CRTC can't demand fee-for-carriage system, top court says

The Supreme Court of Canada is seen in this August 11, 2011, file photo. (JOHN MAJOR/QMI AGENCY...

The Supreme Court of Canada is seen in this August 11, 2011, file photo. (JOHN MAJOR/QMI AGENCY FILES)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:28 PM ET

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Canada's broadcast regulator can't force cable and satellite providers to pay fees to conventional television stations in their channel lineups.

The 5-4 ruling on the fee-for-carriage proposal is a major blow to traditional television stations who want the same payout per subscriber that specialty channels receive.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) proposed a fee-for-carriage plan about four years ago during tough economic times for conventional broadcasters.

The broadcast watchdog asked the court for the power to give private, local television stations the green light to negotiate signal prices with cable and satellite providers.

The CRTC considers fee for carriage — or value for signal — vital for the future of local programming.

While specialty channels get money from fees as well as advertising, the fee revenue stream isn't available to traditional broadcasters such as CTV and Global, which have large-scale local news operations.

In a split decision in 2010, the Federal Court of Appeal said the CRTC had the authority to make the change.

But the distributors fought back and filed an appeal.

Distributors argued a fee-for-carriage plan would force them to increase cable and satellite bills.

They also warned of programming blackouts in the event negotiations with content providers break down.


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