Stuff Still Happens, week 9: Skinny cable is malnourished; Justin Trudeau, superstar

The big news in Canadian TV was all about the skinny.

Last year, the CRTC ordered Canadian cable providers to provide a basic package of cable channels — commonly called skinny — for only $25. The package had to include a minimum local and regional TV stations, channels with mandatory distribution (like the watched-by-no one Aboriginal Peoples Television Network), community and provincial legislature channels and provincial/territorial educational channels. Pick-and-pay for all other channels comes at the end of the year. So, what do we get from the two cable giants available in Edmonton, Telus and Shaw?

In the case of Telus, you get crap. Called ‘Lite’, it has 31 channels, only 14 of which are in HD (so, basically they are offering 14 channels; who watches low-def these days?). Nine of their channels are in French; of the 31 channels, 13 are duplicates (i.e., CTV Edmonton in low-def and high-def). Telus is clearly telling the CRTC, ‘You want basic? We’ll give you basic’. Their package is insulting, and clearly designed to be of interest to no one.

Shaw is much better. Called Limited TV (the cable channels really don’t want anyone to buy these packages with names like ‘limited’ and ‘lite’), it offers 40 channels, including all of the American TV networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS). However, 15 of them are in useless low-def. It’s not great by any means, but it at least is worth considering if you want the bare minimum of cable.

Clearly, Telus is giving the single-finger salute to the CRTC, and to its potential customers. They don’t want anyone to buy their ‘lite’ package, so, like Canadian content, they’re burying it where no one will see it.

The US election saw its first of many ‘Super’ days, and the result was anything but.

On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton continued her inevitable march to the nomination. Clinton has already built a substantial lead in delegates, and Bernie Sanders is now nothing more than the nagging conscience of the party who will stay in the race as long as people want to make contributions to this campaign — and good for him. Hang in there, old timer!

The Republicans, however, are much more fun. The party of Lincoln and Reagan (in the endlessly-repeated phrase used by Marco ‘Mr. Roboto’ Rubio) is in full panic mode, literally on the edge of tearing itself apart. Donald Trump won six states up for grabs Tuesday, winning Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts (a liberal state where he won 50% of the vote, his biggest margin), Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia. Ted ‘the Human Reptile’ Cruz won his home state of Texas, neighbouring Oklahoma, and Alaska. Rubio won his first primary, in Minnesota. Trump now has 319 of the 1,237 delegates needed to win, Cruz has 226, Rubio 110. (Dr. Ben Carson, the comedy candidate, dropped out Wednesday. Back to brain surgery, I guess.) With Trump marching towards the nomination, the Republican party is in open revolt against their front runner. Trump has zero support from the party hierarchy, with the flame-out presidential candidate Mitt Romney aiming a savage broadside at Trump on Thursday. During the Republican debate that night, Rubio and Cruz (and host broadcaster Fox News, which went after Trump with a vengeance) relentlessly attacked Trump. Like all Republican debates, it devolved into schoolyard name calling. Yes, it appears nobody likes Trump … with the notable exception of 3,366,208 actual Republicans who have voted for him.

Super Tuesday II is March 15, where voters in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio go to the polls.

A big week coming up for Justin Trudeau

Trudeau gets the full political superstar treatment this week. His coming out party begins Sunday, with a profile on 60 Minutes on CBS, the Rolls-Royce of TV news programs. Then, the focus shifts to Washington, where Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau will get the full red carpet, state dinner treatment during a three day visit. A state dinner in Washington is a very big deal; in almost eight years in office, Barack Obama has hosted only nine. It’s a sign of Obama’s high opinion of Trudeau; there wasn’t even a state crackers-and-cheese plate for Stephen Harper. I suspect a lot of American commentators are looking north longingly; this article from The Washington Post is a good example. With American politics slipping further and further into the gutter, Trudeau’s ceaselessly sunny optimism and unabashed liberalism has a lot of Washington-types swooning.

Rexall sells out

Edmonton’s favourite (and probably only) billionaire, Oilers owner Daryl Katz, added $3 billion to his pile with the sale this week of his 470-store Rexall pharmacy chain to an American company, McKesson Crop. The move was seen as necessary if Rexall is to remain competitive against the giant Shoppers Drug Mart chain. It looks like Katz has gone all-in on the entertainment business, shifting his focus to the Ice District, the Oilers, his real estate holdings, and his partnership with film producer Joel Silver.


George Kennedy, 91, longtime character actor and co-star of the Naked Gun movies. He won a supporting actor Oscar for 1967s Cool Hand Luke.



By Maurice Tougas

Maurice Tougas is a lifelong Albertan, award-winning writer and reporter, and a former MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark.

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