CRTC says cable firms should pay for TV

Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:32pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's broadcast regulator threw its weight on Monday behind the idea of cable and satellite operators paying private television networks for their signals, as in the United States, but stopped short of imposing such a system immediately.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) proposed a framework under which cable and satellite companies and the financially strapped TV networks would negotiate fair value for the networks' signals. It said it is now going to seek a court ruling to make sure it has the authority to implement such a regime.

For now, the cable and satellite companies will be able to continue to get the over-the-air signals for free. But the decision should mean that the networks, which have been hurt by slumping ad revenues, will eventually get a financial lifeline as long as the Federal Court of Appeal goes along.

It is the latest chapter in a bitter debate between broadcasters and distributors, which have both spent millions of dollars on advertising and lobbying campaigns.

Networks urged consumers to help them "Save Local TV", while cable and satellite operators said they had to "Stop the TV Tax", telling customers their bills could jump by C$10 (about $10) a month.


If approved by the court, the winners would be network operators Canwest Global Communications and CTVglobemedia Inc, which is 15 percent owned by telecom and satellite-TV operator BCE Inc. The publicly owned Canadian Broadcasting Corp is excluded from the decision.

It would be bad news for telecom and cable companies Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications and BCE's satellite television operations.   Continued...