CRTC issues court order to force TVA Sports to keep signal on Bell TV, suspends licence if it cuts off again

Pursuant to Wednesday’s emergency hearing on Quebecor’s decision to pull TVA Sports of Bell TV, on Thursday the CRTC issued a mandatory order requiring TVA Sports to comply with regulations about dispute resolution and keep its signal on Bell TV. It also suspended TVA Sports’s licence, though that suspension only applies if it cuts Bell TV off again, and only for the period during which the signal is cut off.

The mandatory order is being registered with the federal court, which means if TVA defies it, it will be subject to contempt of court proceedings, and faces large fines.

The commission rejected TVA’s main legal argument, that the regulations imposing arbitrated settlements of carriage disputes are not allowed under the Broadcasting Act (emphasis in the original):

TVA’s position that the Commission does not have the jurisdiction to set terms and conditions of affiliation agreements is inconsistent with the broad power given to the Commission by Parliament to make regulations to resolve any dispute by way of mediation or otherwise. Given that terms and conditions, including rates, are fundamental to the resolution of carriage disputes, the interpretation urged on the Commission by TVA Group would render the regulation-making power set out in section 10(1)(h) empty of meaning, an absurd result that cannot have been Parliament’s intention.

Pierre Karl Péladeau’s arguments about how TVA isn’t getting enough carriage fees, or how Bell has been unfair, or how TVA Sports’s future is threatened, are not addressed in the CRTC decision, because they are outside the scope of the proceeding. They will be dealt with in the undue preference complaint and mediation or arbitration proceedings between the two groups.

(For more on the arguments for and against TVA, see this post.)

The commission stopped short of its more serious threats, to suspend or even revoke TVA Sports’s licence. Even a temporary suspension during the NHL playoffs would have been devastating to TVA Sports, and probably led to its shutting down.

But it did reprimand TVA for its behaviour in this case:

the Commission is gravely concerned with TVA Group’s disregard for the Commission’s authority. Given the inflexible behaviour displayed by the licensee in respect of its regulatory obligations and the lack of a firm commitment to correct the situation, the Commission cannot be assured that TVA Group will respect its regulatory obligations going forward.

Quebecor issued a statement saying it will respect the decision, but the problem remains and it will seek other legal avenues, including a legal challenge to the CRTC’s authority.

Bell issued a statement saying it was happy with the decision.

If you want to get the full content of Wednesday’s hearing, the transcript is here and CPAC’s video is archived here.

Meanwhile, a request for a class action lawsuit has been filed, seeking $100 million, or $250 for each subscriber of TVA Sports on Bell TV who was left without the service for 47 hours last week.

7 thoughts on “CRTC issues court order to force TVA Sports to keep signal on Bell TV, suspends licence if it cuts off again

  1. media man

    Good decision to do what they had to do and the standstill rule but the other side of me wanted Bell to be faught a lesson.

    Reply
  2. Dilbert

    “Given the inflexible behaviour displayed by the licensee”

    Given that PKP is in charge, there is little chance that this will change. Given that Quebecor isa significant player in what is effectively a series of duopolies means that this is all unlikely to change, unless the CRTC and more importantly the federal government moves to change media concentration going forward.

    The CRTC and the public reap what they sow.

    Reply
  3. Johnny Ringo

    It doesn’t fix anything and just pushes things down the line as far as getting an agreement, but it’s still a smart move by the CRTC. If PKP was somehow trying to use the Board to shut down TVA Sports and cut his losses while simultaneously blaming it on the CRTC and Bell, now he can’t.

    If TVA Sports’ license gets suspended it will be because Québecor decided to not to abide by the Board’s ruling…. They won’t be able to say it’s Bell’s fault. They’ll still say it’s Bell’s Fault, that’s how they roll, but everybody will know it was their decision.

    Weird how today’s decision is not the Journal’s main news on its home page, contrary to all the other news of last week…

    Reply
    1. jean-Sébastien Girard

      Is THAT supposed to be the reason they’ve been acting like a petulant five years old in this whole debacle?

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Just as an aside, because of Quebecor’s ongoing conflict with Bell on many other fronts, Videotron clients are often left without certain streaming and/or on demand content such as CTV Go and TSN Go (provided one subscribes to the TSN linear package). Since Bell & Videotron had finally resolved the Crave TV issue a while back, why does Bell still leave Videotron out of the mix regarding these other services…all the other major providers are allowed to have their customers have access to them.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Since Bell & Videotron had finally resolved the Crave TV issue a while back, why does Bell still leave Videotron out of the mix regarding these other services…all the other major providers are allowed to have their customers have access to them.

      Naturally, both sides will point fingers toward each other, but it once again comes to a matter of negotiations. Bell and Quebecor are currently engaged in four-way negotiations for each other’s services, and until a deal is signed these kinds of extras aren’t part of the equation. And whether subscribers get access to services like CTV Go is up to the provider and broadcaster signing a deal with each other. That could be at a price Videotron is unwilling to pay, at least for now.

      Reply
  5. Graham

    now can the CRTC be as swift with the “telecoms” who pressure staff to sell products the consumer doesn’t need? rhetorical, just like being billed for products the consumer never signed on for.

    Reply

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