CRTC public hearing next week to determine whether Quebecor's broadcast licence should be suspended
MONTRÉAL, April 12, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ - Bell today welcomed an injunction from the Québec Superior Court ordering Quebecor to return TVA Sports access to Bell TV customers after Quebecor illegally cut off service just as the NHL Playoffs began on Wednesday night.
TVA Sports will be restored to Bell TV customers at 6 pm eastern time tonight.
Quebecor must appear before the CRTC next week
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) yesterday ordered Quebecor executives to appear at a public hearing on Wednesday April 17 to show cause why the CRTC should not issue a mandatory order requiring the company to permanently restore TVA Sports to Bell TV viewers, and to explain why Quebecor's broadcasting license should not be suspended following its illegal actions.
"Bell puts our customers first, and we're committed to doing what it takes to get them the TV service they deserve," said Martine Turcotte, Bell's Vice Chair, Québec. "Quebecor denied TVA Sports to our Bell TV customers, directly targeting sports fans just as the playoffs began, while also falsely claiming it was Bell that was shutting off the channel. It is reckless behaviour on Quebecor's part, and we are glad the Superior Court put a stop to it."
Quebecor's illegal actions
Quebecor had earlier violated two clear CRTC directives, including a legally binding decision, that stated Quebecor must make TVA Sports available to Bell TV customers. Quebecor also began its shutdown campaign with a series of misleading statements that falsely claimed Bell itself planned to remove access to TVA Sports, and directed Bell TV customers to switch to Quebecor's Videotron cable TV.
"Bell has been invited to the CRTC's hearing and we will explain how Quebecor's illegal actions and false statements negatively impacted hundreds of thousands of Bell customers," said Ms. Turcotte. "A responsible broadcaster cannot take matters into its own hands even if it disagrees with regulatory rules or commercial outcomes."
The dispute and the way it will be resolved
The dispute stems from negotiations between Bell and Quebecor over pricing for a range of specialty TV channels. As part of the negotiations, Quebecor demanded that Bell pay more to access its TVA Sports channel than Quebecor would pay for Bell Media's RDS sports network. However, RDS is a far more popular French-language sports channel with 67% more viewers in 2018 than TVA Sports, according to industry-standard Numeris audience measurement.
Negotiating in good faith, Bell made three counter-offers from its original proposal. Quebecor made none before ultimately walking away and commencing its TVA Sports shutdown campaign. To finally settle the dispute, Bell has filed a request with the CRTC to resolve the issue through final offer arbitration. Quebecor has not yet responded to this final offer arbitration request.
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SOURCE Bell Canada