TVO, Ontario's public broadcaster, has been pulled from cable and satellite systems outside its home province, including Bell satellite TV, because of a carriage dispute.
According to TVO, it was asked by the government to reduce its reliance on public funding and has decided to try to earn revenue from distribution outside Ontario. As of Sept. 1, 2011, cable and satellite providers are required to get permission from over-the-air television stations before distributing them outside their home markets. TVO has more than 200 transmitters across Ontario (though most of them will be shut down between July 31, 2012, and October 2013).
Videotron, the main cable player in Quebec, is still carrying the channel on its digital service on channel 77. Rogers cable customers outside Ontario (it also operates in Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and parts of eastern Quebec) have also lost the service.
Bell's media relations didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but a customer service representative said "it was removed due to poor viewership."
The fact that I'm hearing about this more than a week after it happened suggests they may be right.
TVO is known mainly for its children's, educational and current affairs programming, including The Agenda with Steve Paikin
TVO's Facebook page has received a few comments from out-of-province viewers upset that the channel has been pulled. It responds that it has failed to reach an agreement with Bell but is negotiating with Shaw and Telus.
Here's TVO's full response to the dispute:
New Broadcast Distribution Regulations went into effect on September 1, 2011 that require cable or satellite distributors to obtain consent from a TV station in order to distribute that station as a distant signal. For TVO this means distribution of our signal outside Ontario.
As a publicly funded agency of the Government of Ontario, we believe that we have a responsibility to earn revenues from the sale of our service outside of our home province. TVO is willing to consent to cable and satellite distributors carrying our signal outside the province, provided that we’re fairly compensated. Since cable or satellite distributors receive subscriber revenues driven by having TVO as part of their offering, we feel it’s reasonable to be compensated.
Unfortunately, we could not come to an agreement with Bell to compensate TVO for carrying our signal outside of Ontario, and the decision was made to cease offering our signal outside of Ontario.
We hope that you will continue to visit TVO.org and TVOKids.com, which offer an opportunity for people to connect with much of TVO’s high quality educational programming. For example, as you may know, we offer podcasts and streaming video of all of our in-house content, as well as streaming video of many of our acquired programs at www.tvo.org/video.
Affected Bell TV customers are reporting that they're being offered $10 refunds if they complain to customer service.