CRTC Orders Quebecor to Unblock TVA Sports for Bell Subscribers

After holding an ‘urgent’ public hearing this week, the CRTC has now issued a mandatory order for Quebecor to unblock TVA Sports for Bell TV subscribers.

According to the CRTC, their order “will be registered with the Federal Court and will become an order of the 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,” says the Commission.

“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,” said Ian Scott, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer, CRTC, in a statement.

The CRTC says if the TVA Group tries to again block TVA Sports signals before the issue with Bell is resolved, the TVA Sports license “will automatically be suspended for the duration of time that the signal is not provided to Bell Canada.”

The order mandates the TVA Group to comply with the standstill rule, which says during any negotiations between broadcasters, TV access must continue from service providers.

“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,” added Scott.

At a public hearing in Gatineau, Quebec, on Wednesday, Robert Malcolmson, Bell’s senior vice-president of regulatory affairs and government relations, sought a suspension for the TVA Group channel license until after the Stanley Cup final on June 30.

“Withdrawing the signal was an affront to viewers, to the commission and the rest of the participants in the broadcasting system who play by the rules. It was also illegal,” said Malcolmson, according to CBC News.

Quebecor CEO, Pierre Karl Péladeau, questioned the power of the CRTC to impose TVA Sports to come back online, in particular when one side is at odds with the other.

If “In order to ensure the survival of our television, we must be equitably compensated,” while also adding “a suspension may pave the way to the death of TVA Sports.”

Quebecor believes it is not being paid enough by Bell Media for its specialty channels, such as TVA Sports. With the Montreal Canadiens failing to make the playoffs for the second year in a row, the channel has suffered financially.

Earlier this month at the beginning of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Quebecor cut off TVA Sports for Bell TV subscribers. In response, Bell offered Sportsnet TV channels for free to fight the block.

It’ll be interesting to see what Quebecor’s next move will be, now that the CRTC has issued its mandatory order.

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