Broadcasting Commission Letter addressed to Peggy Tabet (Quebecor Media Inc.) and Rob Malcolmson (Bell Canada Enterprises)
Ottawa, 8 April 2019
Vice President – Broadcasting, Regulatory Affairs
Quebecor Media Inc.
Senior Vice President – Regulatory Affairs and Government Relations
Bell Canada Enterprises
Re: Dispute regarding Groupe TVA’s Programming Services
Dear Ms. Tabet and Mr. Malcolmson,
This is with respect to Bell Canada Enterprises’ (Bell) letter to the Commission of 7 April 2019, which requests that the Commission notify Groupe TVA that the standstill rule applies to its dispute concerning the TVA Sports discretionary service, as well as Groupe TVA’s other discretionary services.
In its letter, Bell stated that during the final regular season hockey game for the Montreal Canadiens, TVA Sports’ feed contained a number of screen crawls communicating that TVA Sports’ signal will be suspended over the course of the next few days. Bell further stated that withdrawing the signal would be in direct contravention of section 15(1) of the Discretionary Services Regulations (the standstill rule), and requested that the Commission notify Groupe TVA that the standstill rule applies.
Section 12(1) of the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations (BDU regulations) and Section 14(1) of the Discretionary Services Regulations permit one or both parties to a dispute concerning carriage or terms of carriage of a programming service to refer the matter to the Commission for dispute resolution.
Section 15 (1) of the Discretionary Services Regulations requires that, during a dispute between a BDU and a programming undertaking, the programming undertaking must continue to provide its programming services to the distribution undertaking at the same rates and on the same terms and conditions as it did before the dispute.
The Commission’s dispute resolution regime is designed to ensure a healthy and dynamic wholesale market, one in which negotiations are conducted fairly and in good faith. Similarly, the standstill rule was put in place to level the field during negotiations between programmers and distributors, and to ensure that subscribers are not deprived of services while parties are engaged in negotiation. The Commission is prepared to intervene where it finds that parties are acting in an anti-competitive manner. Such targeted intervention may be necessary to ensure a healthy, dynamic retail market that maximizes consumer choice and flexibility, and provides Canadians with access to a diverse range of programming.
Analysis and conclusion
As set out above, the BDU regulations and the Discretionary Services Regulations contemplate dispute resolution on carriage as well as disputes regarding terms of carriage. Commission staff is of the view that the parties are engaged in such a dispute and therefore the standstill rule applies. Accordingly, Groupe TVA is required to provide the services and Bell is required to distribute these services, at the same rates and on the same terms and conditions as it did before the dispute, until the parties resolve their dispute or the Commission issues a decision concerning this unresolved matter.
Given the Commission’s statements that the standstill rule should not be invoked lightly, nor be relied upon to grant an effective access rightFootnote1,the parties are encouraged to continue to seek a bilateral resolution of their dispute as quickly as possible. Failing that, one or both parties may seek a Commission determination.
Executive Director, Broadcasting
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