Monday, November 16, 2009

The letter the Vancouver Sun won't publish

A few weeks ago, Vancouver Sun columnist Don Cayo wrote a column headlined "Broadcasters have right to carriage fees." I could not believe that this once-fine newspaper (which I once delivered) would run such a piece of propaganda that so blatantly favors the financial interests of its owner, Canwest Global Communications. I felt compelled to point out not only the newspaper's conflict of interest, but also the flaws in the columnist's argument. When my letter did not run, I wrote to Sun letters editor Rebecca Wigod to ask why not, pointing out that while I teach in Texas (because I can't get a job in Canada), I have some expertise on the subject of "fee for carriage" because I presented a paper on the topic at a conference just last week. She informed me that my letter had been scheduled to run, but that it was pulled by Editorial Page Editor Fizal Mihlar. My letter follows.
Re: Broadcasters have right to carriage fees, Oct. 29
Don Cayo argues that the free market should decide the “fee for carriage” dispute, in which Canada’s television networks want the CRTC to order cable companies to pay them to distribute content they broadcast over the air for free. I agree, but in a free market the cable companies should also be free to decline to pay and to carry the network signals. The CRTC currently requires cable companies to carry network feeds, which results in their advertising being disseminated to many more Canadians than it would through broadcasting alone. That makes the advertising sold by the networks more valuable. The Vancouver Sun (which is owned by one of the television networks seeking fee for carriage, incidentally) pays a trucking company to distribute the hundreds of thousands of copies of its newspaper that it prints daily. Only that way does the advertising it sells become of any value. From that perspective, perhaps the television networks should be paying the cable companies for creating value. Izzy Asper, the founder of Canwest Global Communications (which owns the Vancouver Sun), refused while he was alive to pay one nickel more than he was forced to by the CRTC to support Canadian content when network television was a thriving industry. Now that it is less profitable, his heirs are asking for a regulatory redistribution of profits from another media sector. That hardly sounds like free market economics. The hypocrisy is naked, and the argument is only given credibility by the newspapers the Aspers acquired, as Peter Worthington once noted, “to support their bids before the CRTC.”
Marc Edge
Huntsville, TX