies to provide a $25 basic bundle and then some form of a-la-carte system to pick individual channels or additional mini-bundles, but most major providers have failed to reveal their so-called skinny cable packages as of yet.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission issued a bulletin yesterday to remind the telecoms they must promote the service in some way.

Media watchdog Michael Geist is cutting big cable a little bit of slack — but only a little.

“They certainly have been slow but part of it may just be a competitive issue,” says Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor who holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law.

“Each of the companies has been trying to keep their cards close to their vests, so to speak.”

But Geist is not surprised companies have been pitching other packages ahead of the skinny cable deadline.

“The perspective from some of the companies is that the basic package may be attractive to a lot of people and one way to keep them out of that — at least initially — is to get them in longer-term on different kinds of packages. In some ways, it’s a repeat of what we saw in the wireless industry when we saw the switch to shorter, two-year contracts.”

“There were efforts to lock people into longer contracts before the new rules took effect.”

VMedia announced its skinny package in June with 28 channels for less than $18 a month. Shaw now offers a $25 limited basic TV package with 40 channels.

So far, none of the other major TV providers including Bell, Telus or Rogers, the parent company of NEWS 1130, have listed basic cable plans priced at $25 or less online.