When the federal government returns to work on Wednesday, the focus will not be, at least entirely, on the ongoing Senate spending scandal or the exhausted debate over legalized marijuana. The focus first and foremost will be on the Throne Speech, the list of wants and desires set out by the governing party that makes up the list of what those in charge think important.
And among those most important objectives is your television set. The Conservative government is expected announce in the Throne Speech plans to regulate cable offerings and force companies such as Bell and Rogers to offer an alternative to their bundle packages.
Not sure what that means? OK, you know how if you want to receive a specialty cable channel, let's say Discovery, you actually have to pay to get a package of a dozen or so channels that includes Discovery? Well the government says we should be able to pick and choose what channels we want.
Not exactly "no taxation without representation," but everyone needs a rally cry.
Still, if anything is going to draw attention away from the Senate scandal, it is likely this. Because people get mad about corporate overbearance. If a government does indeed enforce a pick-and-pay system, there may be dancing in the streets.
Tech expert Carmi Levy discussed with Yahoo Canada News what such a system might look like, as well as his personal experience when Rogers offered a pick-and-pay trial run in London, Ont. This is what he said:
How the pick-and-pay service might look like:
Currently, we're all stuck buying bundles. Start with a mandatory basic cable/satellite bundle of the 20 stations the CRTC says everyone has to subscribe to. Then add whatever other bundles on top of that. If you don't want to subscribe to the basic package, you're out of luck. Similarly, if you want only one channel within a given bundle, you're stuck paying for everything in that bundle.
Under the new framework, the basic 20 stations will remain as is, meaning customers will still have to subscribe to them. Beyond that, however, it will be a pay-as-you-go or a-la-carte approach where you can pick and choose individual channels without being forced to buy packages of them.
[ Pulse of Canada: Will a pick-and-pay system really benefit consumers? ]
On whether the new format is likely to save consumers money:
At the end of the day, carriers won't willingly give up revenue they've fought so hard for over the better part of a generation. Cable and satellite revenue remains an important component of every carriers' mix of businesses, and until Internet and wireless revenues make up for losses here, they're going to do everything they can to keep consumers from fleeing elsewhere.
Levy's experience in the London, Ont., Rogers trial:
Here in London, participating in the Rogers pilot program was as easy as calling the toll-free support number and having them walk us through the process. Local Rogers retail outlets were also well-equipped with trained staff and printed and online materials to provide additional guidance. It was relatively painless, and subsequent updates to our channel choices were handled quickly and easily.
As expected, our bill didn't go down, but we feel like we're getting more value for what we're paying. That's because we're largely paying for channels we want, and not for channels we don't want.
On the inevitability of the pick-and-pay service format:
[T]he rise of Internet- and mobile-borne culture means customers expect on-demand content delivery – where we watch what we want, when we want, and how we want. And inflexible conventional cable/satellite delivery methods no longer cut it. Millennials, in many cases, have done to TV what they've done to the landline: simply cut if off. If the cable-satellite distributors don't radically and rapidly change their tune, regulation or not, they could find themselves ignored by consumers.
Want to know what news is brewing in Canada?
Follow @MRCoutts on Twitter.