CRTC defends Super-Ecran’s monopoly against Quebecor Media bid

The CRTC has ruled against the entry of Quebecor's proposed new pay TV channel into the Quebec market, but kept the door open for a second pay channel.

Astral Media’s Super Écran pay television channel will not face competition in the French-language market from TVA Group’s proposed pay TV movie channel Ciné-TVA service, the CRTC ruled Friday.

‘The commission concluded that TVA Group Inc. had not demonstrated that the criteria set out in Broadcasting Public Notice 2008-100 have been met, nor has it demonstrated that opening up the general interest pay services genre to competition in the French-language market would offer more diversity to consumers,’ the regulator said in a ruling.

But the CRTC did open the way for Quebec to have a second French-language general interest pay TV network, as long as it complemented Super Écran, and did not compete directly with it.

The decision follows Quebecor Media earlier this year asking the CRTC to review Super Écran’s long-standing regulatory protection to operate the only pay TV movie channel in Canada’s French-language TV market.

That monopoly gives Astral exclusive access to popular Hollywood movies for the French-speaking pay TV market.

The CRTC, in opening the way for a new general interest pay TV network in French-speaking Canada, said it may broadcast movies, but only those not already airing on Super-Écran.

‘The commission considers that there exists a significant repertoire of quality content that is not currently broadcast by Super Écran and that could allow a second general interest pay television service to support itself and add diversity for the consumer and the broadcasting system,’ the CRTC stated in its ruling.

In a dissenting opinion, CRTC commissioner Michel Morin said the regulator possibly licensing a new pay TV network because it added to ‘diversity,’ as opposed to proving popular with TV viewers, set an unwelcome precedent.

‘In taking this approach, the commission is moving away from the objective criteria that it purposefully retained in Broadcasting Public Notice – such as the popularity and profitability of the service,’ Morin argued.

He added the French-speaking market would be better served by the CRTC licensing a new pay TV network that was competitive to Super-Écran, rather than not stepping onto its existing turf.

From Playback Daily