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Cogeco charge for local TV (continued)

The charge was approved by Canada’s broadcast regulator earlier this year. Its purpose is to provide broadcasters in smaller markets like Windsor additional money to produce local programming.

Cable and satellite TV operators are paying the 1.5 per cent into the national fund, which has raised $100 million.

But in some cases, such as with Windsor and Essex County’s cable operator Cogeco, that charge is being passed straight through to consumers.

Most but not all operators are passing along the fee.

In a letter to customers Cogeco says the bill will have a new section called Regulatory Fees with a new line CRTC LPIF Charge, applying to all TV services including video on demand and pay per view.

“This fee goes directly to the CRTC LPIF and Cogeco receives no financial benefit,” it says.

The fee won’t be charged for Cogeco’s Internet or telephone services.

The CRTC says it approved the fee because “Canadians have made it abundantly clear that they value local programming.”

The broadcast regulator says TV stations in markets under one million population, “will be able to draw on these funds to maintain their spending on local news and other types of local programming.”

The fee should be distinguished from a current battle between TV broadcasters and cable and satellite operators over a so-called “carriage” charge or whether broadcasters should be able to obtain payment from the cable operators for carrying their signals.

The CRTC is continuing a hearing on that matter.

The LPIF is credited with saving Windsor’s A-Channel TV station.

Paul Sparkes, executive vice president of corporate affairs for CTVglobemedia, said the station, which was scheduled to close, will stay alive at least until August 2010.

In a news release he said saving “Windsor’s only local private television station” is a “direct result” of the LPIF.

Cogeco spokeswoman Marie Carrier says her company was the last of the major cable operators to implement the fee, the others affixing it to bills starting last September.

"We didn't, we waited until the new year."

She also said all the major cable and satellite companies are passing the cost through to consumers.

Neither CTVglobemedia, Global television or the CBC responded to requests for information about if and why there were proponents of the LPIF.

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