CRTC orders TVA Sports back on for Bell customers

Quebecor said it would abide by the order but reiterated its stance that there is a "dramatic imbalance" in the royalties paid to specialty channels.

The CRTC on Thursday issued a mandatory order requiring Quebecor to restore the signal for TVA Sports to Bell subscribers in Quebec.

The order came a day after Quebecor appeared before the commission in Gatineau to explain why it cut the signal in the midst of stalled carriage negotiations with Bell. During the hearing, Bell called for the CRTC to revoke TVA Sports’ broadcasting licence.

The mandatory order will be registered with the Federal Court and failure to comply with it could result in contempt of court proceedings against Quebecor, according to a statement issued by the CRTC.

Following the issuance of the order, Quebecor released a statement saying it would abide with the order. However, the company also said it would “assess its legal options,” and that it believes the “legality of the CRTC’s intervention is a subject of debate.”

Elsewhere in the statement, Quebecor reiterated its stance that royalties paid to specialty channels should not be based on historic rates, but rather should be based on audience ratings and performance. “We understand the legal reasoning behind the decision. However, it behooves us to repeat that the problem remains. The dramatic imbalance in the specialty channels’ subscription fees has serious consequences for the viability and survival of French-language television,” said Pierre Karl Péladeau in the statement.

Bell meanwhile issued a statement welcoming the decision. “The CRTC has made clear that broadcasters must follow the law and that reckless and unfair actions like Quebecor’s will lead to very negative outcomes,” said Martine Turcotte, Bell’s vice chair, Québec, in a statement.

The dispute between the two companies surfaced earlier this month, with Quebecor shutting off the TVA Sports’ signal for Bell customers in Quebec on April 10. Quebecor took the measure despite two letters from the commission urging both sides to come to a swift resolution that did not affect consumers. The channel was restored two days later after Quebec Superior Court issued an injunction. According to Bell, around 425,000 households were affected when TVA Sports went dark.

This story originally appears in Playback.