The CRTC has “imposed a mandatory order” to TVA Group to comply with regulations and not cut its TVA Sports’ signal for Bell subscribers while it’s in the middle of a dispute.
The decision comes after a very public dispute between Quebecor and Bell, in which Quebecor stopped broadcasting its TVA Sports signal on April 10th at 7pm, right when this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs began.
Quebecor’s CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau said the signal would be pulled if the two companies didn’t reach a fair agreement regarding how much carriage fees would cost for the channel.
When the signal was cut, in an effort to serve its customers, Bell said it offered Rogers’ Sporstnet channels temporarily at no additional fee.
On April 19th, the two carriers appeared at a hearing before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to resolve the dispute.
Péladeau spoke of unfair treatment by Bell and said its actions were a result of unfair negotiations.
It’s important to note that if a dispute occurs within a commercial partnership, carriers are prohibited from shutting off signals, and during the hearing the CRTC asked why Quebecor decided to break the rules.
Péladeau argued that it was more than just the negotiating process and that Bell was taking advantage of smaller players with the prices it was charging.
“We cannot continue suffering operational losses, sitting around and doing nothing,” he said during the hearing in French.
Bell did secure an injunction from the Quebec Superior Court that required Quebecor to restore the signal but it was only effective until April 23rd.
Bell’s team at the hearing urged the CRTC to impose an order before this deadline was reached. It also told the CRTC that if an order was not imposed that Quebecor could try and pull its signal again.
The CRTC said in a statement on April 18th that the order will be registered with the Federal Court.
“Failure to comply with this order may result in contempt of court proceedings, and the court has the authority to impose fines or other corrective measures it deems appropriate,” the CRTC said.
It also added that if the signal was held again or interfered with before the dispute is resolved “TVA Sports’ licence will automatically be suspended for the duration of time that the signal is not provided to Bell Canada.”
“The CRTC is very concerned by TVA Group’s actions. Not only are their actions a serious violation of our regulations, but hundreds of thousands of Canadians were deprived of a channel to which they are subscribed,” CRTC’s chairperson Ian Scott said.
“We have made it clear to TVA Group that we will take all necessary actions to put an end to this unfair practice. Holding a licence is a privilege, not a right. With privileges come certain obligations, and we expect TVA Group to fulfill these obligations.”