The CRTC has suspended the broadcasting licence for TVA Sports, but says the suspension will only go into effect if TVA Sports’ signal is withheld from Bell prior to the resolution of its ongoing carriage dispute.
The decision follows a Wednesday hearing to show cause why the commission shouldn’t issue a mandatory order requiring Group TVA to comply with Discretionary Services Regulations after it pulled TVA Sports’ signal for Bell TV customers Apr. 10, just as the NHL playoffs were getting underway.
At the hearing, Bell called for revocation of TVA Sports’ licence, or alternatively a suspension until the end of the playoffs in June.
TVA Group submitted a legal argument that by forcing parties to maintain a contractual relationship throughout the dispute resolution process, the commission is determining the terms and conditions of affiliation agreements, which it submitted is not permitted under section 9 or 10 of the Broadcasting Act.
The CRTC’s decision, issued Thursday afternoon, finds that TVA Group has contravened regulations by withholding TVA Sports’ signal from distribution by Bell. The commission has issued a mandatory order requiring TVA Group to continue to provide TVA Sports programming to Bell until the present dispute is resolved and comply with regulations at all times.
In its decision the CRTC states, “The Commission takes the intentional contravention of its regulations very seriously. Not only did TVA Group premeditate its non-compliance with section 15(1) of the Regulations by announcing to Bell’s subscribers that it would withhold the service, but once directed by the Commission to continue to provide the service to Bell, TVA Group carried through on its threat to withhold the service.”
The commission also says it is not convinced TVA Group would have brought itself back into compliance without an order from Quebec Superior Court and says it’s “gravely concerned” with TVA Group’s disregard for its authority.
“The Commission reminds TVA Group and Quebecor that holding a licence is a privilege, not a right. Moreover, the Commission is prepared to pursue further recourse in the courts in the case of non-compliance…Given the inflexible behaviour displayed by the licensee in respect of its regulatory obligations and the lack of a firm commitment to correct the situation, the Commission cannot be assured that TVA Group will respect its regulatory obligations going forward,” states the decision.
“Should TVA Group again withhold or interfere with the TVA Sports signal provided to Bell’s distribution undertakings before an agreement settling the dispute is reached or the Commission renders a decision concerning any unresolved matter, the suspension of the licence will automatically take effect for the duration of the time for which the programming service is not provided to Bell until an agreement concerning the carriage and terms of carriage of TVA Sports is reached or the Commission renders a decision concerning any unresolved matter.”
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