Broadcasting Commission Letter addressed to Peggy Tabet (Québecor Media Inc.) and Rob Malcolmson (Bell Canada Enterprises)
Ottawa, 10 April 2019
Vice President – Broadcasting, Regulatory Affairs
Québecor Media Inc.
Senior Vice President – Regulatory Affairs and Government Relations
Bell Canada Enterprises
Re: Commission determination on a dispute between Bell Canada Enterprises and Québecor Media Inc.
Dear Ms. Tabet and Mr. Malcolmson,
This decision is with respect to Bell Canada Enterprises’ (Bell) letters of 8 and 9 April 2019 related to the application of the standstill rule to the provision of services by Québecor Media Inc. (Québecor).
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 andSection 15.01 (1) of the BDU regulations require 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, and the distribution undertaking must continue to distribute these services, 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 a manner that is inconsistent with the public interest. 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. The Commission has determined that Bell and Québecor are engaged in such a dispute and therefore the standstill rule applies. Accordingly, Bell and Québecor are required to provide their respective programming services to one another, and are required to distribute those services, at the same rates and on the same terms and conditions as they did before the dispute, until the parties resolve their dispute or the Commission issues a decision concerning this unresolved matter. Withholding or otherwise interfering with signals by either party such that Canadians are prevented from enjoying the programming would amount to changing the terms of carriage. The Commission also advises parties that it is prepared to use the means at its disposal to enforce its regulations, including holding a hearing on an expedited basis to issue a mandatory order under section 12 of the Broadcasting Act.
Given the Commission’s statements that the standstill rule should not be invoked lightly, nor be relied upon to grant an effective access rightFootnote 1,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.
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