Ottawa seeking input on retransmission fees

Wants viewers to weigh in during escalating media war

TORONTO -- Canadian TV viewers are not just deciding who wins or loses on popular local reality TV series such as "Battle of the Blades" and "So You Think You Can Dance Canada."

Now the Canadian government has TV viewers voting on whether cable and satellite TV operators should pay compensation to broadcasters for carrying their U.S. series-rich local TV stations' signals.

Canadians won't be able to vote as many times as they can dial, as was done on "Canadian Idol" and "Deal or No Deal Canada." But Ottawa is urging TV viewers to go to a government Web site to offer their opinion on whether broadcasters should be paid for retransmission of their local TV station signals.

"The Canadian broadcasting system is evolving quickly, and some regulatory changes may prove necessary," the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said as it sought public input on possible broadcast compensation between now and Dec. 21.

The public polling follows an escalating media war between domestic broadcasters and cable operators, complete with expensive print and TV ads, on whether consumers should help bail out struggling broadcasters by paying for TV signals they receive for free.

The public comments received will be included in an upcoming report by the CRTC, Canada's TV regulator, to the federal government, which will have the final say in resolving the industry dust-up.