the same argument is taking place here in Canada. In fact our cable tv bill has just gone up 1.5% due a levy that now has to be paid that will funnel money to the free to air broadcasters to help them keep "local content".
And frankly I think it's a load of shit.
The only reason why people can see some of the FTA stations is because they are re-transmitted over cabled and satellite tv. Where I live, we get the local tv station and Global from Toronto (watchable if I get the antenna right).
So we watch them over from our cable provider so we still see their ads , they still get their ad revenue (where as with out the cable we wouldn't see them full stop).
Plus here in Canada they get government assistance.
See, I work in CTV Calgary Master Control (which controls all of Alberta and Saskatchewan), so we've been inundated with propaganda on the network's side.
The way they say it is that cable and satellite companies pay a fee to channels such as HBO, Bravo, Space, etc to run their content, so why don't they pay Canadian networks for their signal too? Especially since Canadian networks are a main generator of local Canadian content...as mentioned, something very protected by Canadian government. The CRTC ruled that the cable companies had to pay the networks, and rather than foot the cost, they shoved it into consumers. So it's not a TV tax, as stated in the ads put out by Shaw and other companies, but rather something that cable companies were supposed to pay, but are now making their customers pay for them.
That said, I'm not exactly supportive of the networks in this mess either. For one thing, CTV, for example, is owned by Bell Globe Media, which also owns Bell mobility...which is one of the satellite companies CTV is "fighting" against. Same with CityTV...a small local network, actually owned by Rogers, which is also a cable provider. So the idea that this is a battle between networks and cable/satellite companies is quite disingenuous. It's a money grab by the big companies, who are putting the consumers in the cross-fire, getting their sympathies for local content on one side, and their money on the other.
Lastly, it's not like CTV, Global or CityTV are bastions of Canadian content. Most content requirements are met by running the same episodes of Degrassi, Sue FBEye and Twice in a Lifetime (on CTV at least) over and over in the daytime, while running the big American shows (Law and Order, CSI, Grey's Anatomy) during primetime. Right now they're sloughing off the last of their yearly primetime requirements by playing a two hour CTV movie, two episodes of a Hills rip-off set in whistler, Corner Gas and Degrassi every night for the week between Christmas and New Years. They're not going to get big ratings then anyways. Canadian content is such a joke, treated with very thinly veiled cynicism by networks. The only one I see as being truly "Canadian" is the CBC.