Tuesday, September 22, 2009

LPIF Redux

I'm going to repost my thoughts from last month on the Local Programming Improvement Fund as this blog's been swarmed over the past week via Google searches like:

What is this LPIF fee?
Why is there an LPIF fee on my bill?
What the hell is a LPIF fee?

And of course: LPIF WTF?

The reason for this sudden interest in the LPIF (Local Programming Improvement Fund) is that it's started showing up as a line item on people's September cable bills...as promised by the BDU's.

But there also seems to be a lot of confusion accompanying the apparent consumer anger with having to fork over yet another cable bill cost. You see, there's also the FFC or Fee-For-Carriage issue out there now and on people's radar....an issue that sparked a big fight between the Broadcasters and the Cable/Satellite Providers. Such a big fight that, as Grant Robertson reports, the government recently stepped in and gave fee-for-carriage its own special CRTC hearing in December to try to resolve the issue.

From the Globe & Mail:

In July, the CRTC opened the door for the networks to be compensated by the cable and satellite companies when it announced that it would allow negotiations between the two sides, and enforce an arbitrated solution if a compensation deal could not be reached.

However, the Conservatives are staunchly opposed to the proposal, which could be unpopular with some voters. Though the cable and satellite companies don't have to pass the cost on to customers, the major carriers such as Rogers Communications Inc., Bell Canada, and Shaw Communications Inc. have already said they will.

Yesterday's development (to hold another hearing in December) stems from a Canadian Heritage parliamentary committee hearing this summer, where the TV networks argued they need new funds to support struggling small market TV stations and to produce local programming.

Later in the article, the broadcasters chime in:

The big broadcasters were still optimistic, though, that the issue could go their way. CTV, CBC and Global are arguing their case together, arguing that the cable industry has been misinforming consumers with letters enclosed in bills that inflate the potential impact on their monthly invoices.

CanWest Global Communications Corp. said the hearings in December will be an opportunity to set the record straight on those figures. "I think what they're saying is consistent with what we're saying, which is that this is an important issue for consumers," said Charlotte Bell, senior vice-president of regulatory affairs at CanWest.

"I think it's important that consumers get the right information because this is about the future of local television. And the consumer is right in the middle of it."

"...this is about the future of local television. And the consumer is right in the middle of it."

"...to support struggling small market TV stations and to produce local programming."

And therein lies the confusion. This recent article is about FFC (fee-for-carriage), but it could just as well be about LPIF (local programming improvement fund). And most regular folks have been seeing it as such. As one commenter wrote: "Why am I paying a fee on my cable bill for improving local programming now when hearings won't be happening until December?"

Um. Because they're two different things. The broadcasters already received a fund to help local stations and local programming, the LPIF, and now they're seeking fee-for-carriage yet are still using the 'for local stations and local programming' argument (I'm guessing it gets more traction than the 'poor management and advertising dollars are down but we don't want to change our business model' argument).

Got it now? Make sense? I hope so, though I'm sure it won't make paying an extra cost on your cable bill (that wasn't supposed to be passed onto the consumer) any easier to swallow.

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