The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in favour of cable companies and satellite providers in an on-going battle with television networks over their right to charge for the transmission of their signals.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission had previously ruled that local television stations should be able to charge cable companies and satellite providers for their signals. Cable and satellite companies had said they would increase the price they charged their subscribers to compensate for any payments having to be made to TV stations.
The CRTC decision was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada by Rogers, Shaw, Telus and Cogeco.
The Court has now rejected the CRTC decision by a 5-4 vote, saying the broadcast and telcom regulator does not have authority in such matters.
In a statement released by Rogers, company Vice Chair Phil Lind said not only that the decision was the right one, but that it was a “step forward” for consumers.
“We are pleased that this matter has reached a definitive resolution after several years of uncertainty. Today's ruling means we can direct all our attention to delivering the best possible experience for our customers.
“There have been dramatic changes to the industry in Canada since the CRTC first looked at the issue more than two years ago. We believe that value for signal has no place in today's broadcasting landscape where the major players are enjoying significant profits,” he said.
Broadcast enterprise Bell Media had a different take:
“TV viewers across the country would have benefited from long-term stability for their local television stations, which currently rely on an advertising market that has seen permanent structural change, and is no longer able to fund such a model on its own,” the company said in a statement. “With its reliance on an uncertain advertising market, the financial model for local television is broken.”
“While Canadians get 87 per cent of their local news from television stations that rely only on advertising to cover their costs, the ad market for local television is in permanent decline,” Bell said. “In the most recent broadcast year, despite the boost in advertising sales from London 2012, Bell Media’s conventional stations saw a decline in their total revenues, and operating income is down significantly. Small-market stations remain particularly challenged financially.”
Rogers and Bell’s statements show them clearly on opposite sides of the fee-for-service or value-for-signal debate, but they remain on-side as partners and joint owners of major sports properties and franchises.
Both companies own and operate signal delivery platforms as well as TV and broadcast outlets, as do other leading cableco and telcos in Canada.
A coalition of U.S. based broadcasters is also seeking carriage fees from Canadian carriers.
For more coverage related to this topic, please see:
Supreme Court Rules in Favour of Cable and Satellite Providers in Value-of-Signal Dispute
U.S. TV Stations Call For Retransmission Fees from Canadian Carriers
Court Gives Go Ahead to Fee-for-Carriage Negotiations
Fee for Carriage Proposals in Repeat
Broadcasters Counter Cable, Satellite Claims Over TV Fees
Cable, Satellite Operators Ramp Up Campaign Against 'TV Tax'
CRTC Told to Report on Fee for Carriage
CRTC Announces Regulatory Framework for BDUs and Discretionary Services