The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has issued a legally binding decision that prevents Québecor from withholding its TVA Sports channel from Bell customers.
The CRTC’s ruling comes two days after Bell announced that Québecor began threatening to deny access to TVA Sports through Bell’s services. This is a particularly notable threat given that TVA is the exclusive French-language broadcaster of NHL playoff games, and the only channel in either English or French to carry many of the Montreal Impact Major League Soccer games.
Québecor’s threats come in the wake of accusations that Bell has not been paying enough to use its TVA Sports service. Through a new website called fairvalue.ca, Québecor argued last month that Bell’s specialty channels like RDS get much higher subscription wholesale fees than TVA’s do. Québecor’s ads called for customers to switch over to its Vidéotron subsidiary instead.
In response, Bell has said its RDS channel is “the consistent leader in the French-language sports TV marketplace by far” and had 67 percent more viewers on average than TVA Sports last year. “Bell Media will not devalue the clear fan favourite,” the company said in an April 10th press release.
According to the CRTC’s decision, Québecor is “required to provide” TVA Sports to Bell TV “at the same rates and on the same terms and conditions as they did before the dispute, until the parties resolve their dispute or the Commission issues a decision concerning this unresolved matter.”
“The CRTC has made it quite clear to Québecor that it must comply with the law and continue to provide TVA Sports to Bell customers who’ve paid for it. It’s highly inappropriate for Québecor to make these threats to illegally deny service and in effect take viewers hostage over a business disagreement,” said Martine Turcotte, Bell’s Vice Chair, Québec, in a press statement. “We’ve always negotiated in good faith and invite Quebecor to do the same.”