Rogers, Bell TV customers warned of fee hikes

Rogers and Bell television cable subscribers are being told they will see their monthly fees hiked by 1.5 per cent beginning September.

Rogers and Bell television cable subscribers are being told they will see their monthly fees hiked by 1.5 per cent beginning September in order to satisfy new regulations ordered by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Rogers has begun sending letters in recent days to television customers saying the extra fees will go directly to a CRTC-mandated fund for small TV stations.

The Local Programming Improvement Fund is expected to generate more than $100 million for small TV stations, the CRTC says. In early July, the CRTC determined that cable and satellite companies must contribute 1.5 per cent of their gross broadcasting revenues to the fund beginning in September.

The Rogers letter tells customers that the fee goes directly to the fund and that the company "receives no financial benefit from the LPIF fee."

"It's been a mandated fee, so we have put it onto our customer's bills so there's clarity so they know exactly what they're paying for," said Jan Innes, spokeswoman for Rogers.

Bell Canada sent out similar letters during the tail end of July.

"Bell is extremely disappointed by the CRTC's latest decisions regarding this TV tax and, in order to meet the CRTC's orders without impacting the current and future quality of its products and services, Bell will apply a monthly fee to customer billing which will not exceed 1.5 per cent of Bell TV charges incurred on and after September 1, 2009," Bell said in a July release.

Television stations in markets with less than one million people will be able to draw on the fund to support news and other types of local programming, the CRTC has said.

The CRTC had originally determined that cable and satellite companies should contribute only 1.0 per cent of their revenues to the fund but in July increased that toll by half a percentage point.

The CRTC has said the levy is temporary and that it will be reviewed in the fall. Innes says Rogers doesn't know yet if it will change its fees if the CRTC changes the requirements of the fund.

"We'll wait and see whether [the fee] is temporary, and we'll respond accordingly," said Innes.

"At this point, we don't know."

Most of Canada's major cable and satellite companies — Bell, Rogers and Shaw Communications — have protested the new fee, calling it a tax on consumers. Bell and Rogers are among the first to inform its customers that the fee will be reflected in their monthly bills.